VAUGHT: Thomas will keep playing his role

Sheray Thomas insists he didn't hear fans booing when he got ready to go into the game twice in the second half of last Saturday's win over Indiana. Maybe he did block the jeers out. Or maybe he just knew it was better to ignore the jeers and not comment on why fans booed him.

But what if fans are just frustrated in general with UK's play and see Thomas, who is better at rebounding and playing physical defense than he is scoring, as a convenient scapegoat for their overall frustrations:

"That's cool. If people want to do that, I can handle it. There are a lot of people who support me and back me up. The fans who don't can do whatever they want. That can't change how I play," Thomas said. "I play my role. I do the hustle plays, rebound, play defense. I can step up and score if needed, but that is not my role on this team. I just play the way coach Smith wants me to play. I am relaxed on this team. I know what I am supposed to do."

Thomas understands why fans enjoy watching freshman Perry Stevenson block shots or soar high for rebounds.

"Perry more than holds his own. He's athletic. He can finish over people. He can run. He just has to get stronger, but he's going to be a great player," Thomas said.

Thomas won't be a great player. But he's a player Tubby Smith trusts and values because he tries to do the little things the coach tells him. "Everybody on the team has pressure on him. We just try and come out and have fun. You can't look at the games as pressure. You just come play and do what you are told," Thomas said.

However, he won't downplay what a win at Louisville Saturday could do for the Wildcats. "Wow. That would boost our confidence a lot. We are going down there in a hostile environment. They are playing well, and it would help us a lot to show we can beat them and win another game on national TV," Thomas said.

Kentucky probably never recovered from lopsided road losses at Indiana and Kansas last year. If the Cats could beat Indiana and Louisville back-to-back and then finish December with three more wins, it could bode well for Southeastern Conference play.

"We really couldn't get on a good run last year before SEC play started. We had some good wins and some bad losses last year," Thomas said. "I think we have a team to get on a run this year. It is real important to do that before we start the SEC. There are a lot of good, ranked teams in the SEC that will be a lot of competition. We have to step it up even more last year.

"That's why the game with Louisville is so important. Not only will it be a big road win, but it will allow us to keep building confidence and momentum, something we could never do last year." And what if fans never accept his place on this year's team?

"As long as we win and coach Smith is happy, then nothing else really matters," Thomas said.

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