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Standing Pat (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday April 25, 2007 2:23PM; Updated: Thursday April 26, 2007 5:10PM
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The attention, for one, is nice. Patterson was not the MVP of the Jordan game (that award was split by Syracuse-bound Donte Green and Villanova-bound Corey Fisher) nor was he the highest-ranked recruit on the floor (there were eight players there ranked ahead of him in Rivals.com's 150). Yet, Patterson has become a prominent name among college hoops fans, and was arguably the most important player there, because the decision he makes in May has the potential to make a major, late impact on any program he chooses. He has a Shelden Williams-esque body, the desire to have a four-year college career, and the ability to play substantial minutes as a freshman.

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In the sparse crowd at the Garden, which included His Airness as well as NBA players Rudy Gay, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala and Charlie Villanueva, there was only one fan holding a sign. It was a piece of hand-lettered white posterboard that read "Patrick and Jai, Come to UK" (Jai being Jai Lucas, the second-biggest recruit left on the market, who is also considering Kentucky and Florida and may end up in the same place as Patterson).

Patterson's parents noticed the sign -- Buster took a picture of it, and Tywanna gave the man a thumbs-up. "That's creativity," she said, laughing. "They've got some loyal fans. At the McDonald's All-American game, they had posters of Patrick's face on a UK uniform. We were like, 'Thank you, guys!' We had love there in Louisville."

A number of the Jordan game All-Stars were also attempting to use their powers of persuasion on Patterson. Duke recruit Kyle Singler was selling the virtues of the Blue Devils' program. The Florida-bound duo Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons -- who were conspicuously placed on the same team and playing rotation as Patterson on Saturday -- were giving him the full-court press, which according to Patterson included as much chatter about the quality of co-eds in Gainesville as it did the opportunities created by the mass exodus of the Gators' Oh-Fours to the NBA Draft.

Even teams not previously involved with Patterson are comically attempting to step in at the 11th hour. His final list has stayed the same for months: Florida, Kentucky, Duke, West Virginia, Virginia, Wake Forest. Yet, Ohio State's Thad Matta called Kosta Koufos, the 7-foot Buckeye commitment and one of Patterson's teammates in the Jordan game, and asked him if he would pass the phone over to the high-school free agent, who just might be able to fill one of the scholarship vacancies presented by the possible departures of Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook.

Said Patterson: "[Kosta] was like, 'Pat, my coach wants to talk to you.' I started laughing, but he was like, 'For real, he wants to talk to you.' ... [Matta] said, 'We've got people leaving at Ohio State; I'm just wondering if you're open enough for us to come in and recruit you.' I said, 'No thank you, and I wish you best of luck.'"

A commonly held perception whenever a recruit drags out the process in the range of the May 16 deadline is that its being done solely for the attention, but one does not get that feeling with Patterson. If his short list had been, say, Duke, UCLA, Kansas and UConn -- all places with coaching situations guaranteed to be stable -- that allegation could be made, but given the uncertainty that surrounded what appear to be his top two choices, Florida and Kentucky, he shouldn't be called attention-starved. Patterson and his parents should simply be called smart. Their final decision will be a fully informed one, complete with the knowledge of exactly which coaches will or won't be around, and which players are in and out of the draft.

Donovan was scheduled to make a visit to the Patterson home on Wednesday, and Mike Krzyzewski was set to come to Huntington on April 30 for Patrick's final in-house meeting. Gillispie, to his credit, made Patterson one of his top priorities -- along with Lucas and Alex Legion, who recently inked with UK after decommitting from Michigan -- after taking the Kentucky job on April 7. Having to play catch-up against coaches who have multi-year relationships with the Patterson family, but working with the built-in advantage that their home is approximately a two-hour drive from Lexington, Gillispie made a bold move during his visit, handing Patterson a detailed, day-by-day plan for his entire first year as a Wildcat.

"I was shocked," Patterson said. "All the coaches that come to my home say they have a plan for me, but [Gillispie] came with a plan. He had my freshman year all on a chart, from the classes I'd be taking, to practice, to weightlifting, he had everything planned out."

New Kentucky assistant Jeremy Cox and Gillispie have been among the most aggressive text-messagers to Patterson of late. A day in the life of the nation's last great uncommitted recruit is not exactly calm at this point -- it tends to begin with a wake-up call, he says, of texts from either Cox, Gillispie, Donovan or Virginia assistant Steve Seymour. Duke, Patterson said, hadn't been texting him much, but he did receive one from Blue Devils' assistant Chris Collins the day of the Jordan game. After the wake-up call, Patterson is off to school, where, he says, his friends hassle him about coaches and recruiting, teachers give him their opinions on his college choices, and reporters will occasionally breach etiquette by calling him during school hours. After school, reporters from Kentucky or Florida will ring his house looking for updates, and the text messages will flow back in from coaches at night.

Patterson said the crush "is getting to him," to the point that he frequently doesn't answer the phone. But that doesn't mean he'll be ending the suspense over his college decision any earlier than he has to. Tywanna said that, "Knowing Patrick, he'll probably wait until the 14th or 15th of May to say, 'This is where I'm going.'"

In the meantime, Tywanna said that her cell phone provider is now offering an expanded plan that gives unlimited texts within the mobile network and includes 6,000 text messages outside of it. Although, given the intensity of this recruiting battle -- and the prolific texting habits of the combatants -- it still may not do the trick.

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