Here's how good Kentucky big man Patrick Patterson is: He excels even while idle.
Patterson gained only one pound and 1 percent body fat in the time between ankle surgery and the beginning of his rehabilitation this off-season, UK Coach Billy Gillispie said Monday.
Gillispie, who was cheering on competitors in the inaugural Keightley Classic at Lexington Country Club, said Patterson would be cleared to play pickup games this week.
With Patterson progressing nicely, he'll join a revamped front line that can better showcase his skills, Gillispie said.
"We were very, very limited," the UK coach said of the team's "bigs" last season. "We had to play Patrick Patterson near the basket all the time."
Gillispie envisions a more complete front court allowing Patterson to be a scoring threat facing the basket from as far as 18 feet.
The UK coach noted how forward A.J. Stewart has "grown up," implying a more confident player. Perry Stevenson has become "a totally different guy" in terms of asserting himself, said Gillispie, who added of the front line's junior-college import, "I'm excited about Josh Harrelson."
Comparing this year's frontcourt to last season's, Gillispie said, "They are totally different. ... I like the versatility of the inside players."
As readily evidenced by the public pickup games on Saturday, guard Jodie Meeks is healthy. Meeks seemed primed for a breakout season this time last year before a series of injuries kept him sidelined or a pale facsimile of himself.
"He has not appeared on the injury report I get daily," Gillispie said of Meeks' return to good health.
While noting the need to find scoring to replace the departed Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley, Gillispie suggested he was not overly concerned.
"In the last two minutes, you need somebody to (create scoring opportunities against stout defenses)," the UK coach said. "I think we have people who can do that."
The golf tournament drew 131 players, with officials saying it was too early to determine the amount of funds raised. An auction Sunday raised $174,000. Proceeds will go to the Bill Keightley Scholarship Award (which funds the education of team managers) and a planned renovation of Wildcat Lodge.
Gillispie said that he and the Keightley family will launch a charitable foundation later this year.
Former UK players who played in the event included Kelenna Azubuike, J.P. Blevins, Chuck Hayes, Kyle Macy, Cameron Mills, Nazr Mohammed and Bobby Perry. Former UK quarterback Tim Couch also played.
Mohammed spoke to the eagerness of former players to support an effort named for Keightley, whose association with the basketball program began in 1962 and continued until his death in March.
"Once they told me it was the Keightley Classic, I told myself, I've got to move things around and be there," said Mohammed, a UK player in the glory years of 1996-98.
Gillispie praises Haskins
Gillispie lauded Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins as a generous friend and under-appreciated basketball mind.
"He was one of the most underrated coaches because of where he coached," Gillispie said.
Haskins, who died Sunday, produced consistently good teams at UTEP for decades. Of course, most memorable was his 1965-66 team at Texas Western, as UTEP was then known, which beat Kentucky in the national championship game.
When Gillispie became UTEP coach in 2002, Haskins made himself available in ways ranging from basketball strategy to an open invitation to the family's Thanksgiving dinner table.
"As a first-time head coach, I got to go to a place with a hometown living legend," Gillispie said. "No one could be more helpful."
And, the UK coach added, "Our philosophies are very, very similar."
By similar philosophies, Gillispie said he meant a shared emphasis on defense, rebounding and limiting turnovers to a minimum.
Gillispie also noted how he and Haskins began as high school coaches who don't recruit but fashion winning strategies that fit the talent at hand. Incidentally, Gillispie showed that skill with his first Kentucky team last season.
"I doubt anyone was more creative in maximizing a team's abilities," Gillispie said of Haskins.