UK Men's Basketball

Patterson the survivor is going pro

To be honest, seems like the guy has been here forever.

Patrick Patterson packed about a five-year college basketball career into three seasons.

No wonder Kentucky's junior forward announced Friday afternoon what we had figured all along, that he will enter the NBA Draft for the second straight year, thus ending his college career.

"When it came down to it," Patterson said, "I came to college mainly to get my college degree, and that's what I'm doing this year. So I feel like it's time for me to go, time for me to move on."

If your college life is an education experience that prepares you for the rest of your life, then Patrick Patterson has a PhD.

Look at what he learned outside the classroom:

■ Patrick Patterson learned how to work for more than one boss. Patterson was recruited by Tubby Smith. The first coach Patterson thanked Friday was the first UK coach who recruited him.

He played two tumultuous years for Billy Gillispie. ("We laugh now about some of the things that weren't very funny at the time," Patterson said Friday.) He played his final season for John Calipari.

"My number one memory will be (Calipari) tripping over his feet every day in practice," Patterson cracked.

■ Patrick Patterson learned how to co-exist with a diverse number of co-workers. He started with Mark Coury and Michael Porter, and moved on to DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall. Three years in blue, Patterson shared the floor with 28 different players. By all accounts, he got along with each one rather famously.

"I talk to Jodie (Meeks) pretty much every day," he said Friday.

■ Patrick Patterson learned about life's highs and lows. Like the year, his freshman year, Patterson suffered a stress fracture in his foot and missed the NCAA Tournament. Like the year, his sophomore year, Patterson had to play in the NIT. Like the year, his junior year, Patterson played on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Think of it: Patterson was part of teams that lost to Gardner-Webb and VMI, and teams that beat North Carolina and Connecticut.

■ Patrick Patterson learned how to share/defer the spotlight. Not talking about his senior year in high school, when the famous (infamous) O.J. Mayo joined the Huntington High roster. Not talking about his final year at UK, when Wall and Cousins joined the roster.

Talking about his parents, Tywanna and Buster.

"Wherever they go, people would ask them for autographs," said Patterson, with Mom and Pop sitting close by. "They're going to miss the crazy atmosphere and crazy fans, just like I am."

■ Even at 6-foot-9, Patrick Patterson learned to grow. His first two seasons, under Billy G., Patterson was a block-to-block post player. First year, feed it to Pat inside, then kick it to Joe Crawford outside. Second year, feed it to Pat inside, then kick it to Meeks outside.

Third year was Cal's first year, and thus a year of change. Cousins took control of the block, leaving Patterson free to roam. And shoot from the perimeter. And shoot the three-pointer. And show pro scouts he could play a pro-style game.

"(Calipari) helped me in areas I needed help the most," said Patterson.

It's that final-year improvement that has Patterson listed anywhere from the upper single-digits to the mid-teens on most NBA Draft boards.

Yet through it all, Patterson seemed much the same person, a rock in a stormy sea. He was always the heady/steady one, who played with pride and passion.

Does he leave the same person?

"I think I'm definitely different," said Patterson on Friday. "Especially off the court, whether it's talking to people, having more confidence in myself, holding my head up higher whenever I walk down the street, smiling more.

"I never really smiled much my first two years here. Whenever I was taking a picture, I wasn't smiling much. Now pretty much every picture I'm taking, I'm smiling."