The bragging among NBA players about their former University teams is intense at this time of year and there is no one more vocal in the Toronto Raptors locker room than University of Kentucky alumni Patrick Patterson. The unbeaten Wildcats have given the 2010 NBA Lottery Pick plenty to be proud of all season. Patterson still credits Wildcats head coach John Calipari for developing his offensive skills, but this season he sees Kentucky winning with defense.
“I’ve been bragging all year long, but definitely now that the Tournament time comes along, March Madness,” Patterson said. “I filled out like five brackets, but of course Kentucky is winning them all, but I have a different (team) against them in every one.
“It’s the depth and the size. I think in the starting lineup the wings are 6’5 and everyone else is 6’8 or taller. In my opinion, the first unit and the second unit are the top two starting units – they could start on any team. I feel like all 10 are All-Americans. It’s just their ability to play defense. Of course Calipari teams can score at will, but this team is hands down his best defensive team he has ever had.”
Patterson played his junior season at Kentucky in Calipari’s first year with the team and they featured a stellar lineup. Point guard John Wall was taken first overall in the NBA draft after the season, DeMarcus Cousins and Patterson were lottery picks, and Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton were later first round selections. The Wildcats won the SEC regular season and SEC tournament, Calipari was the National Coach of the Year, Wall was National Freshman of the Year, and the Wildcats secured a number one seed in the East Regional bracket of the NCAA Tournament, but bowed out in the Elite Eight. Patterson stills vividly remembers the rabid support from Big Blue Nation.
“Number one (memory) was the fans,” Patterson said. “Kentucky, Big Blue Nation travelling wherever we went. Whether it was north, whether it was south, whether it was an arena or the back roads, they travelled and filled out 90 percent of the arena if not all of it. One basketball memory was my junior year with John (Wall), Eric (Bledsoe) and DeMarcus (Cousins). Eric just took off down the lane against Wake Forest and just put down a crazy dunk and just everyone went crazy.”
This year’s Wildcats are likely to be equally well represented at the NBA draft and as an unbeaten team, have entered the NCAA Tournament with even more hype this time around. Patterson believes this year’s team is even better than the star laden group he was with in 2010.
“We had a very good team, but the thing we couldn’t do was we couldn’t shoot the ball,” Patterson said. “We weren’t as deep as they are, we probably rotated eight, maybe nine, guys tops, if that and they can rotate 10 guys easily every single game. So they are a lot more deep than we were, more athletic, shoot the ball better and play a lot better defense than what we did.”
It’s definitely a great time to be Kentucky Wildcats fan.