The last of the nation's top high school recruits made it official Wednesday afternoon as Patrick Patterson announced he would play his college ball at Kentucky.
Patterson made his choice known by slipping on a UK hat during a live news conference at Huntington High School. The 6'8" power forward averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds per game in leading his school to a state championship.
AP STORY: Kentucky scores: Patterson picks Wildcats to be closer to home
By APRIL VITELLO
Associated Press Writer
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Huntington High School's Patrick Patterson will take his ball-playing skills to the University of Kentucky.
The 6-foot-8 power forward, one of the last highly touted prospects in the Division I basketball program, announced his decision Wednesday, the last day of the signing period.
Five other Division I teams courted Patterson: Duke, Florida, Virginia, Wake Forest and West Virginia.
Last week he narrowed his choices to Duke, Florida and Kentucky, then to Florida and Kentucky.
Patterson said it came down to matter of distance. He chose Kentucky because he wanted to be close to his family.
"Proximity was the X factor. It was the deciding factor. I wanted to stay close to home, I didn't want to have to move my family to Jacksonville," Patterson said.
"The key thing was distance. I do get homesick a lot."
While taking an hour-long walk Tuesday night around Ritter Park in Huntington, he said, his choice became clear. When his mother asked him if he was 100 percent sure, he said, yes.
"I do like Florida a lot, and my parents were willing to move to Florida for me. I just didn't want to move my family there to start over," Patterson said.
Both of his parents were by his side at Huntington High's gymnasium when he announced his decision. They said they were proud of their son and happy that he will be close to home.
"I am a Duke fan, I grew up in the Carolinas. But I am a Wildcat fan now, this will be OK," said Patterson's father, Buster Patterson.
"Academics always factored in the Patterson household. You've got to have another dream. Not everybody is going to get to the next level. So it's about education. His grades, if he didn't make honor roll, daddy wasn't happy. That was his job, stay on honor roll and he did that. I know he can do the work," Buster Patterson said.
Patterson helped lead the Highlanders to an unprecedented three-straight Class AAA championships, the last one with the help of O.J. Mayo, who is off to Southern Cal in the fall. The two led the team to a 25-2 record and a national ranking this past season.
Patterson's senior year was his best season - 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots per game.
He had 14 points and seven blocked shots in Huntington's 103-61 victory over South Charleston in this year's Class AAA title game. Patterson sat down with 2:33 left in the game to a standing ovation from the near-sellout crowd.
He was the state's 2006 Player of the Year and finished 30 votes this year behind Mayo's 93. Both were also selected to the McDonald's All-American team and to the Class AAA all-state first team.
Kentucky basketball coach Billy Gillispie said the Wildcats were fortunate to land Patterson.
"This is a great day for Kentucky basketball," Gillispie said in a statement Wednesday night.
"We're grateful he chose to extend his recruitment to the last day of the signing period because it gave us a chance to develop a relationship and that's the most important part of recruiting. Obviously, it was a family decision, and a well thought out one. I'm glad he chose Kentucky."
Kentucky fan and alumnus Ken O'Roark, who lives in Huntington and attended Wednesday's news conference, said Patterson's talents will be good for the Wildcats.
"I think this is potentially the biggest recruit we have signed in 20 plus years since Rex Chapman. I am elated, and I think he made a great decision. He will be adored and loved by UK fans for his tenure at UK and forever."
Huntington resident Nate Adkins, a UK graduate also in attendance, said Patterson will fill a "big need for our team in the interior portion. I expect him to get a lot of rebounds, ... and I think this puts us back in position where we could win a national championship again."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)