Kentucky Coach John Calipari told a group of high school coaches on Friday that star big man Patrick Patterson will be playing his final season for the Wildcats in 2009-10.
Speaking to the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches, Calipari said his first UK team's experience consisted of "three seniors and Patrick Patterson, who will leave this year. Hopefully he'll be a top-10 pick."
That Patterson might leave after his junior season comes as no surprise. But it was interesting that Calipari gave himself no wiggle room.
Patterson averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds last season as a sophomore. He recorded 15 double-doubles, topped the 1,000-point career scoring mark and made the All-Southeastern Conference first team.
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Although projected as a first-round NBA Draft choice, Patterson chose to return to UK for this coming season. He said he wanted to improve his perimeter skills while acknowledging that at 6-foot-9 he would be unlikely to be a consistent scorer in the low post against NBA competition.
That Calipari declared Patterson gone after this season suggests either the player has shown plenty of improvement on the perimeter or other factors played a part in the decision to return this season.
Calipari made Patterson sound like something other than a finished product as a perimeter ball-handler and creator.
"I better teach him how to play out (on the floor)," the UK coach told his audience before adding, "But I'm trying to win, too."
As he had said before, Calipari noted how Patterson would be stationed in the low post at the end of close games.
"I tell Patrick, 'Play like a guard,'" Calipari said. "When the game's on the line, (his teammates) will all be saying, 'Get under the goal, Patrick.'"
Patterson, a native of Huntington, W.Va., came to UK as the long-sought-after power forward. He was a McDonald's All-American after leading Huntington High to three straight West Virginia 3A state championships.
Patterson goes into this season still seeking to play in an NCAA Tournament. An ankle injury ended his freshman season, and he watched from the bench as the Cats lost to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
UK failed to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament last season.
Cousins 'a beast'
Even if Patrick Patterson leaves after 2009-10, Kentucky's restocked front line could absorb the blow.
John Calipari re-recruited Daniel Orton, who originally signed with former Coach Billy Gillispie. Calipari also brought in highly regarded freshman DeMarcus Cousins.
In his talk to the high school coaches, Calipari suggested that he might have some issues with Cousins regarding the big man being around the basket or on the perimeter.
In a recent scrimmage, Cousins had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, Calipari said. That prompted the coach to tell the freshman, "You were a beast. ... Are you that good? Because if you are that good, it's starting to get scary."
After Cousins thanked the coach, Calipari said he added, "But your body language (stunk)."
Cousins then explained. "It's how you're playing me," he told the UK coach. "You know my skills are out on the floor."
To which Calipari told the coaches, "He thinks that's what people want to see from a 6-11, 270 (player)."
Calipari offered a compromise.
The UK coach kiddingly (?) told his audience, "I may tell him 'With every 10 rebounds, I'll let you go to the top of the key and go crazy.'"
Former walk-on Landon Slone hopes to meet with John Calipari as soon as this week to ask about the possibility of rejoining the UK team.
Support for such a move appears to be growing as evidenced by an emerging Facebook page.
"I thought it was funny at first," Slone said. "Then it got a little more serious."
Several hundred people joined the Facebook page one night, Slone said.
Slone, a former star at Paintsville High, is seen by some as a surrogate for the many Kentuckians who dream of playing basketball for UK.
"It's pretty obvious this kid has loved Kentucky basketball all his life," said Ben Adams, a reader from Pineville. "... I just think Coach Cal needs to look in his heart and ask this boy to be back on the team."
In seeking a meeting with Calipari, Slone is following the advice of several former UK players, including Kyle Macy.
Slone was one of several walk-ons on the team last season. Former Coach Billy Gillispie liked the idea of walk-ons, but Calipari has retained only one, Mark Krebs, who subsequently got a scholarship for this season.
Meanwhile, Adams, 57, supports nothing more than letting Slone take a seat on the bench.
"Let a kid walk on whose heart and soul is with Kentucky, a Kentucky boy," Adams said. "Even if it's to sit on the bench most of the time while you let those 'one-and-dones' play."
During his talk to Kentucky high school coaches, John Calipari explained his philosophy on recruiting in-state players. He seemed to say he wanted homegrown talent but not at the expense of a better player from outside Kentucky's borders.
"Do you want me to recruit the No. 1 player?" he asked his audience. "Can you accept he's going to stay only a year or two?"
A moment later, the UK coach said, "We're going to recruit Kentucky hard. But I'm never going to cheat a young man in the state."
Translation: Calipari does not want a Kentuckian to feel unfulfilled sitting on the bench.
