UT Battles Gators, Cats

Not all the heated basketball competition between Tennessee, Kentucky and Florida is taking place on the SEC hardwoods, the Vols, Cats and Gators are also crossing paths, as well as swords, on the recruiting trail.

One prospect of these hardcore rivals' mutual interest is Patrick Patterson, a 6-foot-8, 234-pound power forward from Huntington, W. Va., who plays for Huntington High School and the East Coast Scholar Athletes AAU squad.

A physical presence in the post, Patterson also has a reputation for being a muscular beast on the boards. He has strength that actually exceeds his imposing size along with a highly diverse offensive game that features a jump hook, turnaround jump shot and the ability to face up and score from the 15-foot range.

He was named West Virgina's top basketball player after a junior season in which he averaged 14.5 points, 11 rebounds and 4.4 blocked shots per contest, becoming the first junior to win the award since NFL star Randy Moss turned the trick in 1994. As a sophomore, Patterson averaged 12.5 points, 11.3 boards and 4.6 blocks, finishing third in player of the year balloting.

Patterson, a four-star prospect who is rated No. 15 nationally among power forwards by Scout.com, is one of those rare high school players with the power to play in SEC. In fact, based on looks alone, he could pass for an NBA power forward.

That's what makes him a subject of such intense interest for the power elite of the SEC East. How serious is the competition? Florida head coach Billy Donnavan spoke at Huntington's basketball banquet, while Tubby Smith was observed hanging out in Huntington's hallways two weeks ago. Tennessee's staff has shadowed him through AAU competition where he has taken his scoring game up another level.

Naturally, there are other teams seeking Patterson's services, and he's considering offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and West Virginia in addition to the offers from UT, Kentucky and Florida. Along with a full AAU schedule, Patterson plans to attend basketball camps at Florida and Virginia. He will also participate in the Nike All-American Camp and the NBA Player Association's Camp for the top 100 players in the nation.

Though Patterson doesn't currently name a favorite, the Vols will need to rally to land this high-potential prospect, or run the risk of having to play against him in crtical contests twice a season over the next four years.

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