VAUGHT: Rondo no longer plays like a freshman

Rajon Rondo was asked today about his relationship with coach Tubby Smith and what it had been like adjusting to Smith's disciplined style of play this year.

Perhaps freshman guard Rajon Rondo helped explain why this Kentucky team might be poised to get to a Final Four.

Rondo was asked today about his relationship with coach Tubby Smith and what it had been like adjusting to Smith's disciplined style of play this year.

"I know when I mess up and he knows when I know I messed up," said Rondo. "He's not as hard on me now as he was earlier in the year. He still keeps me grounded and won't let me get away with anything. But we are both on the same page."

I'm not sure Kentucky has been able to say that the last few years. As good as Cliff Hawkins was, I'm just not convinced that Hawkins was ever totally comfortable running Smith's offense or that Smith was totally comfortable having him run the offense. But with Rondo, there's a certain bond between the player and coach that carries over to the team.

Chuck Hayes is the team leader. Make no mistake about that. Kelenna Azubuike is the most consistent scorer. Make no mistake about that. But Rondo is the rising star who has quickly earned his coach's trust and is the player who could take the Cats where Keith Bogans, Gerald Fitch, Erik Daniels and Fitch couldn't the last two years when they had chances to make the Final Four.

"Rondo is really good. He doesn't play like a freshman. I have played against some quick players, but he really looks quick," Utah guard Tim Drisdom said. "He's so good on both ends. On defense, he's long and anticipates so well. On offense, he runs the team, passes and takes good shot. He doesn't look like a freshman."

Rondo won't do any trash talking, either. Told that Utah guard Marc Jackson missed last year because he didn't want to play for former coach Rick Majerus and not only got married but also worked in the construction business, Rondo said, "That's a good story. If we weren't playing them, I would be cheering for them."

Compare that to Utah All-America center Andrew Bogut who just keeps furnishing the bulletin board material for UK. Earlier this week he said he would "punish" any UK player that came into the game not ready to play.

Today he said he would not be "intimidated" by anyone at Kentucky.

Then he took a real swipe at UK's tradition when he was asked if growing up in Australia did he know much about Duke and Kentucky.

"Not really. NCAA basketball is not big overseas," Bogut said.

Nothing wrong with that. But he should have known to quit then.

"Coming over here you obviously heard about them. The media loves them. Kentucky is a pretty big name," Bogut said. "Obviously, there is a whole series we (Utah) played with them. We haven't beaten them in a while, and blah-blah-blah. We have to come back and play basketball. We don't care what is written on their shirts."

The guess here is that late Friday night, the big Aussie will wish he knew as much about diplomacy as Rondo already knows.


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