Basketball Preview: Degree, NCAA tournament keep Patterson from NBA

Jon Hood has never played a game with Patrick Patterson.
But if you ask the freshman guard about the junior forward, his eyes widen. He shakes his head when talking about his teammate, like he can’t believe there’s a player — or a person — quite like Patterson.
“Pat’s the guy. Pat’s amazing,” Hood says, slowing as he speaks. It’s almost as if he knows that he has to be perfect when speaking about Patterson, that anything else would be a disservice to his teammate. “The way he is on the court and the way he is off the court, the person that he is … All of us look up to him, whether we will admit it or not. Pat’s worked so hard at this, he’s worked so hard to get where he is and he deserves every moment of this.”
Work. That’s a word that’s thrown around a lot when teammates talk about Patterson, who averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks last year en route to first team All-Southeastern Conference honors.  He spent the summer in San Francisco with freshman forward Daniel Orton getting in even better shape. When other players limp out of the training room after practice now, Patterson is still on the treadmill.
There’s nothing about Patterson that doesn’t impress teammates. His leadership skills, ability in the classroom and work ethic go beyond any measureable basketball statistic.
Patrick Patterson

Patrick Patterson

But there is one thing about Patterson’s résumé that’s been less-than-impressive in his first two seasons. He entered the program as one of the highest-rated recruits to join the Cats in recent memory and was immediately counted on to be a starter.

He responded, setting the pace in the post even as a freshman before a stress fracture in his ankle stopped him. He missed the rest of the season — including the Cats’ first-round exit in the 2008 NCAA tournament. Patterson missed the 2009 tournament too, as the Cats floundered midseason and limped to a 22-14 record.
His failure to play in the tournament is something he hears about constantly, and it’s one of his biggest motivations
“I know he wants to get on that big stage,” Hood said. “That’s what Pat thrives for, is that big stage. If we can do anything to get him there, we’ll do as much as we can to get him there.”
Patterson missed two games with another ankle injury last season. He said he prays for a healthy season, but even that pales in comparison to his desire to make it to the NCAA tournament.
“The No. 1 goal I want is making it to the NCAA tournament,” Patterson said.
The NCAA tournament looms large in what will be Patterson’s third — and possibly final — year at UK. He’s expected to graduate after this year, and could enter the NBA draft for next summer with a successful season under his belt.
Patterson tested the NBA waters after last season before deciding to come back for his third year. But UK head coach John Calipari wouldn’t make it that
easy on him. The two met, and Calipari wanted to know why he was coming back.
“He told me he wanted to graduate in three years,” Calipari said. “He’d never played in an NCAA Tournament and he regretted that, and the third thing he said was, ‘I need to play in your style of game if I’m really going to be a good pro, because right now I’m playing under the basket and I know I’m not going to do that at the next level.’ ”
With that, Patterson returned. He’ll be expected to be one of the leaders on this year’s team on and off the court, and he’ll be the guy the Cats look to for a high-percentage shot late in close games. Already one of the most seasoned players as a junior, Patterson is used to the responsibility.
The same young roster that makes Patterson one of the oldest players on the team has brought with it new expectations. To Patterson, there’s nothing wrong with that. He’s embraced the responsibilities and expectations laid upon him from the day he arrived on campus. This season will be no different.
“We want to be one of the greatest teams to play here at Kentucky and we want to be that type of historic team and that type of team remembered by everybody across the world and especially in Kentucky,” Patterson said. “We want to be undefeated, we want to win the national championship, we want to win everything we can win and we want everybody to be as successful as they can be.”
See more from the Kernel’s 2009 Basketball Preview:

Recruits aim to revive program

SEC rebounds from bad reputation

New coach gives sophomore a second chance at UK

The third time’s the charm: Harris, Stevenson cope with third coach in four years

UK Hoops looks to avoid injuries

Dunlap finds her voice as a leader

SEC East predictions

SEC West predictions

mark boley says:

I’m so happy that PP is finally getting the recognition that he deserves. I coached PP when he was 11 and 12, and knew that he was something special. His parents are classy people, and have done a wonderful job raising him. Lets go Kentucky- win it all!!

Al says:

PP has been the what you would like to call the “EYE” of a perfect storm. He genuine in every sense of the word and I’d like to think his parents are the substance that parental books should be writened and copied.

Wildcat QT 3142 says:

The more I hear about Patterson the more I just love the bit fella. After all I didn’t name my lab after just anyone, he’s 6 mo old and already 80 pounds. Mr. and Mrs. Patterson did one hell of a job raising a fine young man. I CAN’T WAIT FOR THIS BASKETBALL SEASON TO START!!!
GO BIG BLUE!!!