UK Notebook: Outside shooting no longer Rondo's weakness

February 22, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

The one flaw in point guard Rajon Rondo's play going into this season was supposed to be his inconsistent outside shooting.

"One of the main knocks on him was that he couldn't shoot from outside," said Oak Hill Academy coach Steve Smith. "We've worked on that every day in practice since the first day we've had him. He shoots pretty well. He has good mechanics and he's not afraid to work on his game."

He's also become a much more accurate shooter since transferring from Louisville Eastern High School to the private school in Virginia which has one of the nation's top prep teams.

"He scores when we need him to," said Smith. "He's averaging about 20 points, which is a lot for a point guard on our team. He's very selective on his 3-point shots. When he shoots them, he's hitting about 48 percent, which is pretty good.


"He can shoot the ball. People are going to find that out. He's quick and is a scorer, but he's also a shooter. He's a lot more consistent from the perimeter than he used to be."

Smith sees Rondo as a good fit at Kentucky. Smith coached current UK point guard Cliff Hawkins at Oak Hill and thinks Rondo can be another productive point guard for Tubby Smith.

"He can go to the basket and get to the rim when he wants now," Smith said. "But he knows he has to be able to score from the outside at the next level and he's worked on that.

"He was a good player when we got him, but he has a better feel and understanding for the game now. He's been able to learn how to run a team that has a lot of other talented players on it. That experience will really help him when he gets to Kentucky."

Rondo originally was more interested in attending Louisville. However, the Cardinals backed off when highly-touted New York point guard Sebastian Telfair signed with Louisville. Now Louisville coach Rick Pitino thinks Telfair likely will go straight to the NBA.

"I'm signing with Kentucky on April 24," Rondo said after scoring 23 points on 11-for-18 shooting in Oak Hill's win over Ballard in Louisville Thursday night. "I love Kentucky. I am committed to Kentucky."

Both Rondo and Michigan guard Joe Crawford, who also plans to sign with the Cats in April, were named to the McDonald's All-American team last week.

"He's got a chance to be a really special player," Smith said. "He's much better than many people realize because he can do so many things well."

Smith hopes to be back at Kentucky in two weeks to watch Hawkins' Senior Day game against Florida. That's when Rondo may also make his official visit to UK.

New scenario: Last week's decision by Florida sophomore Christian Drejer to leave the Gators to join a professional team in Spain left many college coaches wondering what impact that could have on their teams or future recruiting.

Kentucky has had several foreign players on its roster and this year signed Lukasz Obrzut of Poland and Sheray Thomas of Canada. Sophomore Bernard Cote is also a Canadian.

"I can't imagine this scenario," Smith said. "You can see the damage it has done to his team. I don't think we have ever crossed that bridge. We have not had anybody that good yet."

LSU coach John Brady has also had foreign players on his team. He was appalled by Drejer's decision to abandon his teammates so late in the season even if he did get a $1 million contract.

"To turn and run shows a lack of commitment on the player's part to his team and coach," Brady said. "It is appalling to me. It made me ill and he's not even on my team.

"In today's world, you can't be critical of anyone or they will think you are a bad guy. If you are not playing well, jealous of a team or not getting enough shots, you can leave and go someplace else and make money. You can't imagine what that does to your team. It's unfortunate when a coach has to walk around and not say what he wants to say or do what he wants because a player has that option (to leave for a professional league). It's not just the NBA. Players now have a lot of opportunities to leave and go make some money. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is. I think about it all the time."

Scouting: Before a player makes a shot or a head coach makes a crucial decision, assistant coaches spend countless hours reviewing game film and putting together a scouting report that players can understand and use.

"You can't expect players to remember everything an opponent will do, and you don't want to give them so much to remember that they are thinking rather than reacting," said Kentucky assistant coach Dave Hobbs. "We want to show them what to expect and then let them rely on the fundamentals they've learned in every possession.

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