UK Notebook: Cats enjoy Rondo

December 26, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Rajon Rondo came to Kentucky with a big reputation. Not only was he a McDonald's All-American, he was also known as a cocky, one-dimensional player. Or at least that's what some of his Kentucky teammates had heard before he arrived here.

He was known as a player who could make a sensational pass or shot, but not as a total team player based on what the Wildcats had heard about him when he played at Louisville Eastern High School before going to Oak Hill (Va.) Academy for his final prep season.

"I had heard he was a scoring machine and all he did was drive to the basket every time he got the ball," Kentucky senior Josh Carrier said. "I also heard he was pretty cocky. I wasn't sure what to expect. He didn't seem like that on his visit, but then I kept hearing so many things."


Rondo didn't need long to convince his teammates that any preconceived notions they had about him were wrong.

"He is much more controlled than I had heard," Carrier said. "He runs the team well. He has unbelievable vision. He is a great passer. He is much better player than I had heard, and a much different person.

"He is just shy, little Rajon. He is a good guy. He's fit in really, really well on our team. All those negative things I had heard about him just were not true. He's someone we all really like playing with."

Rondo and freshman teammate Joe Crawford both helped convince freshman center Randolph Morris to come to Kentucky.

"I had heard some things about him, too, but once I got to know him last year, I really liked him. I don't know how some of those things got out there because he's a great person and player," Morris said before the season started.

Carrier says what he heard about Rondo's quickness has turned out to be true.

"He's probably the quickest person I have ever played with or against," Carrier said. "If you get up on him one bit, he is going to drive right by you. He will lull you to sleep, then just go right by you. He's quick, really quick. I had heard that, but you can't believe just how quick he is until you try to guard him. Then you find out just what quick is all about."

Kentucky's other senior, Chuck Hayes, still thinks Cliff Hawkins, UK's point guard the previous two years, is quicker than Rondo and a better defensive guard.

"Cliff is, by far, the best I have ever seen," Hayes said. "I don't know what Rondo can do to get there because Cliff was in a class by himself. Cliff just had something about him that made opponents fear him. I don't know what it was. When he was on the ball, players did not even want to dribble because his ball pressure was relentless. Rondo has the potential to get there, but as of now Cliff is still plays the best on the ball defense I have ever seen."

Former Kentucky point guard Ed Davender thinks Rondo's combined offensive and defensive skills, though, could make him a memorable player before he leaves college and a big factor for Kentucky this year when NCAA Tournament play starts in March.

"Come March, it's a guard's game," Davender said. "You have to have a point guard who can do a lot of things and he can do that. He's quick. He passes. He disrupts opponents with his defense. He can drive to the basket. By the time March gets here, he could really be special."

Thanks: Kentucky sophomore center Shagari Alleyne had five blocked shots against William & Mary Wednesday, a statistic that made fans visiting the Web site even happier.

Two UK fans started the Web site to support Alleyne and he appreciates what they have done.

"That is Kentucky fans for you. I am not the only person on the team. I try to focus on what I have to do, but it's really nice to know they care that much about you to have a site like that," he said.

Alleyne says he never wonders how close Kentucky coach Tubby Smith came to redshirting him this year as the coach was discussing before practice started in October.

"I never worried about that. I worked hard all summer," he said. "The only person that can stop you is yourself. If you have talent, you play. Coach Smith knows what he is doing. He never told me I was being redshirted, so I just prepared like I was going to play. I never thought anything about not playing."

Bench support: Kentucky assistant coach Dave Hobbs says the Cats still have several possibilities for a player that could come off the bench and provided a consistent spark.

"We've got several players with the ability to do that," Hobbs said. "Just how our team is going to develop has not been answered yet.

"It could be Joe Crawford. He's just a freshman, but he can move his feet (on defense) and score. He could be that guy. Bobby Perry could do it. Ramel Bradley is a guy who can do a lot of things.

"Each team develops its own identity. We are still doing that. What we are trying to ask each guy is to do what we need to be better as a team. Right now, we still aren't sure what all those answers and roles are."

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