Nobody knew who Eric Bledsoe was when he first stepped foot on campus. But today, the speedy guard with the deep southern voice is one of the kings of the Bluegrass.
Now, 400 miles away from his home in Birmingham, Ala., Bledsoe said heâ€™s homesick. But with the NBA weighing heavily on his thoughts as well, he knows there isnâ€™t anything for him when he gets home except trouble.
â€œAinâ€™t nothing but trouble because everybody sees Iâ€™m succeeding (when) people told me I wasnâ€™t,â€ Bledsoe said. â€œSo if I end up going back something bad (will) probably happen. So I just go back every now and then and see my mom when Coach Cal lets me leave.â€
Bledsoe said he doesnâ€™t know what would happen, but UK head coach John Calipari has told the team stories about some of his previous players who had bad things happen to them when they went home. Things like people trying to be your friends when theyâ€™re really not.
â€œThey talking about you behind your back so you just go home and you look like youâ€™re doing good,â€ Bledsoe said. â€œThere are people there that are trying to rob you and stuff like that.â€
In Lexington, Bledsoe and the Cats are celebrities. When Bledsoe and his teammates go to womenâ€™s basketball games, the fans treat them like theyâ€™re already NBA stars.
That only seems fitting because Bledsoe is now being talked about as a potential NBA lottery pick and is thriving with the undefeated Cats (18-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference).
On Tuesday, ESPN NBA Draft Insider Chad Ford wrote about Bledsoe being a potential lottery pick in the 2010 draft. Ford cited one NBA GM who said if Wall didnâ€™t play for UK, then the teams would be calling Bledsoe a lottery pick.
â€œI never thought about anything like that,â€ Bledsoe said. â€œI was reading it and I was shocked like, â€˜Is he really talking about me?â€™ Because I went through everything growing up. I guess I had bumps in the road and itâ€™s paying off.â€
Itâ€™s paying off in quite some way. Bledsoe earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors for the second time last week and is averaging 11.4 points and three assists per game. Despite the accolades placed on him and the talk of being another NBA lottery pick on a roster bursting at the seams with them, Bledsoe said it looks as though he will come back next year. But if heâ€™s projected as a top-10 pick, he would likely leave.
â€œIt makes me feel great that I have a chance to be one and done but I donâ€™t really look into or buy into it,â€ Bledsoe said. â€œThat just means I have to come in and practice everyday and work hard and try to be the best.
â€œItâ€™ll be something that I talk about with my ma. I love her a lot and whatever she has an input on Iâ€™ll try and listen to her but weâ€™ll see how it goes.â€
As Wall was being recruited, whether or not Bledsoe would even come to UK was a major question. Critics told Bledsoe he and Wall couldnâ€™t coexist on the same team, nor would they even want to play together. The two proved them wrong by both signing with UK. With their undefeated start, Bledsoe said he doesnâ€™t hear about a potential rift between him and Wall as much.
â€œMe and him just became best of brothers,â€ Bledsoe said. â€œAnd nothingâ€™s going to break it up. No matter how the articles says â€˜Iâ€™m better than him, heâ€™s better than me.â€™ We just donâ€™t look into that.â€
Bledsoe found his way to Lexington after Calipari amped up his recruitment of the 6-foot-1 guard upon arriving at UK from Memphis. Calipari was honest with Bledsoe and told him it would be tough and he would have to work for everything. For Bledsoe, that was the norm anyway.
â€œHe was like, â€˜Youâ€™re going to have to earn whatever you get,â€™ â€ Bledsoe said. â€œAnd Iâ€™ve been doing that all my life so I didnâ€™t see why not.â€