The returning players last season were used to playing Tubby Smith's style of ball and used to Smith's practicing methods. With time, they adjusted to the more intense methods of coach Gillispie. "I wouldn't call it easier. We were more prepared. We didn't know what to expect," said Meeks of Gillispie's practices this season. "We've been leading by example to help the new guys through," said Meeks.
"Last year, even with the guys coming back, we didn't know what to expect," said Patrick Patterson. "Coach has a whole different style than coach Smith did. It was his first year at UK, so he had to get guys on his side," Patterson finished.
Even with the relationships being smoother this year, practices are just as intense. "It's always going to be tough," said Meeks. "But if you do something right, coach will praise you for it," he finished.
The players aren't the only ones who had it tough last season.
The beginning of the season last year was excruciating if you were a Wildcat or a Wildcat fan. Losses to San Diego and Gardner Webb still sting to this day. But the team got better as the season passed. "I don't think we ever all came together," said Gillispie. "We were jus trying to survive. I thought we were a team that gained steam as we went along. I thought we were about to come together, then Patrick got hurt," said Gillispie.
There was a point in the season that Gillispie noticed a change in his team. "When Jasper came back and gave us what we did, it made us a different team," said Gillispie. With Jasper in the lineup Kentucky defeated Florida for the first time since 2005 and defeated a top ten ranked Tennessee team in Rupp. The Wildcats wound up going 12 and four in the SEC.
Hopefully for the Wildcats and their fans, Kentucky will be able to build upon that late season success.
"We are stressing teamwork and family," said Patterson.