UK Notebook: Thomas cleared to play

December 14, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Sophomore forward Sheray Thomas has resumed practicing with the Kentucky basketball team and soon should be able to play in games.

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith announced on his weekly radio show Monday night that Thomas, who had not practiced until last Thursday because of surgery he had in early October, had a "clean bill of health" and had gone through a full practice.

"He's not far (from being ready). I can't put a timetable on it. We are not going to rush him," said Smith. "In the short scrimmage we had and the drills today, he was fearless. You would think he would be timid, but he came in ready to go."

Smith said Thomas lost about 25 pounds after his surgery, but that he now weighs 215 pounds, about 10 to 15 pounds less than the coach wants.


"He's one of my favorite, favorite people - not just player, but person," Smith said. "I admire what he has gone through."

The exact type of surgery Thomas had has not been revealed at his request.

"I feel like a parent with a newborn baby," Smith said. "He looked so good today. I was very impressed with his awareness on the court. I could tell he was absorbing all the things we were teaching during the season. He knew everything we were doing. When he got on the court today, nothing but positive things happened. I can just tell you right now that I am more excited than ever."

Smith said there was "no question" Thomas would help Kentucky this season.

Thomas averaged 1.7 points and 1.1 rebounds per game in 23 games last year. However, he played his best at the end of the season and could give Smith a more experienced option to either back up Chuck Hayes at power forward or let Hayes occasionally shift to small forward if the coach wanted to go with a bigger lineup.

Making a point: Kentucky assistant coach Dave Hobbs says having three guards - Rajon Rondo, Patrick Sparks and Ramel Bradley - that can penetrate inside a defense and either score or pass to an open teammate gives No. 9 Kentucky's offense a look it didn't have last year.

"It means a lot to have three guys who can do that," Hobbs said. "If you look back, we had games last year where not having more than one guy at a time who could do that hurt us. Having three of them can't ever hurt you.

"The good thing about these particular guys is not only do you have guys that can handle the ball, but some of those guys can shoot pretty well, too. They don't have to play in the paint. The more ballhandlers you have, the better. The more guys that can penetrate and pitch the ball, the better. The more guys who can get the ball to the open man, the better. The more guys that can handle the ball versus pressure, the better. Having three guys like that just gives you a lot of options."

Sparks has a team-high 35 assists in 187 minutes, Rondo 16 in 168 minutes and Bradley 13 in 82 minutes.

"The better your point guards can pass and create, the better you are going to be," Hobbs said. "You hit certain games where you have to be creative because defenses can take things away from you. That's where these guys can reallly help us."

Cold Pizza: Former UK All-American Kenny Walker will be on ESPN2's Cold Pizza Wednesday to discuss Saturday's Kentucky-Louisville game. It's part of Rivalry Week programming by Cold Pizza, which airs each Monday through Friday at 8 a.m.

"I will be in studio with them. They are also going to have Joe Hall and Denny Crum on, but they will both be back in Kentucky. I'm just looking forward to having a chance to talk about the game and have some fun," Walker said.

Hall and Crum, former coaching rivals at Kentucky and Louisville, now do a morning radio talk show that airs in Lexington and Louisville each Monday through Friday.

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