To win games, Gillispie needs players. To get players, it doesn't hurt to be first, and it doesn't hurt to have the name of your school in the public eye, just as Kentucky's name has been out there in the news after accepting a commitment from Michael Avery.Eric Crawford offers his take as well.
Two weeks ago, no one knew the name Michael Avery. Now that's changed. Avery is an eighth-grader who lives in California. He plays basketball. He's not the next LeBron James, or even a home-state hero like Damon Bailey. But he caught Gillispie's eye during a travel-team tournament in Ohio. Fearing USC might offer Avery a scholarship first, as Coach Tim Floyd has done before, Gillispie beat the Trojans to the punch. Avery accepted.
A national debate erupted. Southern Cal offers an eighth-grader a scholarship and people see it as a Trojan publicity-grab in a UCLA-dominated town. UK does it and, as Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated.com asked, "How could Kentucky -- college basketball royalty -- stoop to offering a scholarship to an eighth-grader?"
The key word there is "stoop."
Gillispie put up his best defense Saturday during a 30-minute news conference with local reporters. He said recruiting is "very, very competitive." He said evaluations have to be made earlier. He said there are no guarantees, just as there is no guarantee an 18-year-old senior will have his high school game translate to college competition.
Asked if he thought this new trend was good or bad for the sport, Gillispie said, "It's just different."
Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks are recuperating.
Patrick Patterson exceeded expectations on the court as a UK freshman. Now it seems his recuperaton from stress-fracture surgery is exceeding expectations as well.
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds before a stress fracture in his left ankle forced him to miss the Wildcats' last five games last season. But doctors had reason for optimism when they removed Patterson's cast last week, coach Billy Gillispie said.
"They say that they looked at the X-rays after they took the cast off, and they didn't expect there to be a great deal of healing at that point, but there has been much more healing going on than what they expected," Gillispie said. "They're really encouraged by that, really excited about it."
Patterson now is moving around with the aid of a walking boot in place of his cast. He'll wear that protective boot for 4-6 weeks.