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From the Pressbox: Notes from Tom Leach (Feb. 25)

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So who's the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year this season?

Florida is tied for the fewest losses and is the league's highest-ranked team, but there is no one standout for the Gators. Kentucky's Terrence Jones ranks fourth in scoring and first in rebounding, but it will be hard for him to get enough votes because of the Wildcats' worse-than-normal league record.

We put the question to ESPN analyst and former Alabama coach Mark Gottfried.

"There are three or four guys that jump off the page," Gottfried said on "The Leach Report" radio show. "Number one is John Jenkins. I think he's probably the frontrunner, in my opinion. Right behind him, I'm probably leaning toward my man JaMychal Green at Alabama. I think what they're doing is terrific. Then you get into some guys like Scotty Hopson, Chris Warren, and Brandon Knight is in that conversation."

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"We're a defense-first team" is the message John Calipari is continuing to push to his players as we head down the stretch run of the college basketball season, and he's also putting a heavy emphasis on rebounding.

That latter issue bit the Cats again in the overtime loss at Arkansas, as they gave up 22 offensive rebounds, including one that led to the game-tying basket in regulation play. Calipari noted before the Arkansas game that his team had made significant progress in the stat the coaches track that measure how often players attempt to go after missed shots, whether or not they actually capture the ball.

"If we have attempts to offensive and defensive rebound, normally we're pretty good," Calipari said. "From the Florida game to now, it's not even close. Our attempts are double what they were at Florida on offense and defense. We lost a close game because of three offensive rebounds late, so hopefully we've learned from that."

Obviously the Cats regressed a bit against the Razorbacks and that constant two-steps-forward, one-step-back progression for this squad has to be maddening to the coaching staff. Calipari knows that with a little more consistency, several of the Cats' losses would have been victories.

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There are three left-handers among Kentucky's top 10 all-time leading scorers (Jack Givens, Kevin Grevey, Tayshaun Prince) and chances are that Terrence Jones would join them if he were to stay at UK for three or four years.

Jones has guard-like skills in a 6-foot-8, 250-pound body and versatility makes him very hard to guard, but one of those southpaw stars, Los Angeles Lakers scout Grevey, would like to see Jones spend more of his time in the paint.

"He's got so many weapons," Grevey said in a recent appearance on WKJK radio. "He can drive, he can pass, he can handle. You take what the defense gives you, yes, but sometimes you've got to force your own will on them. The defense has given him that outside shot and he (sometimes) settles for it and that plays into the hands of your opponent."

With an ability to dominate inside and out, not to mention his left-handed tendencies, Grevey said Jones reminds him of Lakers star Lamar Odom. 

"He has that ability to put that ball on the floor and we keep trying to tell him to take it to the basket, draw fouls, put pressure on the defense and create," Grevey said. "I think we need to see more of that from TJ and it will make his teammates better, too."

Gottfried, as a former coach, sees some of those same issues with Jones.

"I'd really like to see him be a more effective player (from) five feet and in," Gottfried said. "I think he's good there but he can get better and really punish people with his size. He's a great dribble-drive guy, but with his quickness, he can be very effective around the basket."

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Hoop Scoop publisher Clark Francis recently released his annual prep All-America teams in Basketball Times and three future Wildcats, Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, were named to the first team.

Duke signee Austin Rivers joined them on the first team, along with one junior.

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