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By LARRY VAUGHT
Darnell Dodson will be back at Kentucky for his junior season.
Matt Eisele, the head coach at Miami Dade College, says his former player Ã¢â‚¬Å“will be backÃ¢â‚¬Â with the Wildcats next season even though UK coach John Calipari proclaimed several times in the last month that UK would have only four players back off this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team. The four were Darius Miller, Josh Harrellson, Jon Hood and DeAndre Liggins. However, DodsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s status apparently has changed and now heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s back in CalipariÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good graces.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to get into any other stuff, but Darnell will be back at Kentucky,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Eisele Monday. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is happy there and appreciates what coach Cal and (assistant) coach (Orlando) Antigua have done for him. Coach Antigua recruits my guys and is a good guy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Kentucky got a verbal commitment from current 6-11 Miami Dade product Eloy Vargas over the weekend.
Dodson started seven games last season and played in 35 after transferring from Miami Dade. He averaged 6.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 14.5Ã‚Â minutes per game. He shot 34.7 percent (50-for-144) from 3-point range and led UK in 3-point field goals.
He had eight games where he scored in double figures, including a career-high 19 points against Hartford when he was 6-for-10 from 3-point range. He also had 16 points against Vanderbilt and was in double figures in three other Southeastern Conference games.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Darnell can play. The two biggest things he has to do are play with more effort and be more consistent on defense,Ã¢â‚¬Â Eisele said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is the first time he has been in a situation where he is not the first scoring option. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s always had the ball in his hands and it has been an adjustment for him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Coach Cal has done a great job with him. He had some good non-conference games and some good games in the SEC. The best basketball is still ahead for Darnell. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fully focused and committed now. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s happy to be at Kentucky and will stay at Kentucky.Ã¢â‚¬Â
That didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem the case after the season ended. Dodson scored only 12 points in four NCAA Tournament games and played only one minute in the win over Cornell. In UKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s season-ending loss to West Virginia, he was 2-for-9 from 3-point range.
It was widely speculated he was leaving Kentucky and one rumor even surfaced that he was contemplating putting his name into the NBA draft. Calipari did nothing to stymie speculation that Dodson would not be back and said numerous times that UK would have only four returning scholarship players.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everything is fine now and he will be back,Ã¢â‚¬Â Eisele said.
For a team that will be lacking experience Ã¢â‚¬â€ and potentially long-range shooting Ã¢â‚¬â€ DodsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s return could be extremely beneficial.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is extremely talented. Kentucky fans have really not seen yet just how good he can be,Ã¢â‚¬Â Eisele said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Once again, with him and a lot of kids, he has to learn to be more consistent not only in games but every day.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He obviously has to get stronger and better on the defensive end of the court. If he does that, I really believe in my heart that he could be the next person in that three-letter league (NBA). He is that talented. He can score the basketball. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no doubt about that. He just has to get more consistent on the other things.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Eisele says adjusting to theÃ‚Â big-time college basketball atmosphere off the court added to DodsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s transition period his sophomore year at UK.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is a good kid. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quiet with everybody and wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say a lot. It takes a while for him to open up and talk,Ã¢â‚¬Â Eisele said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s really not after attention. He just wants to play basketball, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s something he can do very well.Ã¢â‚¬Â