Billy Ball

The Kentucky Wildcats are on the way back. The Florida Gators won't be gone for long. That's the message delivered by their respective coaches earlier this week as each landed a high-profile stud during the spring signing period.

Billy Donovan of Florida, who must replace the top seven scorers from his 2006-07 national championship team, took another step in that process by signing Jai Lucas, son of former NBA standout John Lucas.

Accorded four stars by Scout and ranked No. 7 point among America's point guard prospects, Lucas is a 5-foot-10, 145-pounder who averaged 25 points and 6 assists per game last season in Bellaire, Texas. He picked the Gators over Kentucky.

New UK coach Billy Gillespie got some revenge two days later by beating the Gators for Patrick Patterson, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound banger from Huntington, W. Va. He could help ease the loss of Randolph Morris, who is leaving the Big Blue to join the NBA's New York Knicks.

Rated a five-star player by Scout and tabbed No. 4 among power forward prospects, Patterson averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks per game as a high school senior last winter.

Both Lucas and Patterson are McDonald's All-Americans. Both could start as college freshmen. Both will add more exciting young athletes to a league (Southeastern Conference) that is rapidly proving to be just as potent on the hardwood as it is on the gridiron.

Florida is coming off back-to-back national titles. Arkansas and Alabama are loaded with talent. Tennessee, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Georgia are on the rise. Kentucky, after a brief dry spell, appears ready to return to its accustomed spot among the NCAA's elite programs.

It looks like 2007-08 is going to be an interesting year in SEC hoops.

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