Freshman center learning fast about rivalry

December 26, 2003|JILL ERWIN

LEXINGTON - He may not be a Kentucky native, but Lukasz Obrzut is relatively well-versed on the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry.

The 7-1 freshman from Poland can recite Louisville coach Rick Pitino's career path from Kentucky on, and he has heard from fans how important Saturday's game is.

"I know coach Rick Pitino was here before he went to the Boston Celtics," Obrzut said. "Then he came back to coach Louisville. I know a lot of fans in Kentucky don't like that and they act like coach Rick Pitino just left Kentucky basketball."

But while he may know the book facts, Obrzut is the first to admit he doesn't have any idea what the actual game will be like other than it will be a fun atmosphere.


He said he hasn't heard much from his teammates about the game, or the atmosphere, but he said he will try to treat the game like any other.

"I don't even ask," Obrzut said. "A basketball game is a basketball game. It's two teams and we just have to play against each other and see which one of us is better."

Obrzut scored a career-high six points against Eastern Kentucky Tuesday and hit all three of his field goal attempts. However, he failed to get any rebounds, blocked shots or steals and turned the ball over once.

"I don't think I played really good," Obrzut said. "Statistics for me from coach (Tubby) Smith are supposed to be rebounds, steals and shots blocked. I didn't get any of them."

However, Obrzut said he thinks he and fellow freshman Shagari Alleyne can have a big impact in the Louisville game on the defensive end.

"Coach doesn't look to us for scoring," Obrzut said. "When we score it's good, but what coach really looks for and expects us to do on the court is rebound and block shots and steal the ball. That's what he expects and that's what he wants to see. When we don't do it, we just failed the test."

The freshman said he is starting to feel more comfortable in Kentucky's offense. He said the time spent in practice is paying off, but he also knows he's nowhere near where he needs to be.

"I get more of an opportunity to do what I'm supposed to do and I just try to do what I'm supposed to," Obrzut said.

Obrzut said he has had a chance to watch a couple of Louisville games on TV this year, and he knows the Cardinals will be a good matchup for Kentucky. He said the Cardinals use their quickness to score, run and rebound while playing an uptempo game that the Cats are also capable of playing well.

That uptempo style tends to get the fans excited, and Obrzut said he is still getting used to the attention that Kentucky basketball receives across the state.

"This is my first time in my life when I have played with that many people watching us," Obrzut said. "In Poland, maybe 10 people would travel with the team to watch a game. That's it.

"I don't know what to expect. I know it's going to be crowded and it's going to be a lot of pressure and it's going to be a good game for us and for the fans."

Kentucky is 7-0, the Wildcats' best start under Smith, and looking to avenge last year's 81-63 loss to the Cardinals. But Obrzut said he's focused on treating Saturday's game like just another game.

"Every day is a work day," Obrzut said. "Saturday is a new game. We must give it our best effort ever."

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