By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Billy Gillispie's first Kentucky team
has two seniors, enough injured players for a starting lineup and a
sixth man, and of course the high expectations that greet the
Wildcats every season.
Don't feel too sorry for him, though.
"I'm not looking for any excuses, believe me," Gillispie said
Thursday at Southeastern Conference media days. "And our team
isn't either. The only thing that's been tough for us has been the
injuries. Whoever plays for us, we're expected to win, and no one
expects to win more than our players or me.
"We're not looking for any sympathy from anybody."
That's good, because they're unlikely to get any. Certainly not
from his peers in the SEC East, who don't hesitate to designate
Gillispie's Wildcats as league title contenders, maybe even the
They point not only to the returning guards, Joe Crawford and
Ramel Bradley, but also incoming freshman forward Patrick
Patterson, a McDonald's All-American and one of the nation's top
"I think they're the team to beat in the SEC East," said
Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, whose team was actually picked to win the
league. "I think it's going to be Kentucky. Their backcourt is
terrific. It is deep, it is experienced. The frontcourt is young
but Patrick Patterson has a chance to be the newcomer of the year
in our league."
Adds Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings: "I would say Tennessee's the
favorite but those of us who have been around the league long
enough, none of us would be surprised if Kentucky did what Kentucky
has done a lot of times and that's figure out a way to win a
Gillispie is more interested in figuring out a way to get
healthy at the moment. Crawford and guard Derrick Jasper and center
Jared Carter all had offseason surgery and have missed some
Guard Michael Porter is recovering from a concussion and Perry
Stevenson and Ramon Harris both have had their noses broken during
No wonder Gillispie deflected a question about his likely
starting five with the Wildcats' first exhibition game upcoming
"We're just trying to get five guys that can practice," he
said. "We have not had one day that we didn't have four guys miss
since we started. That's been the most difficult part of being able
to figure out any kind of rotation. It's way too early to be trying
to figure out all those things. I'm way more concerned about
finishers than I am about starters."
Gillispie does expect the 6-foot-9 Patterson to make an
immediate impact. The Wildcats are having to replace starting
forwards Randolph Morris and Bobby Perry.
"He should make a major difference in our team," Gillispie
said. "Even though I want everyone to give him a chance to
breathe, we're going to expect a lot out of him right from the word
go. He should have a great career, I would think."
The former Texas A&M coach replaced Tubby Smith, who left to
take over the Minnesota program. Smith's departure after leading
the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament is evidence of
the kind of high-pressure job Gillispie has undertaken.
"I would think it's the best position in the world," Bradley
said. "Everyone loves you when you win. It's like you're a big
rock star. But at the same time he's definitely under a microscope.
He has to watch every little thing he does. He has to be perfect.
"Every time we lose, they're going to blame it on the head
coach. I think it's the best thing in the world and I think it can
be the toughest thing in the world."
Gillispie's timing has been good in one sense, at least. The
Wildcats 14th-ranked football team has grabbed some of the
spotlight for a change.
"I think that helps coach out a lot, not only coach but it
helps us out a lot," Bradley said. "Wherever we go now, it's not
Gillispie still comes into a division where rivals include
two-time defending national champion Florida and four teams that
went to the NCAA tournament last season.
None of that seems to faze Gillispie, though.
"If you spend a lot of time worrying about things you can't
control, you're wasting energy," he said. "And we don't have any
energy to be wasting.
"Expectations don't scare me."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)