When contemplating Patrick Patterson's many attributes, don't forget one that's easily overlooked: he's a good listener.
Would any opposition scouting report or NBA scout note how well Patterson listens? Surely not.
But Patterson's coaches — independently of each other — recently lauded the player's attentiveness.
"He's really a good listener," UK Coach Billy Gillispie said at the Southeastern Conference Media Days last week. "He's a great listener — as good a listener as I've been around. He listens with his eyes 100 percent of the time. He really does listen. You really don't have to tell Patrick things over and over."
Patterson's coach at Huntington (W.Va.) High School, Lloyd McGuffin, said much the same thing. What prompted McGuffin was a throwaway question about whether Patterson experienced so much on the high school level that he became a player-coach.
"He left the coaching to the coaches," McGuffin said. "If I'd ask him for advice or what he thought, he'd be glad to tell me.
"But he's so interested and concerned with learning, unless you ask him for something, he'll let you do pretty much all the teaching and he'll do the listening."
Unless you're a coach, who would think about listening as a skill? The average person thinks of strength, speed, agility and perhaps, court sense.
"Listening is a skill," Gillispie said, "and it's not a skill too many of us have. A lot of times we just wait our turn to talk. There's a big difference between listening and waiting your turn to talk. Patrick totally immerses himself on the basketball court on listening to instruction."
McGuffin noted how an ability to listen, absorb information and apply it can make a critical difference. A skilled player who doesn't listen hurts the team.
The Huntington High coach recalled how he could drop a thought on Patterson before a game and then watch him respond.
"I might say, 'For us to win the game, you have to be a beast on the boards,'" McGuffin said. "He ends up with 18 rebounds. After the game, a sportswriter would ask him about the 18 rebounds, and he'd say coach told him we needed him on the boards."
Who are those guys?
UK plays its two pre-season exhibition games next week.
Here's a glance at the two Division II opponents:
Missouri-St. Louis, Monday: The Tritons (named for the Greek god, not for Neptune's largest moon, we presume) are picked to finish fourth in the West Division of the Great Lakes Valley Conference. For perspective, Kentucky Wesleyan and Northern Kentucky are picked to finish 1-2 in the East Division.
Coach Chris Pilz called it "one of the better teams we've had," but lamented injuries that probably will sideline two starters: 6-10 Adam Kaatman (bad back) and 6-4 forward Aaron Jackson (sprained ankle and coming off ACL surgery).
It might be fun to watch Jeremy Brown, who played for UK assistant Jeremy Cox at Arkansas-Fort Smith before spending three years as a center fielder in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor-league system. Pilz called him a "phenomenal athlete."
Pilz and UK Coach Billy Gillispie are buddies dating back to Gillispie's recruitment of one of Pilz's players at a St. Louis high school.
Against Division I competition last season, the Tritons lost 71-54 to St. Louis, 71-54 to Missouri and 70-37 to Illinois State.
Ouachita Baptist, Friday: Gulf South coaches voted Ouachita (pronounced WASH-a-taw) as the favorite to win the West Division. The Tigers lost their leading scorer but return seven seniors and an eighth regular from a team that went 20-10 last season, the program's first 20-victory season since entering Division II in 1995.
Guard Jaranimo Marks needs 67 points to reach 1,000 in his career.
Coach Charlie Schaef is a friend of Gillispie's. Ouachita Baptist lost 85-59 at Texas A&M last season.
Cats, Gators lead way
When it comes to former players on NBA rosters, Kentucky and Florida lead the way among SEC programs. Both had nine when the NBA season began last week. (To see the players and their teams, see chart at left).
Kansas sent a news release noting how 11 former Jayhawks made NBA opening-day rosters. That led all Big 12 programs (Texas had eight and Oklahoma State five).
The 11 former Kansas players on NBA teams: rookies Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson and Brandon Rush as well as veterans Nick Collison, Drew Gooden, Kirk Hinrich, Raef LaFrentz, Paul Pierce, Jacque Vaughn and Julian Wright.
One man, one vote
Thirteen voters placed UK on their ballots in The Associated Press pre-season poll announced on Friday.
Of the 13 voters, none held the Cats in higher regard than Roger Clarkson, who covers Georgia for the Athens Banner-Herald. He placed Kentucky at No. 10 on his ballot.
