By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON Ã¢â‚¬â€ HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only been at Kentucky for three years, but it has been more than enough for Patrick Patterson to endear himself to UK fans.
It has also been long enough for him to be in position to complete his degree in a few months Ã¢â‚¬â€ and also go through his Senior Day with teammates Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson and Mark Krebs Sunday when UK closes regular-season play by hosting Florida.
There has been no official announcement that Patterson will be part of the Senior Day ceremony and Patterson has yet to officially confirm he will enter the NBA draft when the season ends. But both are going to happen.
Patterson will have extra family and friends at the game and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sure to receive a huge ovation from Kentucky fans for all heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done for the program.
HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s averaged 16.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 88 career games. He has 1,452 points and 727 rebounds and if he did return for a senior season would have a chance to make a run at Dan IsselÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all-time scoring record.
However, Patterson has done all he can to improve his draft status with his perimeter play this year. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll soon get to play in the NCAA Tournament Ã¢â‚¬â€ another reason he wanted to come back for a junior season Ã¢â‚¬â€ and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have his degree.
His numbers have dipped slightly this year as he has been more than willing to defer to freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins because Kentucky has won more. Patterson has been content to be the team leader and concentrate on one thing Ã¢â‚¬â€ winning.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We all expected a lot from Pat. I think he has been coming through the whole season. We would have lost a lot of games without him. He is really doing a good job and he is definitely our leader, and has been all season,Ã¢â‚¬Â said UK sophomore Darius Miller.
Patterson is hitting 58.5 percent from the field and is a career 59 percent shooter. This year heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s made 20 of 49 3-pointers after going 0-for-4 his first two seasons. He has eight double-doubles this season and 29 career double-doubles.
Yet there have been times this year when some have wondered about his numbers and if he was doing enough. Patterson says he often feels that fans and/or media members worry more about his numbers than he does.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I have seen articles about how Patterson is not getting enough touches and the Cats are not able to finish out the game because when teams fight back maybe John and Eric (Bledsoe) turn the ball over or take a bad shot and Patrick doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t touch the ball,Ã¢â‚¬Â he said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Fans worry about me not getting the ball enough or me not scoring enough a lot more than I ever would.Ã¢â‚¬Â
One who never worried about him was Florida coach Billy Donovan, who tried to recruit him out of Huntington, W.Va., before he signed with the Cats and then coach Billy Gillispie.
Ã¢â‚¬ÂI always felt he was a guy that really played very hard out of high school. He was physical. One thing about being a good frontcourt player at this level is being willing to put your body in play. He has played physically without regard for his body andÃ‚Â has given up his body,Ã¢â‚¬Â Donovan said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Give him a lot of credit. The first two years under Billy (Gillispie) they really pounded the ball inside more and he was a relentless post player and rebounder. With John (Calipari) in there, there has been an opportunity to expand his game on the perimeter. I felt he was always a pretty good jump shooter and had a pretty good touch. As he has got older, his game has evolved and developed.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Count South Carolina coach Darrin Horn as a Patterson fan, too.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Early on when he was not scoring as much there was a lot of talk he was not playing well,Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â Horn said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“The key to their team is Patterson. We all know how special the freshman are and the impact they have made, but to have a guy like Patterson who is a hard work and plays hard Ã¢â‚¬â€ I never watch film or a play and think he is not bringing it Ã¢â‚¬â€ and has that presence, and I am guessing he does it daily in practice, too.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no question he is capable of big nights, but there are other things he has done to help the team more than has been noticed because of some of the numbers.Ã¢â‚¬Â
So get ready to say farewell to a special player who endured two years under Gillispie, has embraced the Kentucky tradition and now has helped put UK in position to win that elusive eighth national title. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been special from day one and my guess is that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be missed asÃ‚Â much as any player who has played at Kentucky for all heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s done on and off the floor.