Vaught goes one-on-one with Patrick Sparks

Patrick Sparks has often been described as a player that uses his head to play the game of basketball. Before becoming a hoops prospect Sparks used his head, and his feet, to compete in a sport in which points were scored using a different kind of goal. Yes, Patrick Sparks was a soccer player, and remains an avid fan of the game.

Patrick Sparks has always been able to score goals. It's just that they were not always only on the basketball court.

Not only did Sparks grow up a basketball fan, but he also was a soccer junkie during his childhood in Chattanooga. In fact, many thought his future might be in soccer, not basketball, because of his size.

"I played soccer all the time growing up. I have not played since I was a freshman, but I still watch it all the time. I'll catch a MLS (Major League Soccer) game on TV or maybe a European game. I love soccer," Sparks said.

He played on all-star teams that traveled across the southeastern United States from the time he was 6 years old until he was 14. His select teams won five state championships and he was considered one of the team's star.

Sparks isn't sure how many of his current Kentucky teammates know he played soccer, but some know because he's told them. "I will get to talking to my teammates and they will bring up old football stories. So I tell them my old soccer stories," he laughed and said.

And what position did Sparks play in soccer? Surely you can guess if you know anything about the sport at all.

"I was a forward. I didn't get to score as many goals in soccer as I did in basketball, but I could still score," Sparks said.

But he also wants everyone to know that he can -- and will -- play defense. "I try to play hard on both ends of the court. I really don't know what to say to people who don't think I play defense," Sparks said.

He says playing often against teammate Rajon Rondo during the offseason helped his overall game, including his defense. "Usually when we picked teams to play, Rajon and I would be on opposite teams. Playing against a guy that quick keeps you on your toes. He's always attacking and makes you have to improve your defense and ballhandling," Sparks said. "Playing basketball is fun. It doesn't matter whether you are playing offense or defense. I take as much pride in trying to shut my man down as I do in scoring. Some people may not believe that, but all I can do is just keep doing my best."

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