Clarkson explained the lofty position by noting he shared the home state of Texas with UK Coach Billy Gillispie. Growing up in Waco and later working for the newspaper in Amarillo, he kept an eye on basketball in Texas. He was especially impressed with Gillispie making Texas A&M's program rise from the dead.
"They weren't just bad; they were awful," he said. "Not only was it a bad team, the fan base didn't care that they were a bad team. To make the fan base care about basketball was just amazing."
If Gillispie could make Texas A&M relevant, Clarkson figures he'll do wonders for Kentucky.
"It's hard for me to believe the cupboard is completely bare at Kentucky," he said. "There's got to be a lot more to work with at Kentucky."
Clarkson acknowledged that the No. 10 spot might be overly optimistic.
"I might have over-voted them," he said. "Once you get past four or five teams, it's really a crapshoot. ... I think they have to be in the top 15 or so.
Of the 13 voters placing the Cats on their ballot, six work in SEC states: Clarkson, Gentry Estes of The Mobile (Ala.) Press-Register, Ryan Malashock of The Morning News (Ark.), Israel Gutierrez of The Miami Herald, Mike Griffith of the Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel and yours truly.
ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, one of two at-large voters, also put Kentucky on his ballot.
Here's an exchange between Arkansas Coach John Pelphrey (the former UK player) and reporters at Media Days:
Reporter: You got six technical fouls last season. What's the over and under for this year?
Pelphrey: I'd be surprised if I met that number or went above it.
Reporter: Do you know about the so-called Class A and Class B technicals to be used this season?
Pelphrey: I was aware of it. I had a chance to observe it on the video we got that we were required to look at. But I'm not the guy you'd want to call up and explain it to everybody.
Reporter: Doesn't it sound like felonies and misdemeanors?
Pelphrey: If there was one thing I understood, it's that if a coach gets a technical foul, it no longer goes towards the bonus. I think that's good.
In the November issue of Basketball Times, columnist Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe used the alphabet as inspiration. He linked basketball to each letter.
For "K," he wrote:
"They're flat-out crazier in Kentucky. I'll give you that.
"But Dr. Naismith coached at Kansas. Adolph Rupp, who pretty much invented Kentucky basketball, was from Kansas. Even Saint Dean himself was from Kansas. And Allen Field House is a shrine.
"Rupp Arena is, well, big."
A media panel picked Mississippi State to finish fourth in the SEC Western Division this season. The Bulldogs finished first or tied for first the past two seasons.
A big difference is the departure of Jamont Gordon, who left after his junior season in search of NBA gold. He's now playing in Italy, which prompted a reporter to ask State Coach Rick Stansbury if Gordon made a mistake leaving school.
"I've got no answers for that," Stansbury said. "I learned a long time ago that when they get to that point, you can tell them what you think. But then you've got to step back out of the way and let them make their own decisions."
Stansbury confirmed the obvious: Gordon thought he'd be a first-round pick.
"All of them think they're first-round picks," the State coach said. "Unfortunately, they can get caught listening to the wrong people too many times. But as a coach, I've learned all you can do is put the facts in front of them and let them talk to the NBA people. Anything else you tell them outside of that is selfish.
"Jamont didn't owe us anything. He helped us win back-to-back (Western Division) championships. I think he was ready to go make some money."
To former UK guard Jeff Sheppard.
A news release arrived last week announcing that he'd been named spokesperson for the Lexington-based Kentucky National Insurance Company.
Sheppard will be featured in radio ads to run on the Big Blue Sports Radio Network and in print ads in the UK basketball program and other publications around the state.
Sheppard scored more than 1,000 points in a college career that included leading Kentucky to the 1998 national championship.
Dr. Feel Bad
During the SEC Media Days last month, one reporter worked on a story about the coaches' health. Did the sudden death of Skip Prosser cause coaches to lead healthier lives?
UK Coach Billy Gillispie confessed that he and his colleagues could do better.
"Coaches are always more interested in doing things for their team more so than for themselves," he said. "We don't do a good job of being disciplined. Last night, and this is a typical meal, was chips and salsa. That's when you didn't have any dinner. That's just not good for you."
To Billy Gillispie. The UK coach turns 49 on Friday.
He has to have a better birthday this year than last, doesn't he? On his birthday in 2007, the Cats lost to Gardner-Webb.