Surely, Patrick Patterson is the only All-America candidate who must be encouraged by coaches to shoot the ball. Even a wildly improbable shot would be OK, if only to build up muscle memory.
"One of the assistant coaches said don't be afraid to take a bad shot," Patterson said after Kentucky beat Ole Miss Tuesday night. "We need that every once in a while."
But Patterson, normally a dutiful soldier, balks. A bad shot is just that: a bad shot.
"He tells me that, but it's still on my mind, hey, I don't want to take a bad shot," he said, "especially when we could have had a good shot."
To make Patterson more assertive, UK Coach John Calipari has begun one-on-one 30-minute workouts with the junior forward before practice. The player said they work on a wide array of offensive skills: rebounding, jump shooting, free throws, ball handling and post moves.
"I can tell a difference," Patterson said. "I've stopped rebounding with one hand. I'm starting to go back to two hands like last year."
In his first seasons for Kentucky, Patterson was a one-man front line. If he didn't get it done, it didn't get done.
Now, freshman DeMarcus Cousins is the team's leading rebounder and its main low-post scorer. Daniel Orton is his backup. UK leads the nation in rebound margin. Ole Miss Coach Andy Kennedy said Kentucky's length and quickness was "unmatched by any team I've seen in the league."
Kennedy lauded Cousins' inside production, Darnell Dodson's three-point shooting and UK's freshman guard tandem of John Wall and Eric Bledsoe.
Then it dawned on the Ole Miss coach. "I didn't mention the pre-season Player of the Year in the league: Patrick Patterson," Kennedy said. "He's tremendous."
Meanwhile, Patterson — the All-America candidate as spare part — is content to get some post-up opportunities while developing a perimeter game.
"I'm just comfortable where I'm at," he said. "I'm enjoying my teammates. I love seeing DeMarcus ball. I love seeing Eric (Bledsoe) and John (Wall) ball."
But Calipari repeatedly calls for role reversal: let Cousins, Wall and Bledsoe enjoy watching Patterson ball.
"Rather than step back and watch them, he wants me to join in," Patterson said, "and step up as well."
Calipari wants Patterson to be more aggressive, more assertive. He wants Patterson to impose his will on opponents and teammates.
"If you haven't gotten the ball in a while, demand it," the UK coach said. "Demand it! Go in the huddle and say, guys, get me the ball.
"DeMarcus does it, like, every minute."
Reporters laughed. Of course, Cousins, an impulsive player who feeds off his emotions, wants his desires met. Patterson, a thoughtful player, said he had no concern about posting statistics befitting an All-America candidate. His averages this year — 15.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, 10.0 shots, 3.8 free throw attempts and 32.1 minutes — are all career lows.
Patterson had wildly increased one statistical category: three-point shots. In his first two seasons, he took only four and missed them all. This season, he's made 14 of 33, his 42.4-percent accuracy a testament to wise shot selection.
Although Patterson's numbers against Ole Miss were unremarkable (nine shots, 12 points, six rebounds), Calipari saw progress.
"He's still not there yet," the UK coach said. "But you'll see. In another week, 10 days, two weeks, you'll say this is him."
When asked what would satisfy Calipari, Patterson said 20 points, 15 rebounds, being active, causing turnovers, taking charges.
Calipari again noted how he'd heard that Detroit Pistons executive Joe Dumars said Patterson helped himself the most of any player who decided to return to college this season rather than enter the 2009 NBA draft. Patterson has shown perimeter skills, especially the versatility to defend every NBA position except point guard.
"If you can't guard the position, you can't play the position," Calipari said.
Whatever the statistics and however his coach goads him to do more, Patterson remains content in his decision to return to Kentucky.
"I'm satisfied I came back," he said. "I'm glad I came back. I came back for the right reasons. So far, it's paying off."