Countdown to Madness: Small Forward/Swing Guard

Part two of our preview takes a look at the versatile small forward position. <br><br> Among the many that could see time at the '3' spot this year is Freshmen Joe Crawford (pictured above). The freshmen could be called upon to step in for some minutes with Bobby Perry most likely having to see time at the power forward position if Sheray Thomas does not get back as quick as expected.

As opposed to yester years, where Kentucky had a handful of small power forwards, 2004-2005 will see just the opposite. With a slew of over-sized guards, the Cats can play "small ball," more often this year then in the past. Leading the way at small forward is Kelenna Azubuike.

"Kelenna will drive Kentucky this year," said current ESPN announcer Dick Vitale. "He will make or break there season because his size is so rare as a shooting guard and that makes him such a commodity."

At 6-foot-5 and a toned 220 pounds, Azubuike has all the makings of a future star in college basketball. His toughness to the rim, an added attribute to his game, helped to make him a more complete player last season. This year, his efforts have been concentrated on his shot.

"Once he develops a jump shot, he could very well be the next Ron Mercer at Kentucky," Vitale continued. "He has that ability."

Cornering the market behind "Buike," is a slew of big guards that could make for excellent matchup problems in Joe Crawford, Josh Carrier and even Bobby Perry.

With the talent that Crawford possesses, it might just be in the staff's best interest to keep him on the court, regardless of position.

"In Joe Crawford, he's probably a young man that we had a need for as much as any position," Coach Tubby Smith said. "He's a guy like Gerald Fitch, an excellent scorer. I think he has the potential to come in here and make an immediate impact."

And that includes on the defensive end, where Crawford conjures up memories of former Kentucky star and current NBA player, Keith Bogans.

"Keith set the record for steals as a freshman, and I think this young man has that potential," Smith said on Crawford. "He is an excellent defender and a good scorer."

Perry at 6'6, 228 pounds looks to be the best complement for Azubuike coming off the bench, but with Sheray Thomas' absense and the unknown behind his recovery, it could mean the Cats could look to Josh Carrier. At 6'4, 205, he could use up some minutes while Perry sees time at the 4.

Regardless it's good to have options and Tubby certainly has them in 2004.

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