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A legendary Cat is moving on.
Junior forward Patrick Patterson called it a career Friday afternoon, formally announcing his intentions to turn pro.
Patterson first thanked his coaches, including former UK head coach and current Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith, for getting him acquainted with the university.
“I just felt that it was time for me to go, time for me to start a new chapter in my life, time for me to move on” Patterson said. “I’ve had a great collegiate career here these past three years. I had a lot of fun, created a lot of memories, and met some exciting people.”
Patterson said he seriously considered returning for his senior season, but intends to complete his degree this semester and participate in graduation ceremonies on May 8 with the rest of the UK graduates.
After averaging 14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds during the 2009-10 season and becoming a legitimate 3-point shooting threat, Patterson is projected to be a lottery pick at No. 12 by DraftExpress.com.
In his first two seasons, Patterson played mostly in the paint with his back to the basket.
Under UK head coach John Calipari, Patterson extended his range and said he has no regrets about returning for his junior season after being projected as a first round pick following his sophomore year.
“Ball handling, driving from the perimeter, just overall confidence in myself skyrocketed this year,” Patterson said. “(I improved) from the coaching staff pushing me every day and my teammates just believing in me. So definitely, there is no bitter taste in my mouth for returning for my junior year.”
Patterson’s mother, Tywanna Patterson, said she was more proud of her son for earning his degree than his basketball accomplishments, but she thinks of him leaving UK more as him passing on the baton to someone else rather than leaving. Tywanna said she was happy Patrick decided to come back for his junior season.
“It was his decision,” Tywanna said.
Patterson’s legacy may be one that will live in the rafters of Rupp Arena some day, but for now, he said he hopes he’s remembered for wearing the UK jersey with pride, and someone who was a great ambassador for the university.
While only at UK for three years, Patterson has experienced the highs and lows of the UK basketball program.
He came to UK with first-year head coach Billy Gillispie, played in notable home losses to Gardner Webb, San Diego and the Virginia Military Institute, had to sit out with an injury and miss his first NCAA Tournament, play in the National Inviation Tournament, go through a coaching change, help UK win the Southeastern Conference Tournament and played as a No. 1 seed.
“I definitely feel like a veteran,” Patterson said. “I feel like this is my fifth year here at Kentucky.
Patterson will leave the Cats with a career average of 16.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He is 11 points shy of 12th place on UK’s all-time scoring list with 1,564 points.
“Finally, to be a part of history and to be a part of a team that got Kentucky back to its rightful place among the elite programs across the nation, I definitely think that I was a part of history,” Patterson said. “I definitely think I was a part of the progression of getting Kentucky back to the true spot, to the true top point where it needs to be and should be.”