Coach Sparks? Transfer year will let Sparks evaluate career options

November 02, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Patrick Sparks won't be "suited" up for Kentucky this season, but it could still be a year that helps determine his future.

Sparks can practice with the Wildcats but not play in games after transferring from Western Kentucky. He'll still have two years of eligibility remaining after his redshirt season.

His father, Steve Sparks, was his high school coach at Muhlenberg North. He played for Dennis Felton for two years at Western before Felton left for Georgia. Now he'll have three years under Tubby Smith.

Sparks think he might eventually like to be a coach, too, and figures this year will give him a different perspective on basketball.


"This year will help me decide about coaching," Sparks said. "I'll get to see things more from a coaching perspective and see what they see and think because I'll be in a suit sitting right there looking like one of them. I'll see just what they do.

"Me and my dad talk about that a lot and what a good opportunity this will be for me. It will be a great chance to take a year and think like a coach instead of a player during a game."

Sparks admits a lack of patience is one of his weaknesses. He's not sure where that would make him best suited to coach.

"I like working with kids my age and younger," Sparks said. "When I go back home, I help dad when he's working his team. I still don't know exactly what level I would want to coach, or if coaching will even be part of my future. But this year will let me get a look at what coaching might be like when I just have to sit there and watch instead of playing."

Sparks already knows the difference between playing at Western, where he was a two-year starter when he averaged 10.3 and 13.3 points per game, respectively, in his two seasons, and Kentucky.

"You really can't even compare the two places," Sparks said. "Just the magnitude of everything here is unbelievable. You really can't appreciate the microscope you are under until you get here.

"I came to Midnight Madness as a sophomore (in high school). Western Kentucky is nothing like this. Growing up in Kentucky, I was always a Kentucky fan. A lot of people in my family are Kentucky fans. But coming out of high school, Kentucky was not right for me. Western Kentucky was. Now things have changed and Kentucky is right for me."

Sparks decided to leave Western when Felton took the head job at Georgia. He could have followed the coach there. "I was afraid Georgia was going on (NCAA) probation," Sparks said. "I put my blood and sweat into that guy for two years, but Georgia was not right for me."

He had to pay his own way to Kentucky this year because the Cats were out of scholarships. However, Smith plans to put him on scholarship for the next two seasons.

Sparks will probably spend some more of his own money this year following the Cats to road games. Because he's a transfer, he cannot accompany the team to places like Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Indiana that are only a short drive from Lexington.

"Any game I can drive to, I am going to make because I want to let the team know enough that I care enough to be there," Sparks said. "As long as I don't have a conflict academically, I'll be there. I know I won't miss a home game.

"I really like the potential this team has and I'll do everything I can in practice every day to make the guys have to play better. And just going against Cliff Hawkins in practice will make me better because he's one of the best point guards in the nation. He'll certainly get me ready to play next year. But I almost wish the season was already over because I'm not sure I'm patient enough to wait for next year to get here."

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