UK Notebook: Four-day break energizes Wildcats

December 29, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - Tubby Smith didn't consider it a gamble when he gave his players at Kentucky a four-day Christmas break.

He let players leave after Kentucky's win over William & Mary Dec. 22 and didn't make them report back here until late Dec. 26 to start work for tonight's game here against Campbell.

"I've never felt that way," said Smith when asked if he worried too much time off might hurt his team. "My job is to get them back here and put things together. We will get their attention.

"The guys seemed to come back with more energy. They were excited about being back and seemed hungry. We'll see how they respond. The next few days will tell if it (the break) was a good thing or not."


His players seem to think the break will benefit the team.

"Going home is really relaxing," Kentucky sophomore Bobby Perry said. "When I got back, I felt renewed and ready for the second part of the season."

Perry thinks the break helped freshmen Rajon Rondo, Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford and Randolph Morris, too. Smith noted Tuesday that the young players, including sophomores who played sparingly last year, have not been "serious enough" about basketball and have used athleticism to compensate for routine mistakes.

"I think the break should have helped them. I don't know if they realized we didn't even get a Christmas break last year," Perry said. "This is the longest break a Kentucky team has ever had since Tubby has been here. He pointed that out quite a few times to us. But I think the break rejuvenated all of us."

Sophomore Shagari Alleyne said going home to New York was worth the trouble he had. He was scheduled to fly out of Lexington at 7:15 a.m. Thursday, but his flight didn't leave until about 7 p.m. because of weather problems.

"I lost almost a day at home, but at least I got home," Alleyne said. "I got some of my mother's cooking. I enjoyed that a lot. I ate it all. I didn't bring back anything. I saw some family I had not seen in a while. That was beautiful, too."

Perry drove back to North Carolina with his parents. The snow and ice caused them to take a longer way home through West Virginia where the roads were not ice-covered.

"We left about 4 in the morning after letting the storm pass a little bit," Perry said. "I was tired and slept most of the way. My dad likes to drive at night. It was just lucky my parents were here or I might not have made it home.

"It was really nice to see all my family at Christmas. That's the time you want to be around your loved ones. I love my teammates, but to get some home cooking and sleep in my own bed was really, really nice."

Still, Perry did find time to shoot basketball while he was home and said the four-day break did not hurt his skills or conditioning.

"We have been working so hard that a little time off was not bad," Alleyne said. "We have been going hard for six days a week. Missing four days wasn't going to hurt that."

Getting physical: Alleyne says Smith has made recent rebounding drills much more physical in hopes of improving Kentucky's rebounding. The coach has also made losers in the drills do extra running.

"Nobody wants to lose," Alleyne said. "Elbows are being thrown. Guys are being tossed around left and right."

Is it hard to elbow a teammate?

"No. We all want to win," Alleyne said. "Teammates all understand that and are all out there trying to win. It gets pretty physical. Coach Smith has just emphasized crashing the boards more so we can get out on our fast break. Our team is gradually getting better and by the end of the year, I think we will be a great rebounding team."

Thomas update: Smith wouldn't say how much he might play sophomore Sheray Thomas tonight. He was sidelined by a preseason surgery and didn't return to action until playing 90 seconds against Louisville and six minutes against William & Mary last week.

"He played in the first half last game and I thought he did okay," Smith said. "He's doing better in practice. I've been very impressed that he is as far along as he is considering he did not do that much in the fall."

Smith said Thomas is still a "ways off" from being 100 percent.

"I am not sure that will happen this year," Smith said.

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