Players accept Smith's planned changes

February 03, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - If Tubby Smith wants to have a set playing rotation and more defined roles for his players, that's fine with his players.

The Kentucky coach said Monday that he was being unfair to his team, and players, by not letting players on his bench know when they could expect to play and what position they would play when they go into a game.

Smith announced his plans to the media before telling his players. He also said he was out of patience with players making careless mistakes and players who "screw up" would find themselves sitting on the bench.

"I've not heard about any of that," said junior Chuck Hayes, one player Smith did not criticize during his 30-minute press conference. "That's why he's the coach. The guy has a lot of years in the game. He knows what he's talking about. If he wants to make changes, I'm not going to argue."


Hayes has been playing power forward this season and Erik Daniels has been playing center. Tonight at Florida they likely could move back to small forward and power forward, respectively, like they did most of last year when the Cats finished 32-4. Smith indicated he likely would play 7-foot freshman Lukasz Obrzut more to give the Cats a bigger lineup.

"Chuck is probably better suited for the 3 (small forward)," Smith said. "That may be something you see more of. (The bigger lineup) would give us more height, size, rebounding, better defense. It would give us an extra big body to protect the basket.

"Chuck can guard on the perimeter and go to the basket. He can help in different areas. He would have more freedom and get involved in more things. Woo (Obrzut) has also come on and is doing what we ask. He still has some problems on offense and with foolish fouls, but I like the way he's been playing."

Sophomore point guard Brandon Stockton has not been playing. He's played just 10 minutes in the last eight games and did not play in four of them. Yet Smith said Monday that Stockton will now again be the primary backup for starter Cliff Hawkins.

"Brandon has not been playing much. He needs to come in as the backup point guard," Smith said. "I'm not going to move Gerald (Fitch) there. He's wearing down anyway."

Stockton was slightly surprised

Stockton was slightly surprised to learn that he might see significant playing time at Florida and in future games based on what Smith said.

"All year coach Smith has been looking for the right rotation and trying to see where guys fit in best," Stockton said. "It took time for him to get that. He's just apparently going to put people in a set rotation rather than moving people around."

Stockton acknowledged that sometimes it might be hard for a reserve to be effective when he doesn't know when, or if, he'll play.

However, Stockton said it is not an insurmountable obstacle to overcome.

"It's probably a little unfair to some guys who play several positions, but the coaches know what you can do in practice and see what you are doing," Stockton said.

"The way you practice determines what you get to do in games. When you get your chance, there's no excuse not to produce. If you don't, it's your fault."

That's the attitude Smith wants to see more of, too.

"I want guys to accept responsibility and be accountable for their actions," Smith said. "Most of them know when they screw up. The whole world can see it.

"We need more leadership. We have to get better leadership. I'm not satisfied with our leadership. We've got veteran players who ought to be playing better."

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