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By LARRY VAUGHT
As Kentucky coach John Calipari got ready to go back to the Rupp Arena court for the second half of SaturdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s win over South Carolina, he spotted former Wildcat Patrick Patterson doing an interview.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Can you stop for a second so I can give my man a hug,Ã¢â‚¬Â Calipari asked before wrapping his arms around Patterson, a first-round pick of the Houston Rockets last summer after he gave up his senior year at UK. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You are doing well. (Former teammate and Washington rookie) John Wall was bragging about you and saying your were getting it done.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Patterson has played in 27 games this season averaging 4.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 12.6 minutes per game for the Rockets after being sent to the Developmental League earlier in the season to get him more playing time and experience. However, in his final game for the all-star break, he had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots in 16 minutes against Philadelphia.
Patterson and Jodie Meeks, another former Wildcat now with the Philadelphia 76ers, took advantage of the all-star break to return to Rupp Arena to watch UK play. Patterson took time to share insights about his initial NBA season:
Question: What did it feel like to walk to midcourt and get such a huge ovation?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It felt great. It was just like old times. I felt like I was in the jersey getting ready to step on the court and play in the lineup. It feels good to be back in Kentucky and back in Rupp Arena seeing all these familiar faces. I am just enjoying doing what I am now but to be back here seeing Darius, Josh and DeAndre show exceptionally well right now, I am so proud of them and so happy the team is doing well.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Do you get excited walking on the court considering you are now a NBA player?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I did. I feel like I wanted to grab a basketball and just start playing. I love the Kentucky fans and being back here in Kentucky.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Does it make you nervous to sit in the stands and watch former teammates play?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am not nervous. I know they are going to win the game. I just love seeing Darius. He shocked me the way he played early. I didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think he was going to come out and starting hitting 3Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s. I thought he was going to get 20 in the first half.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: How has the adjustment to the NBA been considering you were even sent down briefly to the Developmental League before being recalled and finally getting a chance to play significant minutes?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is a lot tougher than what I thought it would be. I knew coming in I would not start or play right away. I knew I would have to earn it, but I never thought I would get sent down to the D-League. I had to deal with that for a while and keep my head on straight and stay positive and look forward, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what I did until they brought me back up. Slowly but surely I started getting more minutes and they started putting me in the rotation more and hopefully I can just keep that up and keep impressing them and improving.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Considering the success youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve always had in your career, did being sent down make you question your ability and/or confidence?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“My first reaction was, Ã¢â‚¬ËœMan, what I am doing wrong.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ I thought I was doing everything right, but Coach was telling me they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want me to sit on the bench because we had so many veterans at my spot and so many experienced players. They didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want me to sit around on the bench. They wanted me to play, and since they could send me down and bring me back any time they wanted, I started to understand what they were doing.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am more comfortable on the court now. Playing in the D-League and getting actual game time rather than playing a little bit Ã¢â‚¬â€ maybe a minute or two in the NBA and constantly worrying about making a mistake and Coach taking me out Ã¢â‚¬â€ and going to the D-League and playing an entire game against NBA competition I started getting more comfortable and realizing I just had to play my game.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: So the Developmental League experience ended up reinforcing your belief that you belonged in the NBA?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“I doubted myself a little bit because when I got sent down I thought something was wrong with me and my play. I doubted myself a little, but I continued talking to coaching staff, teammates and my family and I started believing in myself again and realized that they were not doing this as punishment. It was an investment type deal because they wanted me to become better and wanted me to keep improving and not rot (on the bench).Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: Have you thought much now about how good you could be?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hopefully I make the rookie-sophomore (all-star) game next year like fellow teammates (John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins) did this year. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s my first goal. Hopefully get in the starting lineup, get more minutes, be more productive on the court. Hopefully for myself the sky is the limit.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Question: What about just the overall life as a NBA player?
Patterson: Ã¢â‚¬Å“It is exactly what they make it to be. Constant travel, making money by doing something you love. Hopefully not blowing all your money on materialistic things, but it is a great lifestyle. If you love it and stay healthy and hungry, you can stay it in a long time. I am saving every ounce of money (for the future) that I can.Ã¢â‚¬Â