SEC Notebook: Gator gets chummy with UK's Hayes at camp

October 28, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Florida's David Lee and Kentucky's Chuck Hayes ran into each other several times, including an all-star game in Louisville, when they were being recruited four years ago.

Last summer they got to spend time together at the Nike Camp in Indianapolis. Not only did they work as camp counselors, but they roomed together.

"I got there first, put my bag down, went down to get a sandwich and didn't know what to expect," Lee said Wednesday during Southeastern Conference Media Days. "But we got along great. We had similar interests and worked with the coaches together on our jump shots.

"We compared the two programs (at Kentucky and Florida) and the two coaches and how dedicated they both were. We talked about having three- to four-hour practices and how intense they could be."


Tennessee's Scooter McFadgon was also there and joined Lee and Hayes in nightly pickup games against players from other conferences.

"I felt like we all three did great against other players at the camp," Lee said. "There was a lot of mutual respect against the other conference players, but we more than held our own."

Did he get any trash talk material on Hayes or Kentucky? "No, we didn't give away any team strategy," Lee said. "I still think Kentucky is the team to beat in the (SEC) East. Chuck said they are going to be pretty good again."

"I do have his phone number now. If I score on him, I am going to call him and let him know about it," Hayes said. "Once I got to know him, he's really a down-to-earth guy and is pretty cool."

McFadgon, one of the SEC's top scorers, even gave Hayes shooting tips at the Nike camp.

"Chuck came down and worked out with the guards a couple of days," McFadgon said. "He didn't miss a beat. He was like a big guard and showed me he's even a better player than I realized. He was even stepping out and shooting 3's."

Did he make any?

"He was making a couple. Just leave it at that," McFadgon said.

"Don't believe him," Hayes said. "My shooting was fine. But it really was a lot of fun being with those guys. You kind of know them from playing, but it was nice to have a chance to get to know a little more about what they are about away from basketball, too."

Fan adulation: Alabama advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last year before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut and won two more games in the tournament than Kentucky. That NCAA success has made more fans pay attention to the Crimson Tide basketball team this year, especially since the football team has also struggled.

However, Kennedy Winston said no one should yet confuse Alabama basketball fans with those at Kentucky where the Wildcats had 10,000 fans at Midnight Madness and over 7,000 for a scrimmage.

"For a basketball player, you love having those fans there noticing you," Winston said. "Kentucky is a big-time basketball program. The football program is not that good. When you say Kentucky, the first thing you think of is basketball. In Alabama, it's football even though that is evening out some now.

"Our fans will be with us when it is time to play. But at Kentucky, those fans are always there. As a basketball player, you just wish it could be like they have it at Kentucky, but you know it will never happen at Alabama."

Not missing Daniels: Tennessee center Brandon Crump isn't sorry that Kentucky's Erik Daniels has graduated even if UK likely will have a bigger, stronger player playing against him at center this year.

"Daniels had good moves and was awkward to guard because he was so tricky," Crump said. "He was a tough matchup for us both games. He was so sneaky. If they have a big, physical player in there it will be different, but I won't miss not playing against Daniels."

Lonely: Hayes was the only men's player that Kentucky brought to Media Days. Most schools brought two.

Hayes, who was making his third straight appearance here, lobbied to have coach Tubby Smith also bring junior Kelenna Azubuike, a suggestion Smith rejected.

"I know this place way too well. I wanted to bring someone else along to have company," Hayes said. "Coach Smith is fun, but I see him so much during the year that I thought he could have given me someone else for this trip. But he had a different idea."

Obrzut's future: Kentucky sophomore center Lukasz Obrzut of Poland could play a more prominent role for the Cats this season and Smith says he could have a future in professional basketball, especially in Europe, if he continues to improve.

"That's down the road. If you don't do what you need to do today, then you don't have to worry about tomorrow," Smith said. "I think there will be a lot of opportunities for him down the road. Our job is to tell him that he has a lot more to learn so he can survive at that level."

Smith says he doesn't worry about Obrzut getting homesick or deciding he's ready now to play professionally in Europe as some international players have done before their college eligibility ends.

"He knows why he's here. He doesn't have a chain and ball around him," Smith said. "As long as he understands that, there is nothing more for us to talk about."

Tourney time: The SEC Tournament will return to the Georgia Dome this season and will be back there in 2007 and 2008 after moving to Nashville in 2006.

After that, it was announced Wednesday that the tournament would be held at Tampa, Fla. (2009), Nashville (2010), Atlanta (2011) and New Orleans (2012).

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