UK's Perry learning while he watches teammates

January 07, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Like most freshmen, Bobby Perry would like to be playing more for the University of Kentucky this season.

However, not only does he understand why he's not playing more, but he says he's also learning while watching his more experienced teammates play.

"Watching them last year on TV, it was awesome," said Perry. "They play basketball. It's not about I. It's about we as a team. You could sense that last year and that's what coach (Tubby) Smith is teaching us right now. It takes a team to win championships and make things go.

"It has been great playing with these guys in practice and watching them in games because they know how to play together. I hope our freshmen class and the classes to come can come together like that and learn how to be a team because it sure is fun watching them play."


Perry has played a total of just 16 minutes this season. He's appeared in five games and is 0-for-6 from the field.

He doesn't figure to play a prominent role Saturday, either, when No. 7 Kentucky opens Southeastern Conference play against No. 20 Vanderbilt. However, if that bothers him, it doesn't show.

"I'm happy to be here in a great program like this. I am trying my hardest to compete in practice so when my time comes to play, I will be ready to step up," said the freshman forward from Durham, N.C. "I am trying to take things one day at a time. Next year will eventually come and I may play more then, but right now I am just concentrating on trying to help this year.

"Coach Smith is our leader and coach. He sets the plan and we have to abide by it. I have faith in him. He's a wonderful coach. I love playing for him."

Perry says he learns daily from UK's veteran players and that Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels have gone out of their way to help him.

"I've learned so much from the older players," Perry said. "Our practices are getting more competitive, too. It was a lot more laid back in the summer when I first got here. We went hard then, but now it is so much more intense every day. If you don't produce, you don't play. That's the way it should be, too.

"I've learned that you can't ever be intense enough for coach Smith. He always wants you to improve because that makes us a better team. The second team is looking better and pushing our starters more. We battle every day and I just try to hold my own against guys like Chuck, Erik and Kelenna (Azubuike). We can all learn from each other."

Azubuike went through the same learning process last year. He sympathizes with Perry and UK's other freshmen as they make the adjustment to big-time college basketball.

"You just have to keep the right attitude and stay patient," Azubuike said. "Other people can try to help you, but it really comes down to understanding your role and why you are not getting to play and then trying to get to where you do the things to earn playing time."

Perry seems to have accepted that philosophy.

"I am just thankful for the opportunity I have here and I'm willing to make whatever sacrifice it takes to be part of this team," Perry said. "I know my time will come.

"I had an open mind coming into the season. I knew this might happen. I knew what talent was already here. But whatever coach Smith has in mind for me, that's the role I'll take on because he knows what is best for me and the program."

Scheduling: Kentucky will be the last team to open SEC play when it hosts Vanderbilt Saturday night. However, rather than worry about having a week between games, Smith is turning the schedule into a plus for his team.

"We've got a chance to mentally get rejuvenated. For five straight Saturdays we had an unbelievable schedule and almost got through it okay (except for a loss to Louisville)," Smith said.

"One thing we've been struggling with is our outside shooting. We'll get to work in the gym on that. We've also played a lot of big games and played on the road a lot. Being here a week should be a plus for us."

Smith wouldn't indicate whether he would prefer to have had a game during the week like every other SEC team except Alabama did.

"My preference is just to get ready to play," Smith said. "I take what the schedule dictates and turn it into a positive. I like to have it that way because that's the way it is."

Hall playing: Senior offensive tackle Antonio Hall will be the first UK player to participate in the East-West Shrine Game in San Francisco since running back Anthony White played in 2000. He'll be the 26th Kentucky player or coach to participate in the game, which will be played Saturday starting at 2 p.m.

Hall was named to the All-Southeastern Conference team for the second straight year in 2003. he had 68 knockdown blocks last season.

Named All-SEC: Kick returner Derek Abney and defensive end Vincent Burns have been named first-team All-Southeastern Conference by Southeastern Football Saturdays magazine.

Abney led the SEC in all-purpose yardage with an average of 151.8 yards per game. He led the Wildcats in receiving with 51 catches for 616 yards and five touchdowns, averaged 9.8 yards on punt returns, and led the SEC with a 24.1-yard kickoff return average.

Burns led the SEC with 18 tackles for loss. His 72 tackles were the most by a UK defensive lineman since noseguard Joey Couch in 1991.

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