Whitesburg KY

Patterson healing well, Gillispie tells media


Patrick Patterson’s precociousness doesn’t appear to be limited to the basketball court.

The star Kentucky center’s recovery from a stress fracture in his left ankle is well ahead of schedule, coach Billy Gillispie said. If all goes well, Patterson could return to the court next month.

“What (the doctors) are telling me is he’s further than they thought,” Gillispie said.

Patterson has been working out on an underwater treadmill inside the school’s practice facility recently but hasn’t stepped on the court since being ruled out for the season after the injury was discovered in late-February.

“It looks like everything is way ahead of normal,” Gillispie said.

Patterson averaged 16.4 points and 7.7 rebounds for the Wildcats last season as Kentucky overcame a rough start to finish 18-13 and qualify for the NCAA tournament for the 17th straight year. With the departure of seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford, Patterson could take on an even larger role as a sophomore.

“He’ll be right in the middle of everything,” Gillispie said. “I expect him to get every rebound and play every minute like he did last year.”

Gillispie didn’t rule out – jokingly of course – moving Patterson to point guard or expecting him to shoot 75 percent from the field.

If the Wildcats can stay healthy, Patterson might not have to shoot the lights out for Kentucky to remain competitive in the Southeastern Conference.

Guard Jodie Meeks, who missed most of last season with a sports hernia, should be ready when practice begins. Though regarded as the team’s best shooter, there’s a chance he could play some point guard as Gillispie experiments with his roster.

“I think he does have those leadership qualities and he’s a fairly experienced guy, though not at that particular position,” Gillispie said. “If that’s what’s best for the team, we’ll go down that road. I think he’s a candidate to do that.”

There’s also a good chance incoming freshman DeAndre Liggins and junior college transfer Kevin Galloway could be academically eligible when the fall semester starts. Gillispie wouldn’t comment specifically on their status, but did say that during his coaching career he’s had great success with making sure his players have their grades in order.

“The ones that we have expected that they would be eligible, we’re 100 percent on those guys being eligible and being able to play at the time we thought they would,” Gillispie said.

The Wildcats will need as many bodies as they can get, especially early in the season against a difficult nonconference schedule. Kentucky will play North Carolina, Louisville, Indiana and Miami (Fla.) in addition to a trip to Las Vegas as part of a tournament that will include Iowa, West Virginia and Kansas State.

“I think it’s going to be very, very difficult,” Gillispie said. “It’s probably a little bit too difficult for our level (but) I like it the way it is. With our inexperience we’re going to be jumping into the deep water really quick, but that’s OK. The tougher it is, the better I like it.”

While he’s been busy this summer recruiting, Gillispie has found time to meet with athletic director Mitch Barnhart and university president Lee Todd to negotiate the details of a formal contract.

Gillispie agreed to a sevenyear deal when he took over after Tubby Smith left for Minnesota in April 2007 and signed a memorandum of understanding the day he was hired. Yet he and the administration haven’t gotten around to finalizing the deal. A few weeks ago Gillispie decided to meet with Barnhart and Todd – minus the lawyers – to find common ground.

Gillispie wouldn’t comment on the changes to the language of the contract.

Gillispie also said the school will likely not fill the equipment manager position, which has been vacant since the death of longtime manager Bill Keightley in March. While the remaining members of the equipment staff will take over the duties left by Keightley’s passing, Gillispie said there is no reason to give someone else the job title held for decades by the man dubbed “Mr. Wildcat.”

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