If not for his recovery from an ankle injury, Patrick Patterson would have been at Rupp Arena last month, to be a part of the Big Blue All-Stars in their matchup with some notable UK villains.
Many high school stars come to college with one foot already out the door to the NBA, but Patterson relished his time in Lexington as a Wildcat.
"(I loved) every minute of it. Staying after the games with the fans and signing autographs, helping out in the community, just being a true Kentucky basketball player. I had a tremendous time being there. It was the time of my like and I feel like whoever goes there should cherish every moment and do what I did," Patterson said, "help the community, do what you can and play hard on the court."
And if Patterson had any advice for UK's latest freshman class, it would be that they should enjoy the ride.
"Take it all in. Do as much as you can. Hang out with the fans as much as you can. Be a part of the Big Blue community. Go to as many athletic events as you can and get your face out there and have fun with it," Patterson said on "The Leach Report" radio show last week. "You only go this one time. College doesn't last that long and it goes by fast. If I could tell them anything, it would be have fun, work extremely hard and enjoy every second of it."
Patterson spent part of his first NBA season with the Houston Rockets in the developmental league but once he returned to the league, he quicky earned a spot in the rotation. Patterson finished the season averaging six points and four rebounds in about 17 minutes per game. But year two is on hold because of the NBA labor dispute.
"It's extremely frustrating for all of us in the NBA. We all love basketball and want to be out there playing but unfortunately we cant do that right now, so we are all staying ready and staying prepared and waiting for that phone call that says NBA season is underway again," Patterson explained, adding that his recovery from ankle surgery to clean up some old bone spurs is going well.
"Pretty much last year, I showcased my ability to shoot the ball around the perimeter, so this year I want to focus on posting up and getting the ball on the block like I did my sophomore year at Kentucky," Patterson continued. "I need to work a lot on my face-up game on the block and be able to score a good amount of points with my back to the basket and run in transition and build up my stamina."
For Patterson, the chance to play for John Calipari in his final season at UK provided a significant benefit.
"Coach Cal helped me a tremendous amount with my ballhandling, my footwork and ability to play around the perimeter. I am extremely thankful for what coach Cal has taught me and allowed me to do at Kentucky with that system in the Dribble Drive offense," Patterson explained. "I think Coach Cal was a tremendous help and a reach on why I was picked number 14."
Once Patterson got to Houston, another Kentucky connection paid dividends as former UK star Chuck Hayes proved to be a valuable mentor.
"Having Chuck there was great. I looked up to Chuck and he was like a mentor to me. He helped me out everyday, kept me positive, kept me straight and I felt like I could continue playing at this level with how he was talking to me and giving me advice and like I said, looking out for me," Patterson said. "I was thankful Chuck was on the Rockets while I was there and hopefully the lockout ends so he can re-sign a contract and keep playing with us."
Like most NBA players, Patterson says the biggest negative about the league is the travel. He says there was some insignificant hazing, like having to carry bags for other players and he added that there were a few moments where he found himself playing against someone he had idolized years earlier.
"Seeing Kobe Bryant for the first time. I remember having three posters of him in my room growing up and Shaq O'Neal, when I got to stand next to him and see how big and wide and tall he was," Patterson recalled. "I got that little kid feeling when I stepped on the court and played against players I had posters of and looked up to."
Patterson has kept in touch with his former UK teammates like Darius Miller, a player for whom Patterson has high expectations for the upcoming season.
"I spoke with Darius and he is enjoying himself. He feels like this will be a great year for himself but especially for Kentucky," said Patterson. "Darius has improved every year at Kentucky. I feel like this year will be an exceptional year for him. He can jump out of the gym and has improved a tremendous amount. He will be a leader, him and Terrence Jones and (they) will bring Kentucky a championship. I know myself and the rest of my family and friends look forward to what he (Miller) can do this year."