Barbour returns Friday

November 26, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith knows that senior Antwain Barbour is anxious to play after missing Kentucky's two exhibition games and first regular season game because of a team suspension.

However, the coach said he doesn't think Barbour will be so anxious that he makes mistakes.

"As long as he tries to do too much on the defensive end, I'll be happy," said Smith. "If he's taking charges and diving on the floor, I'll be happy. You can never do too much on the defensive end.

"But he's mature enough to understand our system. It's not like last year when everything was new and then he missed four weeks when he broke his hand. He has a good feel for how he's supposed to fit in."

Barbour will be coming off the bench, not starting, when Kentucky hosts Tennessee Tech on Friday. Smith will go with the same starting lineup of Cliff Hawkins, Gerald Fitch, Kelenna Azubuike, Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels that he used in the season-opening win over Winthrop.


Smith said Barbour's role doesn't change whether he starts or comes off the bench.

"He's supposed to shoot when he's open and pass it to the open person - simple as that," Smith said. "It's a pretty simple game. He's had five coaches in three years. That's unheard of. That's not an indictment of those coaches, him or me. But it's tough on anyone."

Smith and his players think Barbour will make it "tough" on opponents this season. He averaged 12.4 minutes, 3.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game last year. Kentucky expects much more from him this year since he's had a season to adjust to playing at UK following two years at Wabash Valley Junior College.

"He can do so many different things," Smith said. "He can defend and play multiple positions."

Smith said he could play point guard, shooting guard, small forward or even power forward if needed.

"He's capable of defending because he has that aggressiveness and that confidence," the UK coach said. "He's a guy that can give us more athleticism. He's one of the best athletes on the team. When he comes into the game we're probably faster and more athletic, depending on who he goes in for."

Last year Kentucky normally got a spark when Hawkins came off the bench. Smith feels Barbour might be able to give the Wildcats the same boost if he stays as the team's sixth man.

"I think he will give us more than anyone else coming off the bench," Smith said. "Most people have a drop-off when they bring someone in. We always expect a guy coming in to give us the same effort, or more. You will see that from Antwain."

His teammates have predicted for weeks that Kentucky fans are going to see a vastly improved Barbour when he does play. Now they are also ready to see him play.

"Antwain is ready to go," said Hawkins, who missed UK's first seven games last year because of academic woes. "We just hope he brings the energy to the game we think he will. He's best in transition, so if we can get it out and run he can really help us.

"He can bring energy off the bench because he has the ability to attack the basket and he's long so he can get in the passing lanes and really create havoc on defense, too."

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