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Experienced Patterson more NBA ready than most draft counterparts

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MBSK 09_10 UK_FLA Web 07.jpgThe NBA Draft - and the NBA for that matter - has traded in the immediate need to improve for the prospect of potential greatness. 

The draft itself is a one-night blockbuster, hyped up like its brother, the NFL Draft, to produce amateurs into marketable superstars. Forget the fact that most of this year's entrants have never played professionally. It's about flash, money and the prospect of tomorrow.

In that sense, Patrick Patterson is a rare breed. While his counterparts enter Thursday night's draft with youth, potential and all-world ability, Patterson enters with experience, intelligence and the readiness to contribute right away.

Apparently that only gets you so far these days.

"I've seen the drafts where they draft a bunch of sophomores and freshmen before they draft juniors and seniors," Patterson said. "In the few mock drafts I've seen, they have myself and other veterans of college basketball late and all the freshmen and younger people earlier just because of potential. They say they have more room to go and that they haven't hit their full potential yet. We've played so much at the college level and we've improved that they don't feel like we can go any farther."

Don't feel too sorry for Patterson - he's still a heavy favorite to go in the first 14 picks of the draft.

But while his younger competition garners all the attention with magazine covers and endorsement deals, Patterson quietly but eagerly is waiting by to find out where he'll be playing out his lifelong and professional dream.

"Myself, Damion James, Craig Brackins, Cole Aldrich, we've been in college basketball for a long time," Patterson said. "We're veterans and we're experienced. We've proven ourselves from playing many games in college basketball."

After three seasons at Kentucky, years in which Patterson helped guide the program out of unforeseen mediocrity and back to national prominence, he's seen and done it all.

Where other draft hopefuls bring in one, sometimes two years of college experience, Patterson brings in three years of professionalism. Although his numbers dipped in 2009-10 (14.3 points and 7.4 rebounds) as he moved over for the country's most talented crop of youth, he developed a perimeter game, an outside jump shot and the ability to put the ball on the floor, in addition to his already rock-solid inside game.

Patterson doesn't mind the magazine covers and the attention the other draft hopefuls and even some of his former Kentucky teammates are getting - after all, Patterson has gotten plenty himself with a diary on Sports Illustrated and his own domain name on the World Wide Web - but he is confident that he possesses traits that NBA teams should consider when choosing their future in Madison Square Garden.

He's experienced, he's mature and he's well-rounded. Patterson is quite arguably the most NBA-ready player in the 2010 draft.

For those reasons maybe more than any other, some team is going to take the most calculated chance of the draft and pick Patterson before the first half of the first round is over.

"I feel like I can come in and start right off the bat," Patterson said. "I feel like I can come in right away and make any impact that the coaching staff needs me to do. I definitely feel like I'm NBA ready because I have an NBA-ready body, I'm emotionally stable and ready, and also I'm a team player on and off the court. I feel like I can come in and do my part. Teams will have no worries with me off the court."

The three-year starter at UK said he is well aware of the youth movement that has taken over recent drafts. As misconceived as it might be, there is a developing notion by some people around the draft that younger is better. They believe that if a player was so good, he wouldn't have waited so many years to make the jump.

MBSK 09_10 UK_FLA Web 17.jpg"We know that we don't get the potential talk like some of the other freshmen do, but we're just all about going out and proving why we belong here," said Patterson, who added that getting his degree was one of the biggest reasons he stuck around for a third year.

While the stock of the "potentials" fluctuates with every new mock draft, Patterson appears to be one of the few constants. Teams know what they're going to get with Patterson.

"Basically just because I'm being myself," Patterson said while noting the growing importance of today's pre-draft interviews with the NBA general managers and coaches. "I impress the teams with my character, my maturity level and my ability to talk - and talk with confidence - in the meetings."

Patterson credited his parents for instilling discipline and confidence in him at an early age ("They taught me how to be responsible and how to be a man growing up," Patterson said of his parents), but don't overlook the influence Kentucky had on the 6-foot-9 forward from Huntington, W.Va.

Playing for the NCAA's winningest team, the country's most prestigious program and the game's most passionate fans has instilled an intangibility of professionalism that few other players in the draft possess. 

"We're constantly in the spotlight (at Kentucky), constantly doing media, with the fans and the expectations," Patterson said. "I think what we're doing now as far as the interviews, communicating with the coaching staffs, the GMs, performing on the court and just understanding the pressure on the next level, it's almost equal to what Kentucky is.

"I think that puts us ahead and definitely prepares us for what it's going to be like at the next level."

The next level begins Thursday with the much-anticipated draft. Patterson figures to go in the lottery, and one team in particular that has fallen in favor of Patterson, according to reports, is the Indiana Pacers.

Patterson, who has primarily worked out in Indiana over the last month, believes he would be a good fit on a blue-collar team like Indiana.

"They want some more toughness on the team," Patterson said. "They already have a good team. I could come in at the four position and just be that tough guy that they need, and also scoring on the post, taking it on the perimeter, knocking down jump shots.

"I'm already well acquainted with the city. Just because of the type of person I am, I feel like I fit in with the organization because of my maturity level, me being emotionally ready being ready to come in and make an impact on and off the court, and just the effort I put in every day."

The hard work, the effort and the maturity are sure things at this point with Patterson. The only unexpected Thursday out of the most NBA-ready player in the draft might be the reaction from a guy that has patiently waited so long for this moment.

"It's just a surreal thing," Patterson said. "This is something I've always wanted, something I've dreamed for and something my family has always wanted for me. Now that it's a few days away, it's just pretty much a butterfly feeling (in my stomach) now. Now that it's here, it's something I can't wait for."

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