Vaught's Views: Fitch feels no shame in being a momma's boy

October 30, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - On the court, he likes to portray a tough-guy image. Off the court, Gerald Fitch freely admits he's a momma's boy.

"I've always classified myself as a momma's boy," said Fitch. "I don't deny that."

If anything, Fitch welcomed being a momma's boy just a few months ago when his mother, Ruby Fitch, came to Lexington from her home in Georgia to look after him after his hernia surgery. His teammates couldn't believe how she pampered him.

"It was pitiful," UK junior Chuck Hayes said. "She was doing everything for him."

Fitch didn't deny Hayes' version during their appearances here Wednesday as part of the Southeastern Conference Media Day.

"She stayed almost a month until I was able to walk," said Fitch, who probably would have made the Pan-American Games team if not for the hernia injury. "She was here for me every minute. With the way I felt, I had no problem telling her what I needed. I didn't realize hernia surgery would be so bad. I was practically bed-ridden for a month.


"It was a tough recovery. I had so many people tell me it would be a small recovery. I had nothing to do but lay down, watch TV, watch some movies and talk to my mother. A lot of guys on the team gave me a hard time about that."

His mother isn't here now to baby him after he "tweaked" his knee in Saturday's Blue-White Game. He had worn a knee brace at practice the last two days and thought having Wednesday off would help him.

"I was just playing defense, slid and my knee buckled and turned in," Fitch said. "But it won't bother me come Tuesday (when UK plays its first exhibition game).

It doesn't bother him, either, that teammates give him a hard time about his mother's loving ways. He's added a new tattoo to his arm - a rose with the word momma.

"That way whenever I look down and see the rose, I will think of her and it will make me feel better," Fitch said.

Not that he needed any help last year when he averaged 12.3 points and 3.1 rebounds per game and shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range.

He needs to be a leader both on and off the court

He goes into this season needing to be a leader both on and off the court for Kentucky. That's one reason Kentucky coach Tubby Smith brought him here for the first time.

"How did he (Fitch) do?" Smith asked several media members. "You always have some concerns. He's had some well-documented discretions (during his sophomore season). But I have a lot of faith in Gerald. Chuck is a little more polished at these things, but Gerald was really excited to be coming."

Fitch found time to converse with players from several other teams during his appearance here and handled his interviews as easily as he handled the switch from two guard to point guard last year when Cliff Hawkins wasn't playing.

Four years ago, this event might have overwhelmed him because he was a little-known recruit out of Georgia. Of course, four years ago few media members would have even known who Fitch was. Now he's a three-year starter, needs just 79 points to reach 1,000 career points, and was named to the all-SEC first team in media voting Wednesday.

"I'm still learning what you are supposed to do at something like this," Fitch said. "I'm just trying to use it as a good experience that will help me later in life.

"It's always a good feeling when you are considered one of the top players at anything. When I came to Kentucky, I was kind of under the radar screen. Not many people knew me. I think now I am building a name for myself and something like this helps me."

It was that kind of day for Smith and his players. They all laughed and joked with media members. They talked about last year's remarkable 26-game win streak and 32-4 season. They discussed what it will take for this year's team to be successful.

Smith more relaxed with the media than he's ever been

If any of the three had any concerns about this year's team, they certainly hide them well. Smith may have been more relaxed with the media than he's ever been in a setting like this since arriving at Kentucky.

He even admitted that he wished his team had celebrated a little more during last year's 26-game win streak and that he wanted to cut down the nets when the Cats won the SEC Tournament.

"But the players didn't because their goal was to win the Final Four," Smith said. "What was I going to do? Fault them for their focus? We didn't cut the nets down."

Losing to Marquette in the NCAA Midwest Region final was such a blow to Hayes and Fitch that they didn't even watch the Final Four. However, Fitch wants to watch this year.

"Hard work is the key, but you've got to have talent to go with it," Fitch said. "We feel we are talented enough to go to the Final Four this year. That's what we want."

And, of course, a little more babying from mom.

Central Kentucky News Articles