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Diagnosing the Cats……by Greg Anthony

Normally in this spot, we go over the news and notes of the day, but today has been relatively quiet (with the exception of Jeff Drummond’s report that UK coaches visited tonight with Justin Green, the all-everything athlete from Louisville). Thus it is a good time to talk a little college basketball with KentuckySportsRadio’s newest favorite announcer, Greg Anthony. Those of you who saw the game on Saturday, saw Anthony call his first college basketball game on CBS and got to witness the birth of an announcer that is clearly a rising star. After the game, UK fans were almost universal in their praise for Anthony’s performance and thus I sat out to try and get in contact with Greg and find out more about his thoughts on the Cats. Thanks to a little help from Tom Leach (who did his own audio interview with Greg here that is VERY GOOD), I was able to get in contact with the former UNLV point guard to talk about the Cats. After the interview, I found out three things:

1. Greg is PASSIONATE about college basketball. We talked for about 15 minutes in our initial conversation. However an hour after we got off the phone, Anthony called back to talk more about one of the topics (point guard play) that we had discussed early on. All in all, we talked for almost an hour about UK basketball and I can say that Anthony knows more about the details of the program and its players than any national college basketball analyst…..bar none.

2. Greg tells it like it is on every topic. He is the one guy in college basketball who has the potential to be honest with the audience, and not just coach-loving as most announcers in this game are.

3. While at UNLV, he was the President of the College Republicans…..really. I didnt know that until after we talked (Bomani told me), but there is no doubt that this is something we just have to address. He did however vote for Barack.

Here was my conversation with Greg….at least the first ten minutes:

You got to see the Cats close up this weekend in Rupp Arena. What were your thoughts on the team?

I think they have the potential to be really good. I said this on the telecast, but for the first eight minutes of that game, I dont think there is any team in the country that has looked better, at least defensively. They were quick, active and showed an aggressiveness that most college teams just cant show. If that can become the focal point of their team, they will win a lot of games. They obviously are going to struggle on offense, but defensively they were as impressive as I have seen.

What about the play at Point guard? You talked a lot about it during the telecast, did you come away with any thoughts?

I think they are doing the right thing. Play the veteran guy and show DeAndre that he has to earn that time. Liggins is not really a pure point guard, but he has to learn to play it. I wasnt really a pure point guard either, but I was told to learn it and then I did. He has to get a feel as to how to play the position and be able to know score, time and the strengths of his teammates. He has got to embrace that role and I dont really think he has done that so far. Coach Gillispie wants to commit to him but DeAndre has to take it to heart and I dont think anyone has seen that right now.

When do you think you make that transistion to just letting the Freshman play for better or worse?

I dont know if you do it like that. I mean remember what we talked about before. For eight minutes against Indiana, Kentucky was unbelievable. And you know who was playing point guard during that time…..Michael Porter. Porter knows where to be and what to do and I think the fans down there dont necessarily appreciate what he brings to the table positively. So I think you can win a lot of games with Porter there, if the other guys step up and play to his strengths, which they dont always do.

You were critical of Liggins during the telecast and we found out later that he was late arriving to the game. What does he have to do to get back on track?

Well first I can tell you that he has got to start by rebuilding relationships with those guys that are on his team and the coaches. He has made it very difficult for his teammates and while I was there, the one thing I saw is that they are lacking leadership. They dont have anyone on that team who is a natural leader who can just go up to him and make him get his head on straight. I dont think that is Patterson or Meeks’ personality, but they may have to develop it quickly. I spoke with Patrick and Jodie and I told both of them that it was up to them to up the ante and hold their teammates accountable for their actions. I think that is what they really need right now.

What about Patrick and Jodie? Do they have a future at the next level?

Oh yes definitely. They can both play at the next level for sure. They are both very quick and they have a ton of skill. Patrick is as good a passer as you will see at Power Forward for any team in America. He has a great desire to rebound the ball and I think when he is focused on rebounding, he is magnificent. Remember that he is only a Sophomore and think about how much he has improved so far. I think you will see more improvement, even as this season goes on.

As for Jodie, he can be as explosive as anyone in America when he wants to be. But he has to improve on being a facilitator for the rest of the guys on his team and becoming a playmaker. He should look at James Harden at Arizona State, a great scorer who also makes things happen for the rest of the guys. That is becoming a shooting guard with a point guard’s mindset. Brandon Roy and DeWayne Wade are two guy sin the league who do that, they make others better by using their basketball IQ on the court. Jodie has the ability to do that and he needs to try to make that happen to reach the maximum level of his abilities.

You played for a team that was in the national spotlight. What do you think the pressure is like for the guys that play for a team followed as heavily as Kentucky?

I actually met with the guys and talked a little about this. I told them that they have to embrace the pressure. Even though they are in college, when you are playing for Kentucky, it isnt the same. I told them that they have to approach this like it is a job and that they are a pro. Focus on being a pro and creating good habits. If you approach it like a job and get to work every day on time and improve at every moment, that is how you handle the pressure.

What do you think the future holds for the Kentucky team this year and the program as a whole?

I think this team can be very good. The talent is there. People like to say that Kentucky’s talent is down, but I am not sure that I buy that. Patrick Patterson is as good as any big man in America, Jodie Meeks is one of the best scorers in the country, the Freshmen all have talent and you got guys like Perry Stevenson who can give you a lot of production when they are focused. This isnt necessarily Final Four talent, but it is definitely Top 20 talent. If they play as well as they can, they can be at the top of the SEC and making some noise in March. But they do have to get more cohesive on the court and leadership has to emerge. Patrick and Jodie really have to lead, especially with the young guys…..and those young guys have to want to succeed. Those will be the big questions.

The conversation went on from this to diagnosing the plays the Cats run on offense to the what Anthony Epps brought to the 1996 Kentucky team (Greg knows his stuff). It was a great conversation and Anthony even agreed to doing a live chat with us sometime in January. It would be tough for Greg to pass Bomani and Doyel on the Kentucky Sports Radio media crush list, but he is now certainly in the discussion.

We will have more all day, as we welcome back Rob Gidel to the fold and he will follow football and recruiting as we move towards Signing Day. Stay tuned all day……..

Article written by Matt Jones