VAUGHT: Stansbury respects Gillispie, UK

Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury is a Kentucky native who grew up a Kentucky basketball fan. He knows all about UK's tradition and the passion Big Blue fans have for their team.

That's why he knew he might create a small controversy last year when he said the Wildcats didn't have quite the same mystique for opposing players that they once had. It was not an insult, but rather an opinion based on how other teams, especially in the Southeastern Conference.

That's why Stansbury was a little apprehensive about saying too much this year about the struggles UK has faced.

"I have to be careful after saying last year that they don't put same fear in you that they used to. Anytime you play a Kentucky team, they are going to be good," Stansbury said.

"People look and say it is a down year just from the wins and losses, but that doesn't mean you don't have any good players.

"You don't beat an undefeated Vanderbilt team unless you have good players, especially when one of those good players, Jodie Meeks, doesn't even play. But Kentucky fans don't understand losses. They don't accept losses, which is one reason the program is so good. But some years you have things happen that keep you from being as good as you could have been."

Stansbury thinks Billy Gillispie has a jewel in Patrick Patterson to build future success around.

"You have one of better low-post players in this league already in Patterson. He's a guy you can go to battle with. There's nothing he won't try to do and he's a team guy. When you get a really good player that is also team-oriented, that's the perfect combination," Stansbury said.

He also said injuries to Meeks and Derrick Jasper have made it even more difficult for Gillispie.

"In this league, you have a hard time when two of your better players are injured. They have not been able to develop any continuity. When they have all their guys and make shots, they can still be as good as anybody in this league," Stansbury said. "Billy Gillispie didn't forget how to coach when he came to Kentucky. He's tireless and you can see how aggressive and tenacious his team can play.

"But the bottom line is that it's just hard for any team to dominate now like Kentucky once did. That's not a knock on anybody. It's just the reality of college basketball that we all deal with. You can be great one year and not so good the next year. There's just so much competition out there. But don't ever worry about the Kentucky basketball program. They are always going to be good."

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