VAUGHT: Chemistry, winning the main priority

Brandon Stockton and Preston LeMaster always understood what it meant to play basketball at the University of Kentucky. That's why even though neither former Kentucky prep standout probably got to play nearly as much as he wanted the last four years, both also understood winning had to be the main priority.

Yet now they both readily admit that not all their teammates obviously shared that same philosophy last season when UK lost 13 games.

"Basically, we had a lack of chemistry. A lot of times people were just on different pages," LeMaster said. "Some games everybody would show up and play well together. Other times, it wasn't that way.

"We had talent. We actually had a lot of talent. But it just goes back to too many different agendas. It wasn't just one or two players. Basically, it was almost everybody. You knew it needed to be different, but it was just hard for the seniors to control it. It was more like nobody wanted to play as a team rather than players being selfish. We just were never on the same page."

Don't try using Randolph Morris' suspension as an excuse, either. "He practiced every day when he was suspended. He was there last year. We know how to play with him," Stockton said. "It was not difficult when he came back. We just didn't play the way we wanted all year. It kept us all frustrated."

So what about next year? Can a team losing four seniors, including Patrick Sparks, as well as point guard Rajon Rondo to the NBA be better?

"It still depends on who is there," Stockton said. "There will probably still be some changes. They have good talent coming in. Kentucky will always have talent."

"If they have the right leadership, they will be fine," LeMaster said. "But they all have to get on the right page together. I hope the freshmen help, but it is up to the older guys to getting everyone playing with the same agenda, something we never could do this year."

Do high-profile players have trouble adjusting to coach Tubby Smith's system? "My take is that a lot of high-profile players want to be stars. But they have to play in the system the way coach Smith wants. Some guys don't like that, but it's not hard. You play the way he wants because that's what he demands," Stockton said.

But can Kentucky really survive the early loss of Rondo, last season's best overall player? "I don't think they will be hurting as much as people think without him," Stockton said. "Rondo was a unique player, but it is not like he was the whole team. He did a lot of things, but people around him helped more than they got credit for at times. I don't think not having him will hurt a whole lot. They will still be okay without him."

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