UK's Alleyne throws own block party

November 10, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - The more confidence Shagari Alleyne gains, the more confidence Kentucky coach Tubby Smith will have in him.

Alleyne, a 7-4 sophomore, gave a look at what his inside presence could mean to the Wildcats this season by blocking eight shots in just 12 minutes here Tuesday in a 79-54 exhibition victory over Kentucky Wesleyan. He also had seven rebounds and four points against the smaller Wesleyan lineup.

"Shagari's eight blocks gave a look at what he can do," said Smith. "Now he's a guy that can go into games. It gives me confidence in playing him.

"I thought he was very active. His timing was good. He missed a couple of easy chip shots, but I liked his effort. He's been working pretty hard to get stronger. He still has a ways to go, but he's headed in the right direction."


Kentucky Wesleyan coach Ray Harper was impressed with what he saw from Alleyne, who played just five minutes and had one block in UK's earlier exhibition win over Northern Kentucky.

"Obviously, we were not going to score over him, so we tried to go around him," Harper said. "He must have had nine or 10 blocks. If he can give them that, and I don't see any reason why he couldn't at 7-3 with arms that long, then they are going to be even better."

Alleyne said work with assistant coaches Reggie Hanson and Dave Hobbs has helped him along with the daily competition with Randolph Morris and Lukasz Obrzut.

"I'm more confident. I have a little more agility and can move better," Alleyne said. "I'm a big guy and I have to carry on a big persona. I'm a big guy and proud of it. I have to play that way. I'm really focused on helping this year's team."

Alleyne blocked only four shots all last season in limited play. Tuesday he played well enough that Smith let him play with the starting group part of the first half and also brought him in early in the second half.

"I wanted to come out and leave my mark on the game," Alleyne said. "I'm just glad coach Smith has the confidence in me to play me."

Smith acknowledged that Alleyne did not face "strong, physical post players" against Wesleyan. However, the coach did like the way Alleyne not only blocked shots by his man, but also came to the basket to block other shots.

"He's worked hard to move his feet and get in position," Smith said. "That's what we expect him to do, clog the middle and block every shot."

Senior Chuck Hayes said someone obviously made Alleyne understand that he needed to be more assertive.

"He owned the paint tonight. If he didn't block a shot, he still made them miss," Hayes said. "He feeds off the crowd. Something positive like this can really help him."

Alleyne got to play more because freshman center Randolph Morris got in early foul trouble before finishing with seven points and four rebounds in 13 minutes. Backup Lukasz Obrzut played 14 minutes but also had foul trouble. Obrzut and Morris also committed three turnovers each.

"Randolph is a freshman. He's going to be susceptible to fouls because he's going to play a lot of mature post players," Smith said. "That's why it is critical that Woo (Obrzut) and Shagari come along. We've got to teach Randolph how to play without fouling. It's just a lack of concentration.

"I was disappointed in our post defense. We've got to do a much better job shutting down the inside and not letting the ball go to the post. We've got to go back to the drawing board."

Cats or Cards: Harper refused to say whether he thought Louisville or Kentucky had the better team. Wesleyan lost 81-51 at Louisville last week.

"I would hate to say," Harper said when asked to pick the better team. "If I say Kentucky, then Tubby would be mad. If I say Louisville, then coach (Rick) Pitino will be mad. Perimeter-wise, Louisville has more experience.

"But the game is at Freedom Hall, right? That will be a good game. I think I will try to make that one."

Smith backer: Harper and Smith were former assistant coaches together at Virginia Commonwealth and Harper has become one of Smith's biggest supporters.

"He is a heck of a coach, but he's an even better person," the Wesleyan coach said. "A lot of people might question his offense, but I will assure you he is a great and great leader for this program. They will compete. I will assure you this team will be a good defensive team because it starts with (freshman Rajon) Rondo at the point (guard)."

Missing: No Kentucky player was mentioned on The Associated Press' preseason All-America team released Tuesday.

Wake Forest sophomore guard Chris Paul was the leading vote-getter. Joining him on the first team were seniors Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State, Wayne Simien of Kansas, Julius Hodge of North Carolina State and Hakim Warrick of Syracuse.

"None of that really matters," Hayes said. "It's about winning, not individual honors."

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