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John Clay: Bledsoe, Patterson happy to be back in Bluegrass

Jackson Gabbard of Richmond got a little closer to the basket thanks to former UK star Patrick Patterson.
Jackson Gabbard of Richmond got a little closer to the basket thanks to former UK star Patrick Patterson.

They took two different roads to the same place, these two.

Eric Bledsoe.

Patrick Patterson.

The latter, he arrived in Lexington from nearby Huntington, his high-profile parents, Buster and Tywanna, in tow. Patterson was polite and articulate enough to almost be a spokesman for something as big as the Kentucky basketball program from the time he was a freshman. He stayed three years before departing.

Eric Bledsoe arrived in Lexington from the mean streets of Birmingham. He was shy, with a terrific smile, but without the same freshman presence as P-Pat. At least off the floor. On the floor, he made his impressions and then some. He stayed eight months before departing.

Both were in town Saturday for the final day of the Calipari ProCamp. The important word there is pro. Both are just that. Patterson, the 14th pick in the most recent NBA Draft, is with the Houston Rockets. Bledsoe, the 18th pick in the most recent NBA Draft, is a Los Angeles Clipper.

Of the two, Bledsoe might have had the most to overcome.

"It's been tough," he said Saturday during a break to meet with the media at Memorial Coliseum. "Growing up as a kid where I'm from, it ain't easy to make it out. One out of a million make it out. So I was one of the few of the few."

No sooner had he left UK than the Alabama native was the subject of a New York Times report that cast doubts upon the authenticity of his high school grades and questioned the motives and actions of Bledsoe's high school coach, Maurice Ford.

The Birmingham School District is conducting an investigation into the Times' allegations, and UK assistant athletics director DeWayne Peevy jumped in and said, "His lawyers have advised him not to comment," when Bledsoe was asked about the report Saturday.

Bledsoe didn't hesitate when asked about what got him through the tough times.

"My mom," he said. "Her hard work and dedication. ... I cherish that every day."

It was Patterson's mom, Tywanna, who was more front and center at UK, however, and the media wanted to know whether the 6-foot-9 forward had purchased that RV his father, Buster, said he wanted.

"Not yet," Patterson said with a smile. "He's still picking one out of the catalog. I'm pretty sure he's got one in mind. I'm just thankful they only want that, and not digging into my pocket too much."

Patterson said he has picked out a three-bedroom condo in Houston that he will move into Aug. 4. He said it's convenient to the Rockets' arena. He said he tries to talk to Chuck Hayes every day. He said he has met the Rockets' 7-foot-6 Yao Ming.

"The first thing in my mind was how do you get this tall," Patterson said.

Meanwhile, Bledsoe admitted that Los Angeles in an awfully big place for a Birmingham boy.

"Way too big," he said smiling. "Beverly Hills, Hollywood."

Someone asked whether he can believe he's in the NBA?

"I don't think I woke up yet," Bledsoe said. "It feels like a dream right now. A dream come true."

Some new dreamers will pull on Kentucky basketball uniforms soon. Bledsoe said he had not had a chance to play with them, but Patterson said he's already had some battles with the new crew. He praised their talent and maturity.

Of freshman Enes Kanter, Patterson said, "I think he's going to be right up there with DeMarcus (Cousins). I think he's going to put up numbers like DeMarcus' numbers."

Patterson said he enjoyed coming back to Lexington, his home for the past three years. And though it was his home less than one year, Bledsoe said, the Bluegrass made more of an impression on him than he thought it would.

"Sometimes, you wish you could come back," he said. "But it is what it is. Life goes on."

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