Set lineup not likely for Cats this year

November 09, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith would like to have a set starting lineup this season, but he also knows it likely won't happen.

The University of Kentucky coach said Monday that he wasn't sure who would be in the starting lineup for tonight's exhibition game here against Kentucky Wesleyan, a team that has won eight NCAA Division II national championships.

"Our starting lineup will be game to game, day to day," said Smith. "We're not going to find a set five like we had last year."

Smith started walk-on Ravi Moss over three highly-touted freshmen in UK's first exhibition game last week.

"Ravi gives it all he has, but that doesn't mean he'll start again. But you are guaranteed not to start if you don't give all you have," Smith said.


"Starting is cool but it is all about being on the court," Moss said. "If you get it from coming off the bench or starting, it doesn't really matter."

Smith wouldn't rule out eventually finding a set lineup like he had most of the last two seasons.

"I would like to settle into one lineup. That's best for the team," he said.

Fifty-six deflections in opening game

The Wildcats had 56 deflections in their opening game, a statistic that pleased Smith. He would like to see a repeat of that tonight, but with better execution after making a defensive play to knock the ball loose.

"I want to see how well we can execute," Smith said. "Are guys carrying things from practice to the game? You play exhibition games to get a look at guys in a playing environment. You try to iron out problems in a game like this. You also want to see as many combinations as you can and give as many guys as possible a look."

Junior point guard Patrick Sparks got his first game action in a year last week after sitting out last season following his transfer from Western Kentucky. He's anxious to play again.

"We worked a lot on transition defense and talking on defense in practice," Sparks said. "Just the little things like communicating on hand-offs and screens."

Because he's from western Kentucky, he also knows several players he will be playing against tonight.

"They have some great players that I am looking forward to playing against," Sparks said. "I know that they are usually at the top of Division II every year. I know their coach, Ray Harper, real well. I know they can take care of a lot of Division I teams."

Kentucky Wesleyan, 22-8 last season, lost 81-51 to Louisville in an exhibition game last week and will again be without two of its best players, 6-6 frontliners Dontae Truitt and Franklyn Ferguson. The two were ruled ineligible by the NCAA before the season started and are still awaiting a ruling on their appeal.

"We know that it's a huge challenge, but that's OK," said Harper, who served on the same Virginia Commonwealth staff as Smith during the 1985-86 season. "Our kids will play in front of a great crowd. It's an experience they will remember for a lifetime. Our kids will play hard. I assure you of that."

Rondo could start

Kentucky got 26 points from Kelenna Azubuike and 16 points from freshman Rajon Rondo in its 91-73 win over Northern Kentucky last week. Smith indicated Rondo likely will start tonight.

"We have to make sure we play the way we are supposed to and play Kentucky basketball. We want an aggressive defense and we want to get out and run on offense," Azubuike said. "

Smith continues to like what his freshmen have done and likes the team's quicker, more athletic look thanks to freshmen guards Joe Crawford, Ramel Bradley and Rondo.

"We didn't play very smart at times (against Northern Kentucky), but the speed and quickness of our young players is really good," Smith said. "It's the best we have had in the backcourt."

On the inside, 7-foot freshman Randolph Morris continues to please the coach.

"He runs the floor extremely well. He helps us with his shot-blocking ability and quickness off the floor," Smith said. "He is two or three inches taller than anyone we started last year, so that's a big help. He's got a lot of things he needs to work on, but he has good basketball intelligence. He studies the game. He works hard in practice. He just makes a big difference in our play."

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