Everything has to get better for James Blackmon, who nearly left Kentucky after last season because of communication problems with Hall. Blackmon has a pair of bad knees, but, even so, he has been a disappointment in his first two seasons. Sutton has a reputation for developing guards ( Moncrief, Darrell Walker, Alvin Robertson and Ron Brewer at Arkansas), and Blackmon is cut from the same cloth. "The word I'd use for James so far is 'rejuvenated,' " says Bennett.
Blackmon, Roger Harden and Ed Davender make an effective backcourt rotation. Like Blackmon, Davender also feels a lot better about things. "This guy [ Sutton] has put a bunch of guards in the NBA," Davender told Walker after Sutton was hired, "and I'm going to be next." Davender will be recognizable by his accurate jumpers, Harden by his Converse sneakers. The rest of the team will be wearing Nikes.
Will the new feeling in the Kentucky air help the Wildcats improve on last season's 18-13 finish? "No doubt about it, Coach Sutton is a whole lot looser than Coach Hall was," says Walker. "But for me there wasn't a communication problem with Coach Hall. The door was always open."
"Yes, the door was open," says Harden, "but was he listening to what you said? Would he consider it with an open mind, or would what you said be held against you?"
And will Kentucky fans hold it against Eddie Sutton if he wins only 75% of his games?