UK Men's Basketball

Gillispie sees new ways to win

From telephone touch pad to computer keyboard.

Billy Gillispie expects that kind of advancement in options in his second season as Kentucky coach.

"We'll have the ability to do a lot of different things that maybe we were not able to do last year," he said in a recent pre-season interview.

At first glance, Kentucky appears to be a deeper, more athletic team in Gillispie's second season. Nine players between the heights of 6-foot-4 and 6-9 suggest to him a more versatile team.

"How that equates to wins and losses will be determined by how well we play point guard," he said, "how well we shoot it, how well we mature as a team and how quickly we mature as a team."

When asked to elaborate on what he envisioned this season's team doing that his first UK team could not, Gillispie mentioned the basketball staples of man-to-man defense, rebounding and drives to the basket.

"If healthy, we've got a chance to be the best defensive team I've been around," he said, "because of their size and athletic ability."

Plus, the Cats have already convinced Gillispie they have a key quality for playing defense: desire.

"That usually takes a little while to be that good because you have to develop a competitive nature," he said of good defense. "That's one thing they have going into this point right now, because they really don't like to lose."

Kentucky in 2008-09 will be Gillispie's tallest team, from point guard to center. But that was not the quality the coach mentioned when he talked about better rebounding.

"This team could be an extremely good rebounding team," he said. "I don't see why we won't. Because I know they're going to play hard and I know they're going to want to win."

Gillispie envisioned the versatility fueling a better fast-break attack. More players will have the ability to grab the rebound and then dribble up court on the fast break.

While coaches for generations have preached that passing the ball moves it up the floor more quickly than dribbling, Gillispie saw the dribble as an advantage.

"It seems to put more pressure on the defense maybe because as soon as you get it, you're putting pressure on the defense," he said. "You've got guys (in transition defense) trying to turn around and they don't know if they're supposed to run or backpedal."

For all the contributions of Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley, the seniors slowed UK's attack. Gillispie called Crawford not much of a "push-it type guy." As for Bradley, defenses knew he was UK's best (lone?) option to advance the ball quickly. So opponents made it difficult for him to get free for an outlet pass.

As for the key questions surrounding Kentucky basketball in 2008-09:

■ Who will play point guard?

While acknowledging the experience Derrick Jasper took on his transfer to UNLV, Gillispie expressed confidence in freshman DeAndre Liggins and junior college transfer Kevin Galloway.

"I'm not concerned about those guys," the UK coach said. "They'll gain experience quickly. Kevin's been around the block a little bit. DeAndre's played against good competition."

Yet a moment earlier, Gillispie had emphasized the difficulty of the position.

"They have great ability," the UK coach said before adding, "No matter the ability you have, it's a cerebral position. It's a very demanding cerebral position. It's a very demanding, physical position. You can't make a lot of mistakes and be a good one. That's why there's so few great ones."

Although Michael Porter considers himself a shooting guard, Gillispie included the junior from Modesto, Calif., among the point guard possibilities.

■ How well will UK shoot?

UK can assume scoring from Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks. But where else can the Cats count on scoring?

Gillispie mentioned freshman Darius Miller and Galloway as scorers.

But he noted another — sometimes overlooked — factor.

"Ball movement is going to be one of our best players this year that we lacked last year," he said.

Most notably, he expects more timely passes to Patterson in the low post.

"He had to always score with someone between him and the basket," Gillispie said. "That's not the best solution. ... Scoring with a big guy between you and the basket all the time is not exactly the way offensive teams are designed."

UK also expects to get more easy baskets through offensive rebounds, fast breaks and steals.

■ What is the big question?

Gillispie noted how conference games (and many post-season games) are decided in the final minutes.

"That'll be the big question for us: How well we play in the last three, four minutes." he said. "Last year we were lights-out. We had two great seniors (in Crawford and Bradley) who made play after play after play."

This season UK's scoring could be more diversified.

"Sometimes that's good, and sometimes that's bad," Gillispie said. "Sometimes it's better to have Joe Crawford to throw the ball to and say, 'Go make a play,' or Ramel Bradley to force someone to foul you and get to the foul line.

"It takes a team a while to figure out who is going to be the guy. We know who our best player is, and, believe me, we're going to try to utilize him. But defenses are not going to let that happen in the last two minutes of a game. We'll be a work in progress for a while."