Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Calhoun Would Take UK’s Patterson ‘Tomorrow’; Cal Liked Robinson, Admits ‘Mistake’ on Kemba
UConn coach Jim Calhoun tried to land Patrick Patterson out of high school and failed.
But the Huskies coach said he would still be open to taking Patterson if the Kentucky big man wanted to switch horses in midstream.
“Having Patrick Patterson on our team, I would take him tomorrow if he would do it and not necessarily a trade. We’ll just take him,” Calhoun said Tuesday on a conference call.
With No. 14 UConn (6-1) set to face No. 4 Kentucky (8-0) Wednesday night in the SEC/Big East Invitational at Madison Square Garden (9:30, ESPN2), Calhoun wouldn’t mind adding the 6-foot-9, 235-pound junior to the Huskies roster.
Patterson tested the NBA waters after last season but returned to campus to play for first-year coach John Calipari. Now he is averaging 16.6 points and 10.1 rebounds for an undefeated Kentucky team that is coming off an impressive victory Saturday over defending NCAA champion North Carolina.
“Having a player like him come back sets up the whole thing because he’s a kid obviously that wants to win,” Calhoun said. “He loves basketball, loves playing at Kentucky. That’s pretty obvious because otherwise he would’ve went out. People say, ‘He’s this, he’s not that.’
“I know one thing, he’s damn good.”
Calhoun said Patterson’s play has enabled freshman John Wall to shine. The 6-4 Wall is averaging 18.1 points, 6.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds and is projected as the No. 1 pick in the June NBA Draft.
“[Patterson] allows a kid like Wall who is so explosive and has great size for his position and great feel for the game to make some mistakes at times, throw the ball away a little bit because he’s got a kid like Patterson there,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun compared Patterson to Rudy Gay, the former UConn big man who left for the NBA in 2006.
“A couple years ago, we had a freshman/sophomore team,” he said. “We had nobody like Patrick on our team. We always said that year if could’ve kept Rudy Gay for one more year after going to the Final Eight, we could’ve maybe won it the next year. But the problem was he left and we were all young.”
Calhoun conceded that UConn tried to recruit Patterson but to no avail.
“I think he’s a terrific player,” he said. “We tried to get involved recruiting-wise with him but he allows Wall and [Eric] Bledsoe and [DeMarcus] Cousins to really go out and play some. Patterson is the rock , Wall is the race car driver going 100 miles an hour, maybe two, and really running their attack.”
CALIPARI LIKES ROBINSON, ADMITS MISTAKE ON KEMBA
Calipari told reporters at his press conference that he recruited UConn forward Stanley Robinson but was not so fond of point guard Kemba Walker of Rice High School.
“Stanley Robinson, I tried to recruit out of Alabama,” he said. “Obviously, didn’t get him.”
On Walker, Calipari had a different take.
“I made many mistakes in recruiting but one was Kemba Walker,” he said. “I saw him early in a gym in Pittsburgh. I said I’m not sure about him, so we didn’t recruit him. And that was a big mistake because he was tremendous. Great with the ball, crafty, the kind of guards I like.”
Perhaps he is playing mind games, but Calipari admitted he was concerned that UConn’s veteran backcourt of Walker and senior Jerome Dyson would have an advantage over the freshmen Wall and Bledsoe.
“They’ve got a veteran backcourt,” he said. “Anytime you’ve got a veteran backcourt against an inexperienced backcourt, you’ve got trouble.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.