Meet UK's new shooting guard

In Patterson's dream game, he keeps firing from downtown and he can't miss

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 10, 2009 

In Patrick Patterson's fantasy, he dribbles the ball downcourt and swishes three-point shot after three-point shot.

"I'm going to play Jodie Meeks," he said. "Just like Tennessee."

The reference was to Meeks' school-record 54-point game at Tennessee last season.

"If I hit my first two, I'm going to look constantly to shoot," Patterson said. "... I'm going to pull it."

A moment later, he smiled and tied a bow around this dream gift to himself. "If I score 55," he said, "don't be surprised."

The pleasant thoughts led Patterson to think about another awesome display of perimeter shooting by a Kentucky player.

"I bring the ball up like Tayshaun Prince," he said. "If I'm feeling it, I'll shoot it."

In a game against North Carolina in 2001, Prince kept moving farther and farther from the basket in making five straight three-pointers. It was as if Prince wanted to test the indulgences of the basketball gods.

For now, Patterson wants only to be a better perimeter shooter, more of a threat from outside the lane, a complete player who adds face-the-basket scoring to a patented low-post power game. That's a reason he's said he came back to Kentucky: to become more versatile because a power game might not be enough to excel against bigger, stronger NBA competition.

Speaking after UK's exhibition victory over Clarion on Friday, Patterson acknowledged that he's not comfortable enough yet on the perimeter to put on a Meeks-like display of shooting. He readily agreed with a reporter's premise: that his basketball comfort zone remained on the low post.

"Oh definitely," Patterson said. "I know my comfort zone is down low. I want my comfort zone to be anywhere on the court. By playing this style of offense, it's progressively going to come."

It is hard to predict when Patterson will become a threat from anywhere on the court, even for Patterson.

"I have no idea," he said. "All I know is I'm not as comfortable being outside on the perimeter as I am down low."

Basketball players can be like rock stars and athletes, each fantasizing about life in the other's world. Guards want to dunk. Big men want to dribble and shoot from the perimeter.

Patterson put himself squarely in this scenario. He likes the idea of being a guard.

"But," he said, "it's more pressure out there. You're more liable to turn the ball over. ... Hopefully I'll get to the point where I'm so comfortable, I'd rather be out there than down low."

Through two exhibitions and the Blue-White scrimmage, Patterson has had his moments. He made two treys in Blue-White and two more against Clarion.

Still, it's hard to imagine a regular-season opponent concerned with Patterson's three-point shooting. To hear UK Coach John Calipari, at this stage even Patterson is taken aback by the green light.

"I told Patrick, 'Patrick, shoot threes,' " Calipari said after the Clarion game. "He's looking at me like I'm crazy."

Calipari said Patterson makes three-pointers in practice like a guard. Somehow, it doesn't translate to the games.

"You think you're going to miss it," Calipari said of his message to Patterson. "Just shoot it. He's still not quite in sync."

Of all people, Clarion Coach Ron Righter got the essence of what Kentucky wants when he chatted briefly with Patterson after the exhibition.

"You are going to be the foundation," Righter told Patterson. "You have to keep the young kids together and keep them believing in what you're doing because you are going to be the key in how far they go."

Patterson might need the prodding, or encouragement, if you prefer. He seems reluctant to impose his will on his teammates, even when a high school teammate (O.J. Mayo) hogs the ball.

When Patterson took only seven shots against Campbellsville, Calipari pointedly told the big man it must have been a joke.

"I'm not that type of selfish player," Patterson said. "I don't care if I score in a game. I'm all about getting the victory."

But Calipari cares, and the coach apparently sees Patterson's scoring as a key to getting victories.

Patterson conceded that selfishness can be a good thing.

"I know I have to shoot the ball a lot more," he said.

As the season begins, Kentucky will be determining how many Patterson shots from the perimeter mixed with power points around the basket make for the best team.

"I've got to figure out how exactly we play him, and how do we get the most out of him?" Calipari said. "And how do we get the most out of what we're trying to do?"

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