Wildcats dominate All-SEC team despite exclusion from first team

March 10, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Even though his team did not have a player named to the Associated Press all-Southeastern Conference first team, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith had no complaints because four of his starters were named to the second and third teams.

"I don't know what it says," said Smith when asked about the all-SEC voting. "We like our players. We think they are all first-team (picks). It does suggest our guys play as one. We have four guys on three teams. That's pretty strong. I've never seen that before."

Kentucky's Gerald Fitch and Erik Daniels, UK's top two scorers, were named to the second team. Cliff Hawkins and Chuck Hayes were both picked to the third team.

Daniels and Fitch were also named all-District 4 by the United States Basketball Writers Association Tuesday.

Fitch might have been a first-team all-SEC pick if a hand injury had not made him miss three games. However, it really didn't seem to matter to him Monday where he was picked.


"I'm not into talking about myself," said Fitch, who is a finalist for both the Wooden Award and the Bayer Advantage Senior Class Award. "You can speculate all you want on who the best players are, but I know I am on the best team. That's what really matters."

Hayes took almost the same attitude.

"Making first team might look good on your (basketball) resume, but it really is not that big a deal," Hayes said. "I'm always critical of myself anyway. I think there are a lot of things I could have been doing better all season."

Kentucky may also have been hurt in the all-conference voting because of its balance. First-team picks Justin Reed of Mississippi, Jamie Lloreda of LSU, Anthony Roberson of Florida and Matt Freije of Vanderbilt normally lead their teams in scoring. The other two first-team picks - Mississippi State's Lawrence Roberts and Timmy Bowers - have also clearly been the Bulldogs' best players.

"This team doesn't have one so-called man," Hayes said. "We just have a team."

Six Cats have scored 20 or more in a game

That's why the eighth-ranked Wildcats are the only SEC team to have had six different players score 20 or more points in a game this year. Kentucky also has four players averaging in double figures, and Cliff Hawkins is almost in double digits at 9.9 points per game.

While leading scorer Keith Bogans was perceived to be UK's go-to player last year, the current Cats say nothing really has changed this season.

"If you look at last year, we really did not have one go-to guy," Fitch said. "That's coach Smith's system. He's not one to design all the plays for one player.

"He's never going to have a team where just one guy controls everything. That makes us tougher than a team that might have just one star player you can control. That might hurt you in all-star voting, but it makes for a better team."

Smith likes the way Kentucky (23-4) is playing going into the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. The Cats will play Thursday's Auburn-Georgia winner at 1 p.m. Friday.

"Auburn and Georgia are two teams very capable of beating us," Smith said. "Georgia has already beat us twice. Auburn has the same type ability."

Smith apparently has convinced his players that they need to quit looking ahead to a possible showdown with Georgia and remember that Auburn could be Friday's opponent.

"If you ask a guy who he would rather play, he'll give you an answer," Smith said. "They do feel that way (about playing Georgia). That's human nature. We've got to educate them to not care who we play and not give anyone any locker room motivational material."

Hayes said after Sunday's win over Florida that he was looking forward to another game with Georgia. He had a different idea Tuesday.

"It doesn't matter who we play," Hayes said. "Georgia has to face Auburn. If we do play them, I do hope we can get them once because they got us twice."

Fitch tried to stay with the company line, too. However, he couldn't hide his feelings about who he would rather play.

"It really doesn't matter, but it would add a lot more excitement if we played Georgia," said Fitch, a Georgia native. "They beat us twice. What better way to get back at them than to beat them in the tournament? But we can't overlook anyone. It could easily be Auburn that we will be playing."

Central Kentucky News Articles