TIREY: "Lukasz Obrzut on right track"

When Lukasz Obrzut was deciding on a college to play basketball for, he had made up his mind to play for his mentor, former NBA coach Bob Hill, who was then the head coach at Fordham, located in New York. Obrzut had developed a strong relationship with Hill, and felt like he could continue his dream of someday playing in the NBA, with Hill's tutelage.

When Lukasz Obrzut was deciding on a college to play basketball for, he made up his mind to play for his mentor, former NBA coach Bob Hill. Hill was then the head coach at Fordham, located in New York. Obrzut had developed a strong relationship with Hill, and felt like he could continue his dream of someday playing in the NBA, with Hill's tutelage.

The only wrench in the plan was a big one--Hill left Fordham, resigning with six years left on a ten-year contract. When Hill left Fordham, however, he didn't leave Obrzut out in the cold. He had become the young Polish player's mentor, and took it upon himself to make sure Obrzut found a place where he could not only continue the dream he had, but also learn from a great coach in the process. Hello, Tubby Smith.

Coach Smith was in desperate need of a big man and the two found each other. Obrzut showed promise toward the end of last season, and UK fans are hoping that is a sign of things to come from the seven footer. This past season, Obrzut played in 28 games, averaging 6.4 minutes per game, 1.2 points per game, and 0.6 rebounds per game. Obrzut also led the team in free throw percentage, shooting 77% from the line in limited opportunities.

I caught up with Bob Hill to ask his thoughts on the first two years of Obrzut's stay at Kentucky. Right away, Hill admitted to becoming an addict of UK basketball. "Obviously, I've become this major Kentucky fan," said Coach Hill. "I sweat through all those games right up until the bitter end. I was at both games in Austin. And I saw the Kansas game in Lexington."

Other than those games, Hill had to catch the Cats just like you, on television, but saw enough to convince him that Obrzut was on the right track. "I think the first thing people have to recognize about this young man is that he is a super person, has a great attitude, and is a basketball junkie. He came to Kentucky as a very typical foreign player in that he always played facing the basket. I think the way Tubby has used him at Kentucky will do one major thing for him, and that's get him even more ready for professional basketball. His defense has improved by leaps and bounds. His post defense has improved. He's a better rebounder. He's just gotten better. Tubby's system is as solid as anybody's, and I think Woo [Lukasz] has become a product of it."

With Chuck Hayes completing his eligibility, could Obrzut be a possible replacement for the Cats' leading rebounder? While Hill acknowledged the fact that Obrzut can play the four, he does not believe Obrzut is the replacement for Hayes.

"Ultimately, when he goes to professional basketball, I believe that's what he is, is a four. But I don't think you are going to replace Chuck Hayes. I don't know if Lukasz could be a four for thirty-five minutes, but I think he could be a four in a rotation, certainly. A lot depends on what he does this summer, and how hard he works on all the little things. I think he's starting to feel more comfortable under pressure."

Hill believes that not only is Obrzut beginning to feel more comfortable under pressure, he also has a home at Kentucky. There was a time after the Cats lost to Michigan State, that Cat fans thought Obrzut may jump overseas to play professionally. But Hill says he doesn't think that was ever a possibility.

"I don't think so," said Hill. "We don't talk every day. We probably talk once every two weeks. Or if he does something in a game…like I called him immediately after the Alabama game, when I want to force feed and try to empower his confidence as much as I can. He never mentioned that to me. His family went through a tough time this year, back in Poland. I think that bothered him, because he's very close to his mother and he's very close to his brother. His mother was in a car accident and his dad has been in the hospital. His brother got married and is having a child. But I think as the season wore on, and he became more of a contributor, and felt better about his game, I think he's looking forward to coming back to Kentucky.


Coach Hill is a veteran NBA coach, and provides some insight into Kelenna Azubuike and Chuck Hayes' chances in the NBA in an article to be published here tomorrow.

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