VAUGHT: Coaches like freshmen players

With Big Blue Madness fast approaching — and Kentucky's first exhibition game now less than a month away — more and more attention is going to be focused on Kentucky's freshman class. Coach Tubby Smith's team needs help from these players to provide depth, scoring and rebounding after losing so many players from last year's roster.

Here is what Smith had to say about his four scholarship freshmen as he awaited the start of preseason practice:

Derrick Jasper, 6-6 guard: "He has a lot of upside. His knee was tweaked when he got here, but he's strengthened it a lot. He brings a lot of size to the backcourt. His leadership and passing will help. He's well suited for what we try to do. He's a big guard who gives us size and length."

Jodie Meeks, 6-5 guard: "He is a guard who can do a lot of things. He can handle the ball, shoot the ball. I think he will bring toughness to the program and leadership as well."

Michael Porter, 6-2 guard: "He's a pretty physical guy because he played football. He will bring real toughness and size and depth to our backcourt. His opportunity is there to play plenty."

Perry Stevenson, 6-9 forward: "He's gained a lot of weight, about 10 to 12 pounds, since he got here. He only weighed about 178 when he got here. He can give us shot blocking and interior defense that will be needed. He's a guy who has to help in those areas."

Kentucky assistant coach David Hobbs thinks UK's freshman class, while not as highly touted as the group of Randolph Morris, Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Rajon Rondo three years ago, could turn out to far better than many people expect.

"They are all doing really well. The greatest thing about these kids is that they all have certain things they bring to the table and they all have the ability level we have needed on this team, and need now," Hobbs said. "They bring things to the table that can enhance our chances to be successful.

"They all have a great attitude about working. Older guys set the work pace here, but the freshmen have not rebelled against that in any way. They have performed well academically in terms of what we have asked. I have real high hopes and expectations for all of them. They are really good people from winning situations. They are all going to help us."

Read more about the freshmen and the upcoming Kentucky basketball season in this month's KSR Basketball Preview Magazine.

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