VAUGHT: Sparks could someday fill an NBA niche

Tubby Smith and former NBA Scout Wayne Chapman discussed the strengths and opportunities of Sparks and speculate on what the future might hold after his senior season.

With Kelenna Azubuike's recent decision to put his name into the NBA Draft, it makes one wonder if there could also be a chance that Patrick Sparks will be able to find a spot at the next level after finishing his Kentucky career.

Azubuike seems to have a lot of questions to answer about his pro potential, but yet he obviously has been told he'll earn a paycheck next year.

So can Sparks have the same expectation even though many will claim he's too short?

"He's a pretty talented player," Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said. "He has to work on his footspeed. That's something he can improve by jumping rope and a few other things during the summer. He will have to defend some outstanding players and speedburners at the next level.

"He's still learning our system. Some people took things away from him this year. But he found ways to compensate for his lack of size and physicality. He is one of our better screeners.

"I think he can play at the next level. It is always a system thing and what a particular team is looking for. I think Patrick has the right attitude to play at the next level. He has a great work ethic, something you can't teach. He's a gym rat and is always in the gym working to get better. He has all the right ingredients to play beyond college."

Smith obviously is biased toward his players -- and should be. But guess what? Former NBA scout and college coach Wayne Chapman feels the same as Smith.

"You can't understand how important he is to a team until you see him play for a long time," Chapman said. "If he has the opportunity to show a team what he can do, he'll stick in the NBA. There are a lot of clubs in the NBA and they all have 12 players. Not everybody on the roster is going to be a star player.

"There is always a place for a player who has ability, is a savvy player and leads a clean life off the court. Patrick is one of those players and I just think there will be a team out there willing to give him a chance and when that team does, they'll like what they see."

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