UK seniors need to impress scouts

April 04, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Even though he's played on national television numerous times the last two years, Erik Daniels will still need to show various professional scouts just what he does best this week.

Daniels and teammates Gerald Fitch and Cliff Hawkins will participate in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia from Wednesday through Saturday, along with 61 other invited players.

"There's no doubt our three guys need to play well there to help themselves," Kentucky assistant coach David Hobbs said. "But they are all capable of doing that. We have encouraged them to all go there and compete at their very best level.

"Every NBA team will have people there. It's not just scouts, either. Obviously the coaches can't be there because they are still playing, but a lot of times general managers and presidents are there.


"A guy can really help himself if he plays well in front of all those high-ranking officials watching. That's where something like this could help Erik so much, because the scouts still aren't sure where he fits."

Daniels played power forward for Kentucky as a junior before moving inside this season.

Hobbs still remembers his second year at Alabama when Jim Farmer was a good player, but not a well known player going into the NBA Draft.

"The scouts had no idea what position he could play," Hobbs said. "Portsmouth is the first real showcase for the scouts. The guys who do well there get invited to another camp (in Chicago) that is even more intense.

"Farmer went to Portsmouth not even on the radar, even for the late rounds of the draft then. He plays and shoots really well, gets invited to the next camp and ends up as a first-round draft pick. So a guy can really help himself."

Hawkins, Fitch and Daniels are not projected as first-round picks. They may have to play well to even become second-round choices. Still, going to this camp gives them that opportunity.

"If you don't even get invited to this camp, then you are really in a difficult spot. At least this way they have a chance to show what they can do and as a player, that's all you can really ask for," Hobbs said.

Down time: College teams can continue to practice until the NCAA Tournament ends. However, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has not had his team work out since losing to Alabama-Birmingham in the NCAA Tournament.

"You are allowed to work your guys all the way through the Final Four," Hobbs said. "But I don't know of anybody who does that. You can also do individual workouts, which some schools do, but we are not even doing that. We thought it was best to give them a little space. Sometimes a little break can do more good than anything."

Not that Smith hasn't already made it clear to his returning players about what he expects from each of them.

"We have to improve in all areas of our game," Hobbs said. "All the guys returning need to improve in some way from Chuck (Hayes) to Kelenna (Azubuike) to right on down the line. That is what you are looking for and last year they pretty much all did that. But we have to keep doing that."

Looking ahead: Kentucky football coach Rich Brooks sees obvious improvement in his team this spring.

"We are so much more competitive and athletic at different positions," Brooks said after Friday's practice. "We have more guys that can help us. And it's only going to get better, too, because we have a lot of guys coming in (in August) that will be able to play."

One obvious change this spring is the attitude of the defense. A year ago the players were trying to learn defensive coordinator Mike Archer's system. Now Archer has nine starters returning as well as more depth at most positions.

"I think one of the most interesting things I saw with this football team a year ago was the offensive guys talking about this being the best defense they had seen they had been here," Brooks said. "I guarantee you that made the defense feel really good.

"Are we as good as we need to be on defense? No. We need to continue to get better. But I think we have more depth and that should allow us to rotate guys in and out more than we could a year ago."

Brooks knows his more experienced defense could possibly dominate the offense, which must replace three starters in the line as well as at quarterback, this spring.

"I'd feel really good if the defense dominated if I thought we were doing something really good on offense, too," Brooks said. "You're never happy as a head coach, when you go against yourself, if one side just kicks the devil out of the other side. You hope you're equally talented on both sides. Is that going to be the case every day? No.

"I don't want to see inconsistency. I want to see improvement. I want our defense to dominate next fall."

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