Kentucky gets unconventional leadership

There are two conventional ways to get leadership on the basketball court; 1) lead by example meaning offensive production and or stalwart defensive production; 2) the other way is being vocal in that he can rally the troops when necessary.<

There are two conventional ways to get leadership on the basketball court; 1) lead by example meaning offensive production and or stalwart defensive production; 2) the other way is being vocal in that he can rally the troops when necessary.

The Wildcats have had trouble coming up with consistent solid leadership in either department. You could say that the closest thing Tubby Smith has for leadership is Rajon Rondo. Why? Because when the game's on the line, for most of the year, he has put the ball in Rondo's hands to deliver. The glaring exceptions have been the Kansas and Indiana games.

To a lesser degree, the team is getting senior leadership from the bench in the person of Brandon Stockton. He is vocal in practice. He is articulate in his delivery of information about how the team should play because he's been through it.

Tubby Smith used the words maturity and discipline on numerous occasions in his pre-Vanderbilt press conference.

We asked Stockton do the players listen to him. "Oh yeah, I have a lot of insight with our younger players because I've been here when I was freshman and we went through the SEC undefeated," Stockton said. "In terms of how Cliff and Gerald and Keith and all them played then, I can tell a big difference from the way our team plays now and shouldn't be like that. This is Kentucky basketball! They way that team was, it should be like that every year. I can share that with my teammates and that is and influence I can have on them. "

Why is Kentucky basketball not Kentucky basketball this year?

"The concern I've had with this team all year long is their maturity level," lamented Coach Smith. "Forgetting about the mistake you made and move forward."

Smith talks about the lack of communication on defense and Rajon Rondo's ability to negotiate screens. Smith said that if his team cannot get over screens the opposition will continue to screen them. Questions are being raised about chemistry on the team. Stockton said: "There is no chemistry problem on this team. When shots don't go down, it looks like chemistry but it's just frustrating."

The turning point in the 2002-03 season that Stockton talks about was at Vanderbilt when they came from behind after halftime and won by twenty points.

"We still have 16 more regular season games and hopefully the Vandy game will be the one that gets us started," Stockton expressed with seeming some doubt in his mind.

One facet of the game that seems to continue haunt the Cats is free throw shooting. They haven't shot better than 70 percent but once in the last six seasons. Kentucky is presently a 64.7 percent free shooting team. How do you get better?

"When I first came here, I was not a very good shooter. I have worked on it over the years and I have actually become a pretty good shooter. Coach always has us shooting free throws. He's always trying to make it game like and making us focus on the line. It takes practice."

Is it important to have a routine, doing the same thing every time?

Stockton said, "I think it is. It's just like shooting a jump shot. You catch the ball and you've got to be in a rhythm so the routine is like being at free throw line. You have to be in a rhythm. Coach always tells us to focus on the rim. "

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