Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - New Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie says he
wasn't surprised that coveted power forward Patrick Patterson
picked the Wildcats. What surprised him was that Patterson kept it
When the recruit from Huntington High School in West Virginia
announced his collegiate choice Wednesday from a short list that
also included Florida and Duke, even his new coach remained in the
dark until the news conference.
"I've been involved in a few recruiting situations," Gillispie
said Thursday. "You always know before the announcement is made.
This is like being a bubble team and seeing your name appear on the
screen on Selection Sunday. We didn't know. We had no idea until he
put his hat on."
The hat - beige with a blue UK - marked the first major
recruiting coup for Gillispie, just six weeks after taking the
reins of college basketball's winningest program from Tubby Smith,
who departed for Minnesota.
Gillispie gave Smith and his staff much of the credit for
landing Patterson, who fills a glaring need on the guard-heavy
team. The 6-foot-8 Patterson helped lead his high school to an
unprecedented three-straight Class AAA championships, the last one
with the help of O.J. Mayo, a Southern California recruit.
"When you draw up a power forward for me, he possesses
everything you need to have," Gillispie said. "He has great size
and athletic ability, extremely long arms. He has really good
hands. He's tougher than anything. He's a very, very competitive
guy, a very intelligent player."
Patterson was one of the final blue-chip high school prospects
to designate a college choice, and his decision came after other
Kentucky targets - including point guard Jai Lucas - opted to go
elsewhere. Lucas decided to join Billy Donovan with the two-time
defending national champion Florida Gators and urged his friend
Patterson to join him.
But Patterson picked Kentucky - largely because it was so close
to where he played his high school ball.
"Proximity was the X factor," he said. "It was the deciding
factor. I wanted to stay close to home, I didn't want to have to
move my family to Jacksonville. The key thing was distance. I do
get homesick a lot."
In addition, Gillispie said Patterson embraced the Kentucky fan
base - known for its basketball passion. He sent the recruit text
messages urging him to be a leader, not a follower, although he
insisted that wasn't meant to suggest that Patterson would be a
follower if he joined Lucas at Florida.
Gillispie previously helped land Alex Legion, a top guard from
Detroit who had been attending Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Legion
helped seal the Patterson signing by calling him and talking up the
program, Gillispie said.
Kentucky has one unfilled scholarship position for next year.
Gillispie didn't indicate whether he would fill the spot but said
he never considers the recruiting process over, even when the team
is largely set.
"We're going to step up to the plate with recruiting," he
said. "We're going to swing and miss, but we're going to hit some
home runs too. I'm not afraid to fail, and I don't think those guys