UK Men's Basketball

Let's get to the point

Reporters wasted no time getting to the heart of the matter at Kentucky basketball's annual Media Day on Wednesday.

The first question was: "Billy, who's your point guard?"

Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie acknowledged the obvious. He doesn't know yet. The answer might not come until after pre-season practice, a Blue-White scrimmage, two exhibition games and, most likely, several regular-season games. With the heir apparent, Derrick Jasper, transferred to UNLV, Kentucky will need time to find a floor leader.

"I like the guys we have," said Gillispie, who named the candidates as highly regarded (and soft-spoken) freshman DeAndre Liggins, affable junior college transfer Kevin Galloway, junior Michael Porter and — surprise — junior shooting guard Jodie Meeks.

"I think he's going to have a fantastic year," Gillispie said of Meeks as a point guard. "I don't want to put any limits on him in any respect."

The UK coach did not make it sound as if Meeks would be UK's primary point guard (or as Gillispie's prefers, "lead" guard). But the UK coach spoke of Meeks at the trigger.

"He'll initiate offense maybe at times when we try to get him a quick shot," said Gillispie, who sounded as though he was thinking out loud. "... I just expect a humongous year from him based on what we've seen so far," Gillispie said.

Meeks sounded willing to play point guard, but he was sensitive to the feelings of the other candidates.

"I think I can do it in different situations," Meeks said. "As far as being the main point guard, I wouldn't want to do that."

When asked why not, Meeks said, "Because we have Kevin Galloway, DeAndre Liggins and Michael Porter."

Gillispie called Liggins and Galloway "very talented" players who needed to work to master the position

"That's to be expected," the UK coach said. "You're not going to just come in and be a total commander at that spot."

Gillispie suggested Porter had gained the necessary confidence to contend for time at point guard.

"I probably wanted more for him last year than he wanted for himself," the UK coach said. "I think he just made up his mind he's a good enough player to play at this level."

Gillispie said he has a "pretty good mix of options," and the position will evolve throughout the season. "It may be one way and gradually go in another direction," he said.

At this early stage, the evolutionary process sounded well past one-cell organisms but well short of brainy mammals controlling their environment.

"Right now, they're just trying to swim as hard as they can upstream ..." Gillispie said. "We need more time to teach them exactly what we want them to be thinking and what they need to be expressing to their teammates.

"They have tons of natural ability. They just lack experience. There will be times they play really well, and there will be times they'll have some hiccups. That's just the growing process."

Gillispie mentioned the point guard position first when he talked about questions regarding the team. He also spoke of finding shooters, major roles for new players and two key players (Patrick Patterson and Meeks) coming off injury.

Gillispie gave Galloway an advantage in terms of experience. Galloway played for Southern California as a freshman, then for the College of Southern Idaho.

"In terms of team defense, he knows where to be already," Gillispie said. "That's a major, major, major, major plus for him. That will get him through hard times. ... You can count on him to be a good defender."

Galloway recoiled from the suggestion that the experience gave him an advantage on Liggins. "I don't have an edge," he said. "We can help each other get better.

Although he's 6-foot-7, Galloway has played point guard at the high school, Division I and junior college levels. He recalled playing the position as the only freshman on a senior-laden high school team. He said the older players helped ease the transition.

"It was a little scary," he said. "They showed me the ropes. They guided me through the whole year."

Liggins conceded the advantage Galloway has in experience.

Each player noted how being lead guard requires the player to think like the coach.

"Play hard and take care of that basketball," Galloway said. "If you make a decision, make sure it helps the team."

Liggins acknowledged that he'll probably have difficult moments as a freshman.

"I'll make mistakes," he said. "Coach knows that, too. But coach will make me better."

Even with his soft-spoken demeanor and a celebrated high school career, Liggins said he could handle a demanding college coach like Gillispie. It was noted that another freshman who fit that description, Alex Legion, transferred from UK at the semester break last year.

"I'm very competitive," Liggins said, "and coach knows that. I will never give up."

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