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From the Pressbox: Notes from Leach (March 4)

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Darius Miller is the player many fans and pundits point to as the guy who could make Kentucky a much better team by playing at a consistently higher level. But ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes is thinking that guy might be freshman Doron Lamb instead.

"When I watch Kentucky on the road versus at home, he's a different player," Dykes told "The Leach Report" on WKJK-AM. "He's another dangerous guy to have to guard. He can shoot it, he's got that middle game and he defended (John) Jenkins really well (Tuesday night). He may hold the key to their success in March. A lot of it is how hard he plays. He's a lot more aggressiveness, he fights through screens and he's more aggressive looking for his shot (at home).If he plays on the road or a neutral floor like he has a lot of times at Rupp Arena, Kentucky is a lot better team."

It's interesting to note that in Southeastern Conference play, Lamb is hitting better than 50 percent of his 3s but only 7 of 24 on the road.

Dykes, who will work next week's SEC Tournament in Atlanta for ESPN, is one who also believes Kentucky is an improved team but one with a good bit of upside still left to tap into.

"I think they're better now than they were two weeks ago," Dykes said. "I thought their game-day practice Tuesday was better than I've seen it all year. They had natural enthusiasm and energy and Cal wasn't having to drag it out of them and get on them. I see signs of this team getting better and they're still not close to being a finished product."

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Josh Harrellson, aka "Jorts," reveled in his Senior Night experience and he also made some key plays down the stretch in Kentucky's 68-66 win over Vanderbilt. It was classic Harrellson -- a key block, solid defense, important rebounds. It was nothing flashy but it's what outside observers appreciate about what Harrellson has accomplished this season.

"I want you to take this the right way. He's not a great player, so what he's doing this year is tremendous," said former Alabama coach and ESPN analyst Mark Gottfried. "You've got to remember last year he couldn't get off the bench. You want your players to play at their highest level. He's giving Kentucky all he can give. I love how he rebounds the ball now with two hands, he hangs around the rim, he concentrates on his putbacks. He's a role player and he doesn't pout when he doesn't get the ball."

"He's a guy that understands his role," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said on a recent SEC teleconference. "He knows who he is. As a coach, that's one of the more challenging things because most young people think they're a little more than they really are in terms of what they can do successfully on a consistent basis. He brings them a physical presence and he really impacts games for them in his own way."

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Late last season, I had an e-mail request from a fan who said he couldn't get tickets to a game but wondered if he could come into Rupp Arena just for the postgame radio show. Even as late as the Vandy game ended on a weeknight, hundreds of Wildcat fans hung around to listen to head coach John Calipari's courtside radio interview on the Big Blue Sports Network.

NBC's Tom Hammond, the longtime TV voice of SEC basketball, was listening on his drive home from the game and reflected on how it reminded him of the postgame interviews done by legendary UK coach Adolph Rupp.

"You introduced Coach Cal and then didn't say another word until the first commercial break," Hammond told me on "The Leach Report" radio show Wednesday. "That's reminiscent of Coach Rupp. You'd ask one question and he'd run with it. (Cal) likes to bring the fans into it and I think that works well."

Hammond said Rupp could be crusty with the media but also had a charming side.

"I got a couple of thank you notes for things that I did on coverage and I can't imagine today a coach doing that today," Hammond said. "On the other hand, I had a story on the local sports one night and he called me afterward and said, 'Tom, we don't need stories like that.' But I stood up for the story and from that point on, it was like I earned his respect. He was an interesting man to work with."

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Condolences go out to the family of a former Wildcat, Lawrence "Dude" Hennessey, who died this week in Alabama at the age of 81.

Hennessey started as a freshman at defensive end (at 150 pounds) for the 1950 Sugar Bowl and national champion Kentucky football team and was a  longtime assistant coach for Paul "Bear" Bryant at Alabama.

He grew up in my hometown of Paris, Ky., and I had the pleasure of interviewing him several years ago when Alabama visited UK for a game. I can't remember a more enjoyable visit than the one I had with Hennessey, listening to his stories about the Bear. 

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