Patterson picks Kentucky
Proximity to home gives Wildcats edge over Florida
Posted: Wednesday May 16, 2007 4:46PM; Updated: Wednesday May 16, 2007 6:58PM
In the end, it was the two-hour driving distance from his Huntington, W.Va., home that put Kentucky above Florida on Patrick Patterson's short list.
"It was just distance," Patterson said in front of a Huntington High gymnasium crowd that included Kentucky fans. "I didn't want my family to have to move to watch me play. I'll enjoy being close and being able to come home."
Patterson, a 6-foot-8, 235-pound power forward who averaged 17 points, 12 points and four blocked shots this past season, was the last big player to sign his letter of intent, and he did so on the last day of the signing period. In recent weeks he had narrowed his college choices to Duke, Florida and Kentucky.
When asked what eliminated Florida, he said, "The thing that fell short for them was the distance. I didn't want to be 13 hours from here."
Regarding Duke, he said: "Coach K is a great coach, but I just wasn't really feeling the team when I met with them like I had at the other schools."
Standing by his side, his parents, Buster and Tywanna, said they were happy he would be staying close to home.
A teammate of USC-bound guard O.J. Mayo -- they led the team to a 25-2 record and a national ranking this past season -- Patterson had the spotlight to himself recently as schools courted him, but he said he took the extra time in order to make the best choice possible.
Kentucky's chances were uncertain after Tubby Smith bolted for Minnesota, but Patterson said he was impressed by new head coach Billy Gillispie's attitude and commitment to players.
"I saw what he did at his last school [Texas A&M], and Kentucky was always a favorite of mine. Their fans are great."
With that comment, a Kentucky fan yelled out, "We love you, P.P." To which Patterson said, 'I love you, too."
Many believed that Patterson would partner with his friend Jai Lucas, who committed to Florida on Monday. Instead, he declared his independence with Wednesday's announcement.
"Jai was calling me a lot since he decided, but I had to do what was best for me," Patterson said. "The X factor was moving. I didn't want my family to have to set up in Jacksonville and go away from here."
Now back to normalcy after months of speculation about where he would finally sign, Patterson says he's looking forward to some peace. "I can go back to being a kid again," he said. "No more reporters, no more coaches calling."