Sparks and Rondo get the point

November 05, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Seconds after Rajon Rondo came into Wednesday's exhibition game, both he and Patrick Sparks were scrambling on the floor for a loose ball.

Rondo, a freshman, had deflected a Northern Kentucky pass, a prelude to the six steals he would have in the game.

Both Sparks, a junior, and Rondo are primarily point guards. However, because Sparks is also considered one of the team's best shooters, Kentucky coach Tubby Smith had said he would play the two together.

That suits both players.

"We like to pick up the intensity," said Rondo, who also had 16 points and five assists. "We feel that we can combine to blow a game out. We try to step up the intensity when we are together. I think it is a combination we could use a lot more this year."


Sparks didn't have the offensive game he expected in the 91-73 exhibition victory. He was 0-for-4 from 3-point range, but he did have three assists. Still, he likes what can happen when he's playing with Rondo.

"We are two high energy guys," Sparks said. "We like to get everybody involved in the game. Our games are different in a lot of ways, so we can bring different aspects of the game to the point guard position or a different look when we play together. A lot of teams you play against only have one high energy point guard, so that should be an advantage for us whether we are playing together or not."

Smith apparently was not overly impressed with how the two played together based on his postgame comments.

"I really can't tell you (how they did). We looked at a lot of guys and combinations," Smith said. "I expect everybody we play to execute."

Smith did admit that Rondo got "his hands on a lot of balls." He also said that he wants his team "to get the ball up the court early more" this season, something that is easier when the two point guards are in the game together as well as when they are rotating to keep one fresh.

"We also have (freshman) Ramel Bradley that can handle the point, too," Sparks said. "We have three guys that can play point guard, handle the pressure, score and bring a lot of pressure. That's a big advantage for us.

"I think playing a fast pace will be one of our strategies, too. We want to get up and down the floor, but we also want to make good, smart decisions when we do that. We hopefully will have a lot of guys coming in and out of the game to tire teams out."

Their differences could cause opponents problems

The two guards understand the differences in their play that will combine to give opponents problems.

"I am really a good penetrator, he's really a good shooter," Rondo said. "We can do a lot of the same things, but those two things are what make us different."

"I probably like to get out on the perimeter more than he does," Sparks said. "He likes to penetrate and get in there and mix it up more than I do. We both can pass. We both can score. We have a lot of similarities, except that he's quicker than almost anyone, including me."

Sparks, a two-year starter at Western Kentucky before transferring to Kentucky last year, says he's also glad to be a mentor for Rondo, a Louisville native who played at Oak Hill (Va.) Academy last year.

"We have a lot of older guys who have been through a lot of things," Sparks said. "We will all be there to help the freshmen out. We have been playing against each other a lot since last summer, but now we are playing games and are on the same side. That's a lot more fun.

"We have a lot of options, and not just as point guard. We have a lot of skilled players with great athletic ability. It's going to be fun playing with those guys.

Sparks said it will also be easy for him and Rondo to adapt to any way Smith decides to use them. What's more important is the confidence the team has in the point guards.

"If your point guard has confidence in the system and believes in what you are doing like I do, then it gives the whole team a feeling of confidence and comfort," Sparks said. "That confidence will help me out, but it will also help our team out.

"Rajon is young and just needs to play some to gain that confidence. But there's no doubt he can play. Whether we are in there together or rotating, it is still a good feeling to know that we can bring a lot of energy for 40 minutes every game."

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