UK or NBA? Patterson must decide what's best

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistApril 12, 2010 

Knee-jerk says Patrick Patterson already knows.

He wants to be the one to make an official announcement about his draft status. He wants a little solo time, after often operating in the shadows of fabulous freshmen most of the recently complete college basketball season. He'll take some pats on the back, pun intended. His parents want that for him.

I mean, come on, Patrick Patterson is declaring for the NBA draft, right?

Second thought, maybe that's premature. Before the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on Saturday, the junior told The Associated Press he had not made up his mind about the draft, that he was "half in and half out." He issued the reminder that unlike last year, he can't remove his name from the draft should he entertain second thoughts this time.

That's certainly a reasonable position considering this is a huge decision that will doubtless affect the rest of Patterson's life.

Thing is, it affects Coach John Calipari's life, too. Calipari is the one out on the road recruiting replacements for Kentucky's quartet of one-and-done freshmen, plus presumably Patterson. UK issued a news release late Wednesday stating John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton and Patterson were putting their names in the draft. Why Wednesday? The NCAA dead period on recruiting ended Thursday at noon. Timing is everything.

Thus, Calipari was on the West Coast over the weekend, presumably to woo Terrence Jones, a 6-foot-9 forward from Portland Jefferson High School, who was playing at the Nike Hoops Summit. (In that same tournament, UK commitment Enes Kanter scored a record 34 points.) Jones did not disappoint. He scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds, blocked three shots. He'd be a nice replacement for Patterson.

If Patterson is leaving, that is. Hard to imagine he's not. For what it's worth, nbadraft.net projects Patterson as the eighth overall pick. That's serious money. He admitted Saturday to AP that it would be strange to return after having already burst through that ceremonial Senior Day hoop at Rupp.

But Calipari's word, and UK's word, is not the word Tywanna Patterson spread on Thursday morning or that Patrick himself spread Saturday. He wants to take his time, just as he did waiting to the last day to sign with Kentucky after his final year at Huntington High. The deadline was not last week, or today. It's April 25. What's the rush?

And yes, lottery picks do sometimes play college basketball for four years. Rare, but true. Terrence Williams played four years at Louisville. Acie Law played four years at Texas A&M. Shelden Williams played four years at Duke. Tyler Hansbrough came back for a fourth year at North Carolina in 2009 and led the Tar Heels to a national title.

There's one difference. Hansbrough had experienced help. Patterson will not. Calipari is starting over, just as he was a year ago. And before you come down too hard on the Cats' four freshmen, remember what Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said last week at the Final Four about the one-and-dones.

"I don't like to see the kids criticized for following a rule that the adults made," said Izzo.

You could say the same thing about Patrick Patterson. Right now, he need not worry about what's best for Kentucky basketball or John Calipari or incoming recruits. He need worry only about what's best for himself.

Nothing knee-jerk about that.

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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