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 canâ€™t believe thereâ€™s a player â€” or a person â€” quite like Patterson.
â€œPatâ€™s the guy. Patâ€™s amazing,â€ Hood says, slowing as he speaks. Itâ€™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. â€œThe way he is on the court and the way he is off the court, the person that he is â€¦ All of us look up to him, whether we will admit it or not. Patâ€™s worked so hard at this, heâ€™s worked so hard to get where he is and he deserves every moment of this.â€
Work. Thatâ€™s a word thatâ€™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. Â 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.
Thereâ€™s nothing about Patterson that doesnâ€™t impress teammates. His leadership skills, ability in the classroom and work ethic go beyond any measureable basketball statistic.
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 â€” including the Catsâ€™ 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 itâ€™s one of his biggest motivations
â€œI know he wants to get on that big stage,â€ Hood said. â€œThatâ€™s what Pat thrives for, is that big stage. If we can do anything to get him there, weâ€™ll do as much as we can to get him there.â€
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.
â€œThe No. 1 goal I want is making it to the NCAA tournament,â€ Patterson said.
The NCAA tournament looms large in what will be Pattersonâ€™s third â€” and possibly final â€” year at UK. Heâ€™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 wouldnâ€™t make it that
easy on him. The two met, and Calipari wanted to know why he was coming back.
â€œHe told me he wanted to graduate in three years,â€ Calipari said. â€œHeâ€™d never played in an NCAA Tournament and he regretted that, and the third thing he said was, â€˜I need to play in your style of game if Iâ€™m really going to be a good pro, because right now Iâ€™m playing under the basket and I know Iâ€™m not going to do that at the next level.â€™ â€
With that, Patterson returned. Heâ€™ll be expected to be one of the leaders on this yearâ€™s team on and off the court, and heâ€™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, thereâ€™s nothing wrong with that. Heâ€™s embraced the responsibilities and expectations laid upon him from the day he arrived on campus. This season will be no different.
â€œWe 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,â€ Patterson said. â€œWe 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.â€
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