VAUGHT: Orton back and better than ever

Not that Andy Fisher ever had any doubts about Daniel Orton's future, but if he had they would have gone away last week. That's when Orton returned from a season-long absence because of a knee injury to almost help his team win another Oklahoma state championship.

"He got cleared to play at 3 the day of our first game in the state tournament," said Fisher, Orton's assistant coach. "He looked really, really good. He's is going to be very special in college."

In the championship game, Orton had 14 points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots to almost help his team, which had three starters out, win. In the semifinals, he had six points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots. The first game he had nine points, eight boards and five blocked shots.

"He made some big-time college moves in the tournament," Fisher said. "He's healthy for the first time in two years. It was not a big surgery, but getting that knee cleaned out really made a difference in the way he can play.

"The biggest thing now is his wind. But for the first time in two years, he has no pain in his knees. He was trying to block every shot. He was showing explosiveness even he hadn't shown for two years. He was the old Daniel. I think in the long run this is really going to benefit him." Orton is in California this week working with a personal coach to improve his game. He's also scheduled to play in the Derby Festival Classic in April next month.

Now Fisher is hoping that both Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks will be back at Kentucky next year to play with Orton.

"I think if they are both back to play with Daniel, it will make for a huge year for Kentucky," Fisher said. "I think Patrick can really benefit from playing with Daniel. It will help his stock a lot to have a true post guy like that."

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