After a long day has finally come to an end, it is time to relive the spectacle known as Kentucky Basketball Media Day. On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, a crowd of media folks packed their way into the Craft Center to (a) have some wonderful chicken parmesan (b) talk shop with Coach Gillispie and (c) get to know the UK basketball players a bit better. As always, this event drew a big crowd of reporters basically meaning that any person you know that covers UK on a local or national level was there and ready to talk. I always enjoying watching the event because questions come from all angles….you have the reporters who follow the team daily asking intricate questions (“What does Donald Williams look like when running the pick and roll?”), more general reporters asking questions that Gillispie has answered 400 times, (“Is Patrick Patterson a really good player?”) and the “special interest” reporters asking questions designed to be discussed on “The View”, (“Billy, will you be bringing a date to the VMI game?”). It is great fun for all. Some highlights from Clyde (we will have the player highlights tomorrow):
Billy Clyde was his usual self today as he conversated with the media for the better part of an hour. He went over a number of topics, but from a news or interest standpoint, a few things stood out:
— Gillispie said that the point guard position is still open. He seemed to suggest that Porter was currently in the lead, but that Galloway, Liggins and even Meeks would see time there as well. Porter is said to have “improved drastically.”
— Clyde was very high on Liggins, saying that he would surprise fans the most because “even though people think he is good, he is better than that.” Very encouraging news.
— He called this year’s group “the best conditioned ever at this point in the season.”
— He addressed what seemed to be his acknowledgment of some of the shaky early review of Darius Miller by saying “you will see the best of Darius when you get him into a structure.” That was a point we made a while back, as Miller is a guy who is not a pickup game type of player….he will flourish as the system gets more stable.
— Coach talked at length about what they will be missing without Joe and Ramel. He said what he is most concerned about is the ability to knock down shots in the last 5 minutes in the way Joe and Ramel did so well. He hopes people will step up but he is concerned. However after listing other qualities they would miss, he also said, “We’re gonna miss Ramel’s Jay Z sign….well maybe not that.”
— One of the themes of the day was the amazing chemistry this group has. Gillispie noted that this group has “the best spirit of any team I have seen” and that the chemistry is amazing. That was clear all day as these guys truly get along better than any group I have seen.
— Patrick Patterson’s future was a big topic as Gillispie said he wants Patterson to be “the best player in college basketball”, a role he seems to believe he can attain. He said that he hopes Patrick plays so well that “it becomes a no-brainer decision for him after the season is over.” The translation for those that dont want to believe it is simple….if he is high enough in the draft, he goes….period.
— Very high on the twosome of Ramon Harris and Perry Stevenson, who he described as the two “saviors” of last year’s team. He said that both have improved, but he is very impressed with Ramon’s scoring abilities. When I asked who would join Patterson and Meeks as the third scorer, Gillispie mentioned the whole team….but he singled out Ramon first and has high expectations for him.
— Gillispie got asked the usual question as to how he likes Lexington and he answered similarly to last year. “The biggest difference here is the interest and the passion. Its 365 days a year here…..thats how I like to live and that is how it is here so it is perfect for me. Where else are you going to be where there is an unbelievable setup just to unveil the uniforms”
— He was asked about the large roster, and he said that “all 20 guys have a role….some score, some rebound, some defend and some are good teamates here or in the Lodge.” That viewpoint of every player with a role is played out in how guys like Dwight Perry and Matt Schnerbenske approach the team, as you will see in some of their comments tomorrow.
— Gillispie called this the “biggest team I have ever been around”, but did note that at the end of the day, there will probably be a nine man rotation in key games. With 12 scholarship players and Mark Krebs, that means competition will be intense.
— Gillispie talked a lot about Jared Carter, saying again that he hoped he would break out this season. Most interestingly to me, he said “I havent done a very good job at putting Jared into a place where he can succeed. That is my fault and I think I will do that better this year.”
My conversations with the players will come tomorrow, both serious and otherwise. I got lots of good info, including the team’s comedian, intellect and leader, what happens when the entire team watches a Presidential debate (they are VERY into it) and what Josh Harrellson thinks of the Jorts phenomenon and Jared Carter the O’Charley’s love. There is a lot of audio coming over the next few days, so get ready for a great deal of player comments you have never heard before.