Alleyne can't hide from fans

November 02, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

No matter where Shagari Alleyne goes, everybody seems to know him.

"When I go to a mall or out to eat, everybody knows me from TV or the newspaper," said Alleyne. "But it's a great experience to know people appreciate Kentucky basketball that much. Yet it does surprise me that so many people know me."

Of course, when you are 7-2, weigh 260 pounds and wear a size 21 shoe, it's hard to go unnoticed. It was when Alleyne rode the subway to school in New York, and it will be during his playing career at Kentucky.

"I guess since I've always been big, I'm just used to it," Alleyne said.

Alleyne insists he's had a smooth transition to the Bluegrass and has not experienced the "culture shock" that some thought he might.


"I like being here," Alleyne said. "It's not really that much different from home. There's still plenty to do. I hang out a lot with the other guys on the team. They are good people to be around. I'm able to fit in and get along with about anybody."

Alleyne said coach Tubby Smith has already made improvements in his game and that's what he expected when he went back on his commitment to Rutgers and decided to sign with Kentucky instead.

"He is a great teacher. He can help me with so many things," Alleyne said.

Alleyne knows he may get a chance to play early because Kentucky lacks an experienced center. Smith has said both Alleyne and 7-1 freshman Lukasz Obrzut will get a chance to compete for early playing time.

"I'm pretty secure in the post. I don't think people are going to knock me around," Alleyne said. "Whatever coach wants me to do, I'll do. He's the one who controls playing time. I know I've got to step my game up and do everything that I'm capable of doing to make us a better team."

Alleyne knows many Kentucky fans wonder how he'll do, especially after several recruiting analysts termed him a "project" when he was recruited.

"I've heard that word project, too," Alleyne said. "I would describe myself as a pretty good player who is getting better. I think I am a better player than what a lot of other people have been saying. But it really doesn't matter what anyone says except coach Smith. He's the man with the plan and what he says goes. If he's happy, then I'll be happy."

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