The Matt Pilgrim Story - PART ONE

Larry Vaught recently interviewed Matt Pilgrim for Kentucky Sports Report, the magazine. Follow this young man's story throughout the week in this five part series.

During his childhood days in Cincinnati, Matt Pilgrim proudly admits he was a Cincinnati Bearcat fan. However, he did have a favorite player from another nearby team.

"My favorite player was always Ron Mercer. That is one of the reasons I have No. 33 now. When he was playing with Antoine Walker and all of those great players at Kentucky, I had his jersey," said Pilgrim. "That was back in elementary school. They didn't even have names on the back of their jersey then. I always followed UK off and on. I watched Erik Daniels all the time when he was at Kentucky because he is from Cincinnati. But Ron Mercer was my guy."

Eventually, there could be other young Kentucky fans thinking Pilgrim could be their guy. He spent the previous two years at Hampton University before family and personal issues prompted him to transfer closer to home.

Once Pilgrim is eligible and able to play, teammates think he's going to make a far bigger impact than even they originally realized.

"When Pilgrim steps on the court, he is going to do Kentucky proud. He will help us all daily this year whether it is blocking shots — and he is a great athlete who can jump out of the gym and block shots — or banging down low with bigs or stepping outside on the perimeter," said sophomore Patrick Patterson. "He can do an array of things and that's only going to make Kentucky basketball better. That will help us this year, but in the future he's going to be a great player."

Patterson met Pilgrim for the first time when Pilgrim came to Lexington for an unofficial visit to meet players and coaches.

" He said he was from Hampton and was trying to come here. I got to know him and talk to him. I looked him up on You-Tube and saw his stats back at Hampton and knew this guy was good," Patterson said. "When he came here and I watched him play pickup, I saw what he could do and knew we had to get him. When we finally got him, I knew it would only make Kentucky basketball better.

"Pilgrim is a workaholic. He is really a hilarious guys and brings a different attitude, different personality to the team. He's going to mean so much to this program that it is hard to explain."

Pilgrim understands that response because even know he has trouble putting into words what it means to him to be part of college basketball all-time's winningest program.

"It is kind of crazy to be here now. This is just a blessing from God for me. It just happened and I pray every night just like everyone else, in their own form, but it just happened and I am so glad to be here and a part of this program," Pilgrim said.

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