Patrick Patterson withdraws name from NBA

The more he thought about the reasons to leave Kentucky, the more Patrick Patterson realized he had better reasons to stay at UK for at least another year.

The more he thought about the reasons to leave Kentucky, the more Patrick Patterson realized he had better reasons to stay at UK for at least another year.

That's why the 6-9 Patterson withdrew his name from the NBA draft and will play his junior season with the Wildcats.

Last year he led the Southeastern Conference and ranked 11th nationally in field goal percentage at 60.3. He averaged 17.9 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and was the only SEC player to rank in the top five in both categories. He also led the SEC in double-doubles with 15, the eighth most in a single season at Kentucky.

So why come back rather than likely being a mid to late first-round draft pick?

n He's on track to graduate in three years. He says that "is important to me and my family" and that was a point he emphasized in March when he acknowledged he would consider putting his name into the draft.

n After missing the 2008 NCAA Tournament when he was injured and UK not qualifying for the NCAA last year, Patterson wants to compete in the national tourney.

"I want to help Kentucky compete for a national title, and even more than that win its eighth national championship," Patterson said.

n John Calipari. That's perhaps the biggest reason of all. Patterson will never say it, but if Billy Gillispie was still coaching Kentucky odds are he would be gone. Instead, Calipari has breathed new life into the program.

"I'm also really excited about playing for coach Cal and developing my game in the dribble-drive offense," Patterson said.

Naturally, Calipari is just as excited to have Patterson returning. No matter how talented his incoming players are or how good transfer Matt Pilgrim might turn out to be, Patterson is a known commodity. He's a warrior and complete team player.

"In the month that I've been at Kentucky, I've been blown away by Patrick Patterson," Calipari said in a statement released by UK. "He is one of the nicest individuals I've met and one of the fiercest competitors that I've been around. I'm thrilled I get to coach him next year."

He should be because there are not many players like Patterson. Just ask his teammates.

"He could be great if he comes back. He already has the potential to be great right now, but if he comes back another year there is no telling how good he will be," said UK junior Kevin Galloway when UK's season ended in March. "I think with the help he would have, he could have a Blake Griffin type of year. He could be unstoppable."

Remember Griffin was the national player of the year at Oklahoma last year and putting signees like DeMarcus Cousins, Daniel Orton, Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson and Jon Hood around Patterson will allow him so much more freedom. If guard Jodie Meeks also takes his name out of the draft as expected, Patterson can probably forget having to face as many double- and triple-teams next season.

"He's the main catalyst for this team. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't get as many open looks and the chances to create for myself," Meeks said late last season. "Everybody sags down on him because he's such a dominant threat in the paint. Just think what he could do if everybody didn't concentrate on him so much."

Some have wondered about Patterson's outside jump shot and how he might score in the NBA — or even in Calipari's offense if he plays more away from the basket. Galloway said not to worry.

"He can knock that outside shot down every time. He can do so many things. He can shoot that shot really well," Galloway said. "He dominates you on that block. He can score at will. When he gets the ball down there, it is pretty much automatic. In games they come with double and triple teams on him and make him hesitate, so it is harder. But one on one, you can't stop him and if he moves outside, he'll score just fine out there, too. That won't be a problem."

Yet for all those skills, there's another reason Patterson's return is so important for Calipari and UK. He's a great teammate and makes team chemistry better for everyone.

"He is one of the best guys you can ever be around," Galloway said. "He is always encouraging you and has a good mindset. He is always going hard.

"Off the court, he is the funniest, coolest guy you will ever know. We sit there playing video games all night. He's real relaxed, cool and joking. We will talk trash even playing video games. But on the court, he wants to win every time he's out there. If we are winning and the game is tight, he's focused and happy. He hates to lose."


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