"I'd rather he go to Western Kentucky and play three years and go pro," the UK coach said. "I hope I care enough about kids" to not recruit a player simply to sit.
Cal targets Louisville
John Calipari became the latest in a long line of UK coaches to declare his intention to make the Wildcats a stronger presence in Louisville.
"We have to get into Louisville," he told the high school coaches. "Louisville has got to be a home base for us."Cal: UK 'overrated'
In his talk to Kentucky's high school coaches, John Calipari scoffed at the various pre-season rankings placing UK in the top 10.
"We're overrated, way overrated," he said. "Every team is five or six months ahead of us."
Most teams have veteran players familiar with the coach and system. UK has a new coach, new system and a potential divide between six holdover scholarship players and six highly regarded newcomers.
Calipari has had the team watch the movie Remember the Titans in part to promote a one-for-all togetherness.
As Calipari told the high school coaches, a team can't reach its potential without "trust and love in one another."
Former UK baseball coach Keith Madison annually leads more than 250 baseball coaches, major and minor league baseball players and businessmen on a mission trip called the "November Baseball Outreach."
Last November, these men held free baseball clinics for more than 7,000 youth in the Dominican Republic. Besides the instruction, the trip provided equipment and offered missionaries opportunities to share their faith.
Such major-leaguers as Mariano Rivera, Andy Green, Eric Stults and Jody Gerut have participated.
Madison, who is the national baseball director for a Christian sports ministry called SCORE International, is planning a golf tournament to benefit the program. The tournament, which is called the Austin Kearns Celebrity Golf Classic, will be Oct. 12 at Greenbrier Golf and Country Club in Lexington.
Participants include Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Sheppard, Bobby Perry, Marty Moore, Jared Lorenzen, Scott Downs, Andy Green, Sam Bowie and Kearns.
Live and silent auctions will follow the golf scramble: Auction items include jerseys autographed by Brandon Webb, Joe Blanton and Downs, a football autographed by Rich Brooks and a basketball autographed by John Calipari.
For more information on playing or sponsoring foursomes and holes, check the Web site www.austinkearnscelebritygolfclassic.com.
UK plans to expand the high-priced courtside seating this coming season. The school will look to add six seats to those hugging the sideline.
To make room for the deep-pocketed set, some media seating near mid-court will be moved to the end line.
It was with great timing that former Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino took a phone call informing him that the NCAA named Lexington one of its sites for the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament in 2013. Great timing because the NCAA wanted to tie the sites to historic moments in the tournament. Lexington's moment came in the 1985 national championship game between Villanova and Georgetown.
"It's kind of ironic," Massimino said. "A gentleman was just at my house for five hours. He's writing a book on the championship year."
Massimino had never been to Kentucky until the 1985 Final Four in Rupp Arena. He's been back several times on recruiting trips.
Massimino, 74, still coaches, now at Northwood University, an NAIA school in West Palm Beach, Fla.
That raises a question: Why?
"I just love the kids," he said. "There are a lot of assistant coaches out there that help us get players. These kids don't know anything about 1985.
"I'm having fun. That's probably the crux of it."
Future Final Fours
With enthusiasm for UK basketball riding high (even by UK standards), here's the lineup of future Final Four sites: 2010 Indianapolis, 2011 Houston, 2012 New Orleans, 2013 Atlanta, 2014 Dallas, 2015 Indianapolis and 2016 Houston.
By the way, there's no limit on the number of times a city can play host to NCAA Tournament games. For instance, New Orleans will be host to first- and second-round games in 2010, a region semifinal and final in 2011 and a Final Four in 2012.
While 2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the NCAA Tournament, not every site is linked to a historic moment. A region semifinal and final will be played in the Dallas Cowboys' new football stadium that year as a test run for the facility housing the Final Four the next year.
The NCAA selected Lexington for the historic 2013 tournament. Louisville will play host in 2012.
When asked if this indicated Lexington's superiority to Louisville as a site, NCAA spokesman Greg Shaheen rejected this "bit of Oliver Stone-like theory."
The NCAA wanted to get as many former Final Four sites as possible in 2013. But it was impossible to get them all, he said. Since Louisville is only 80 miles from Lexington, the NCAA moved Louisville to 2012.
Indiana Coach Tom Crean spoke to the Kentucky high school coaches. He advised the coaches to spend at least an hour each day watching games.
"You never know when you'll have an inspirational moment," he said.
For instance, IU has its players watch an edited video of Shane Battier playing defense and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow being emotionally involved while standing on the sideline.
"You can't help but get inspired watching something like that," Crean said.
To former UK guard Jeff Sheppard. He turns 35 on Tuesday.