UK Men's Basketball

UK's seniors had to make adjustments

Seniors Perry Stevenson, Ramon Harris and Mark Krebs have combined to score 950 points for Kentucky in their careers. That's 19 less than freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins have combined to score this season.

But the cold, unfeeling numbers do not tell the story of their tumultuous time as UK players. Three head coaches in four seasons testifies to their perseverance.

Their combined average of 16.1 minutes played per Southeastern Conference game speaks to a one-for-all attitude while mocking the notion of seniors taking center stage.

"I don't have a problem changing roles," said Stevenson, whose starts dropped from 28 last season to zero this season. "It was for the better."

UK Coach John Calipari saluted Harris and Stevenson as good players fated to sit as better players played this season. He called Krebs a "great teammate" who accepted his role at the end of the bench with good-natured enthusiasm.

"I feel bad for them," said Calipari, who plans to start Harris, Stevenson and Krebs in the Senior Day game against Florida on Sunday. "I think they deserve it. They've worked hard."

The game will dictate how long Stevenson, Harris and Krebs stay in. But, Calipari suggested, Senior Day requires UK's seniors to be at center court for the tip-off.

"You want to win," Calipari said Friday. "But I always say it's about more than winning."

'Crazy' coach

Stevenson is considering coaching after his playing career. As he noted on Friday, his Kentucky career has given him an opportunity to learn about coaching.

"If I had to do it again, I probably would," he said of his UK career. "I learned a bunch. You can always learn more from three than you can from one.

"And if I decide to coach one day, I'll be able to slow it down, speed it up, dribble drive, post. Do it all."

Stevenson and Harris played for Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie and John Calipari during their four seasons.

As a coach, Stevenson said he could incorporate qualities from all three.

Of such a hybrid coach, Stevenson said, "He'd be funny, intense and a little crazy."

After a pause, Stevenson told reporters, "And that's for you to decide which quality goes with who."

A reporter asked Stevenson to sum up each of his UK coaches.

"I enjoyed playing for Coach Smith," he said. "Not everybody would give a 6-9, 190-pound guy an opportunity to play at this high level. He believed in me."

Stevenson described Gillispie as "just intense. Always intense. 24/7. He had a funny side. You have to scratch and claw to see it."

Stevenson described Calipari as "always honest. He's just a winner. ... He tells you the truth."

But Stevenson was by no means sure of becoming a coach.

"I've learned how hard some players are to deal with," he said. "I'm one of the good guys and I'm pretty sure I was hard to deal with when I first started playing."

Stevenson, who said he now weighs 207, flashed his trademark sense of humor when asked about his future plans.

"Hopefully, playing for the Lakers," he said. "We'll see how that road goes."

'A blessing'

Multiple injuries last season and the need to adjust to three coaches in four seasons gave Harris perspective going into Sunday's Senior Day ceremony.

"My mom always told me with every storm comes a blessing," he said.

The metaphorical skies grew dark and threatening several times for Harris the last three years. Besides playing for three coaches, he missed games at various parts of last season because of injury. The most serious a neck injury requiring hospitalization.

"I'd call that stress," he said. "You have to learn to deal with it.

"The blessing is the team we have now and knowing we have an opportunity a lot of teams don't."

In recalling his career, Harris noted how he had to wait until the end of the fall semester of 2006 before being eligible.

"You know, time flies," he said. "I can remember stepping into the building getting ready for the Louisville game and I had only practiced one day."

When asked about playing for Kentucky, Harris said, "to me, it's like being a pro. They told me everything you do is under a microscope. But I didn't believe it. Now I do."

Harris noted the pleasure fans receive from the exploits of players.

"What it's about is to be able to put smiles on faces and to help people get through their day," he said. "That I was able to do that is something I'll always remember."

'Do I deserve it?'

Krebs sounded upbeat while acknowledging the anxiety that comes with coaching changes.

As a walk-on transfer from Division III Thomas More College near his hometown of Newport, Krebs has had a tenuous hold on UK player status.

When Smith resigned and Gillispie became UK coach three years ago, Krebs said he thought, "It was good while it lasted."

Then Krebs stayed on the team as a walk-on. Of Gillispie, Krebs said, "He got a bad rap, but he gave me an opportunity."

After two seasons, Gillispie was fired.

"Man, again!" Krebs said he thought. "What am I going to do?"

Krebs decided to try to impress the new coach. He succeeded so well Calipari gave him a scholarship for this season.

"Still to this day, I love it," he said of the scholarship. "I wonder, Do I deserve it? I work really hard, but no one deserves everything I've gotten."

Harris and Stevenson noted Krebs' gift for mimicry. Krebs treated reporters to impersonations of freshman Jon Hood and junior Josh Harrellson. He declined requests for a DeMarcus Cousins.

Krebs also passed on the invitation to do Calipari. "I still have a couple games left," he said.

When told that Krebs did not do his Calipari, the UK coach said, "Good move."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments