What could have been?
Kentucky junior power forward Patrick Patterson has long been considered the missing piece to Florida’s struggles the past two seasons. For team that has been ranked near the bottom of the league rebounding, field goal percentage defense and shot blocking, Patterson’s presence on the boards at the rim could have made a huge impact.
Patterson acknowledged Thursday morning during Southeastern Conference Media Days that Florida coach Billy Donovan’s flirtation with the NBA and eventual six-day stint with the Orlando Magic played a role in his decision to pick Kentucky over Florida in 2007.
“Oh yeah, that played a factor,” Patterson said. “He told me if he left he would sign something to allow me to open my recruitment back up to other places. I was constantly listening to what people were saying, if he was going to take a job, and he did take a job despite what he was saying, but he came back.”
Patterson also said his parents were prepared to move to Florida if he signed with the Gators.
“Coach Donovan, he’s a great guy,” Patterson said. “They have great players. Through the recruiting process, my father hit it off with him, my mother hit it off. I loved Florida. I loved the teammates, especially the campus and the girls down there. My mom and dad said they wanted to be wherever I was.”
Florida not only missed out on a All-SEC first-team power forward, but a great kid as well. Patterson is on track to graduate in three years with a degree in communications. Asked if he would consider a career as an analyst after his basketball career is over, Patterson said, “Definitely. I could talk in front of the camera, hold the camera up, take pictures, whatever.”
Other SEC media days tidbits:
- New Alabama and former Florida assistant coach Anthony Grant, on Donovan and UF’s back-to-back NIT appearances:
“I think for any program the head coach probably gets more of the credit and more of the blame,” said Grant, who left UF to take over Virginia Commonweath in 2006. “I think for any program to be successful there has to be continuity throughout the program, be it head coaches, assistants, administration. And when you look at the number of changes Billy has had the last two years with players, coaches, that’s a lot to deal with to sustain the level of success that you want to.
“But I don’t think people realize it’s hard to win national championships, it’s hard to compete for SEC championships on a regular basis. Sometimes you get spoiled when you are not in the trenches every day. There have been a lot of great coaches that haven’t won conference championships, let alone division championships. I think sometimes it’s important for people to keep some perspective.”
- New Kentucky coach John Calipari, on teaching the dribble-drive offense to his players, “Sometimes I feel like I’m coaching Martians.”
- Calipari said that heralded No. 1 freshman point guard John Wall and top-20 freshman point guard recruit Eric Bledsoe have been playing together on defense, but not on offense. “I don’t know if they will start together,” Calipari said. “But they will play together.” Bledsoe was heavily recruited by Florida but chose Kentucky after Calipari was hired there last April.
- Calipari said he could see seven or eight teams from the SEC making the NCAA Tournament, and mentioned Florida was one of those teams.
- Georgia coach Mark Fox on adapting to his new job and surroundings after five seasons as head coach at Nevada: “I drink sweet tea and I love the Waffle House,” Fox said. “So I feel like I’m fitting in.”