The media days are always a display in optimism and upbeat attitudes but one tends to say, okay another ground hog day, but in this case there seems a genuine new attitude sweeping across the UK basketball team.
Why is it more in evidence?
Coach Tubby Smith doesn't have a starting lineup, yet more seems to be settled in term of roles and positions.
Though many of the players won't admit it, there was an unsettling effect surrounding the team last season. Randolph Morris didn't know if he was going to be with the team. When he did return, he had to work himself back into game shape. Joe Crawford, was he going to be a guard or a small forward? Bobby Perry didn't know whether he was going to be a 3 or 4, or even a 5 at times in the offense.
Then on January 10, when Morris did return, the approach to offense became inside out. That seemed to throw the guard play into a quagmire of uncertainty. Smith began experimenting with who was the most effective at the point guard Rondo or Sparks.
Unlike at this point last year, roles are more defined. Ramel Bradley will play the point and Joe Crawford will be the shooting guard.
Perry's Personal Battles
Bobby Perry is on a personal mission to carry the scoring punch he showed in the NCAA tournament last year into the new season.
What is the difference in Perry now?
"Confidence," Tubby Smith said. "Now he can take a big shot and can make a big shot."
Perry said he thinks it threw them off last year not having Morris. He said they are very aware that for the first time since he's been here, they are not in the pre-season rankings.
"You've got to look at that," Perry lamented. "We have a lot to prove. At the end of the year, we want to be No.1."
Is that realistic? Very realistic. Look at Florida last year, coming in the back door and winning the National Champions.
Ramel Bradley's Mission Weighty
This Wildcat is on a personal mission to carry more weight. "With the added strength, I can drive to the basket and keep that guy on my hip," Bradley said. "My range (shooting) has increased. I ate everything I could to put on weight, milkshakes, McDonalds. Some day's, I would almost gag while stuffing food down. Right now, I'm sick of food."
Was anything suggested, mandatory, or was this a personal goal and how much weight has he put on?
"Twenty pounds," he said toward his personal goal. "My goal was 205-pounds but I'm not going to make that. I'm at 193-pounds right now."
Why the added weight? Bradley said he looked at the guys playing in the NBA like Stephon Marbury and Chancy Billups, who are 200-pounds. Since he's the penciled in starter at the point guard spot he has another weighty mission. That is to be a leader, to push the ball, find the open man and get his teammates the involved, he said.
Perry Stevenson's Up around the Rim
"He quick off his feet," Tubby Smith said. "He has good timing - he's a great off the ball shot-blocker – he knows how to block it and keep it in bounds. That's hard to teach."
Unlike Bradley, Perry's not sick of food. He had a mission to get heavier and stronger and is up from 180-pounds to 205-pounds. What did he eat?
"It's not what I ate but what I'm not eating," Stevenson said. "Plenty of Gatorade shakes, they are loaded with calories. I could eat until I have a beer-belly, without the beer. I have more confidence to go up and stuff the ball and block shots."
Bradley said Stevenson really sends them back.
We will explore more players and team goals as we approach the season.
New attitudes abound for 2006-2007 Wildcats
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