Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has one word to summarize last season,
which started out with the hope of a Final Four appearance but
devolved into a misery of suspensions, fights, bad chemistry,
horrible shooting and 10 losses for the third consecutive year:
As soon as it ended, with a 78-68 loss to Maryland in the Sweet
16, Smith began to clean house. Three players were dismissed, and
another, Rashaad Carruth, transferred to Oklahoma, where he has
already been kicked off the team. That has left Smith with a thin
frontcourt and a lot of question marks.
The Wildcats expect to get immediate help from prized junior
college transfer Antwain Barbour, a versatile 6'5" swingman who
spurned Louisville, the school he grew up rooting for. He will
team with a collection of players who have much to prove. Junior
point guard Cliff Hawkins, academically ineligible until
mid-December, has to prove he can hit the books. Junior shooting
guard Gerald Fitch, who was suspended three times last year--once
for fighting on the team plane--has to prove he can keep his
head. And senior swingman Keith Bogans, a former McDonald's
All-American, has to prove he can be a reliable scorer again.
After leading Kentucky with 17.0 points a game as a sophomore,
Bogans decided to return to school after testing the NBA waters,
only to see his average plummet to 11.6 points. "At first when I
had trouble shooting, I put too much pressure on myself, figuring
I had to make a shot rather than let the game come to me, and
that started to weigh on me," says Bogans. It didn't help that
reporters ignored the things Bogans was doing well--"I led the
team in charges [taken]; no one asked about that," he says.
Bogans eventually pulled out of his funk, averaging 18.3 points
in the Wildcats' three NCAA tournament games. That's the kind of
output he has to sustain this year. "Personally, I want to play
better than I did last season, but my team goals come first,"
says Bogans. "I've had all sorts of individual accomplishments,
but I've never won a national championship or been to a Final
Four. This is my last chance to do it." --K.A.
COLOR PHOTO: BOB ROSATO FALLEN STAR Bogans's game was in decline for much of the year, but he came on in the NCAAs, averaging 18.3 points.
POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT
PF Chuck Hayes 6'6" So. 4.5 rpg
SF Antwain Barbour 6'5" Jr. 14.4 ppg*
C Marquis Estill 6'9" Sr. 62.4 FG%
SG Keith Bogans 6'5" Sr. 11.6 ppg
PG Gerald Fitch 6'3" Jr. 8.9 ppg
*In junior college
2001-02 RECORD: 22-10 (10-6, T1 in SEC East)
TOURNAMENT: Lost to Maryland in Sweet 16
Consecutive games with at least one three-point field goal. Only
UNLV (507) and Vanderbilt (504) have longer
An opposing coach's view
The Wildcats have talent, but can they shoot consistently?
"From a chemistry standpoint, it seems they've righted the ship. I
think coach Tubby Smith has the guys there now who want to be
there and do things his way.... You have to think Keith Bogans is
going to play with a lot of hunger this year. His strength is his
biggest asset. For him to be really good, he can't live and die
at the three-point line.... Cliff Hawkins is by far their best
point guard, so I wouldn't look for them to hit their stride
until early January.... Forward Jules Camara might be better
suited for the NBA because he's long [at 6'11"] and can really
run the floor. He's not a banger, but he's going to get a lot of
minutes.... Their biggest problem is going to be outside
shooting. Guard Josh Carrier might be their best shooter coming
off the bench, but the guys ahead of him in the rotation haven't
shown they can shoot consistently."