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By LARRY VAUGHT
For the player who sacrificed so much for Kentucky during his basketball career, maybe it had to be expected that other teammates would reap more honors and recognition than him for KentuckyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wonderful 35-3 season.
Yet I would wager today that thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not one jealous bone in Patrick PattersonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s body and that he was among the first to congratulate freshmen teammates John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins for being named first team All-America by the Associated Press on Monday.
While Patterson didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t lead UK in scoring, assists or steals as Wall did or in blocked shots and rebounds as Cousins did, he led the team in leadership.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe me. Let Wall and Cousins explain.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Patrick helped us a lot when we first got here in the summer. He could have put us under the bus, but he put us under his wing and showed us all we needed to get better,Ã¢â‚¬Â said wall. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He said there would not be an easy games, especially in the SEC. He told us what to expect and how to handle things. He was always there.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That was just Patrick being a leader. He knew that was about more than just about him and the freshmen coming We had to be a team and Patrick did a great job making us come together. He stepped back, sacrificed some of his numbers and let us do our thing.Ã¢â‚¬Â
What about it, Cousins?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is the man on the team. When we need something big, we look to him. He never gets overlooked by us. Maybe the media, but not us. We know how important he is and look for him every night. He helped keep us out of trouble off the floor. He was also there looking out for us and thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nobody that competes like him. He hates losing,Ã¢â‚¬Â Cousins said.
PattersonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s numbers were still impressive. He averaged 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He had 51 blocked shots and 27 steals. He shot 57.5 percent from the field and went 24-for-69 from 3-point range to show his improved shooting range.
And he was tough.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I can play through sickness. If someone is coughing, I am not as worried about that as someone stepping on my ankle or something or running and slipping. But when you are having a season like we are, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let sickness or pain keep you from playing. You endure it and play,Ã¢â‚¬Â Patterson said before the NCAA Tournament.
He came back to UK for his junior season rather than going to the NBA to graduate and win a NCAA title.
Before the tournament, I asked him if he would be bitterly disappointed if UK didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t at least reach the Final Four Ã¢â‚¬â€ a goal the Cats missed when they fell to West Virginia last week.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We will all feel that way. If we lose before the Final Four, this year is not the year we wanted and will not turn out the way we all planned,Ã¢â‚¬Â Patterson said.
Notice the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“weÃ¢â‚¬Â in both sentences. Everything about him was team oriented.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our record is good with a lot of things individually, but the main focus and goal is to get to that national championship. If we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get there, we wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t look at it as a down year, but it is as not as successful as it should have been,Ã¢â‚¬Â Patterson said then.
Yet Patterson insisted that lofty goal or returning to UK did not place extra pressure on him.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not as much pressure, but more motivation,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said.
He became a fan favorite as much for how he treated others as for his inspirational play under Billy Gillispie when he never complained about the lack of talent around him. He signed autographs. He visited those in need in the hospital.
Recently he was out eating with teammates when approached about saying happy birthday to a girl celebrating her 16th birthday. He did and the Cats even autographed a basketball and sang to her. It became a national story Ã¢â‚¬â€ one that would have been even bigger if UK had made the Final Four.
And he never had any regrets about being at UK or not being the team star this year.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“It wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hard for me to come back. Last year I had to be focal point since I was the main force down low. This year I understand we have so many weapons. DeMarcus can dominate down low, John and Eric (Bledsoe) from the perimeter, Daniel (Orton) can do it. I am all about my teammates,Ã¢â‚¬Â Patterson said.
What better legacy than Ã¢â‚¬Å“all about my teammatesÃ¢â‚¬Â could any player have.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why even if Patterson was only honorable mention on the AP All-America team, he was first team with me, his teammates and the UK fans.