Cats need Patrick to provide some sparks

During the November and December portion of the schedule much has been made of what Patrick Sparks is unable to do on the basketball court. In fact so much has been made of Patrick's limitations that it has overshadowed what Patrick brings to the team. In order for Kentucky to make the most of their SEC conference race and an NCAA run following that the Cats will need Sparks to play to the strenghts of his game.

Rather than focus on what Patrick Sparks cannot do, I prefer to look at all the things he can do for the University of Kentucky basketball team.

Sure, he's smaller than a lot of other college guards. Sure, he sometimes has defensive lapses — but what college player doesn't. Sure, he sometimes turns the ball over and misses shots — but what college player doesn't.

But Sparks is a competitor. He lives to play and win. He's never going to back down and he thrives on pressure. If Kentucky needs a player to hit a shot with the game on the line, there's no one else Tubby Smith would rather have taking the shot than Sparks.

He's never complained about his role at Kentucky. He thought he would be a point guard last year, but Smith turned those duties over to Rajon Rondo. He thought he would be the shooting guard again this year, but now Smith has made Sparks the point guard and moved Rondo to the off guard. Again, no complaints from Sparks. "I just want to play. I think we can both play either position. We work well together," Sparks said.

The return of Randolph Morris will help Sparks. When he throws the ball inside, teams will either have to double team Morris or risk letting him score often. Sparks and his teammates will start getting more open looks from the outside.

Sparks is Kentucky's best 3-point shooter. For the Cats to win the SEC and have a chance to make noise in the NCAA Tournament, the team needs Sparks to be a consistent factor. That doesn't mean he has to play 40 minutes a game, but his role and playmaker and outside threat is huge for this team.

Sparks has flaws. Every player does. But the beauty of Smith's philosophy is that he plays to a player's strengths and despite what many fans tend to forget, Sparks has passing, shooting and competitive fire are strengths that the Cats need.

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