HOOPS RECRUITING: No Hints From Patterson

College basketball recruiting’s last game of high stakes poker at the top level will have to wait until April 3 to see what Patrick Patterson is holding in his hand. The 6-8 power forward from Huntington, West Virginia is the last remaining uncommitted player in Scout.com’s top 40. Everybody knows the cards he’s holding but nobody knows which card he’ll play when he announces.

Patterson and his parents spent the weekend in Gainesville on an unofficial visit at the University of Florida, one of six remaining schools on Patterson’s list along with Kentucky, Duke, Wake Forest, Virginia and West Virginia. He says the visit to Florida went very well, but he’s not going to give any hints one way or the other if the Gators made headway on the rest of the pack.

“I had a great visit,” said Patterson, who will be playing with Florida signees Nick Calathes and Chandler Parsons in the Jordan All-America Game and with Calathes in the McDonald’s game. “I hung around with the players, spent some time with them where they live, went bowling and just had a good time with them.

“I spent time with the coaches, too, and that was good. I enjoyed that a lot. I got to know more about the University of Florida and I’ve got a lot more information about the school that will help me make a final decision.”

Patterson was at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center Sunday afternoon when the Gators beat Kentucky, 85-72, their sixth straight win over the Wildcats. The Gators became the only school in Southeastern Conference history to beat Kentucky six straight times.

As he watched the Gators, he tried to pay close attention to the way Coach Billy Donovan runs his offense and sets up his defense.

“I think they’re well coached,” he said. “I saw where I can fit in and contribute right away if I choose Florida.”

Patterson is averaging 16.9 points and 12 rebounds per game for Huntington High School, which is four games away from becoming the first team in West Virginia history to win three straight state championships. Huntington plays Cabell Midland Tuesday night for the Region VII championship. The Highlanders are 21-2 this season. They have won 24 state games against in-state competition and everyone in West Virginia says they are the odds-on favorite to do the three-peat.

“Nobody’s ever done it, so it’s a pretty big deal,” said Patterson. “It’s a chance to make some history.”

Huntington was already considered one of the best teams in the nation coming into the season with Patterson and Oklahoma-bound teammate Chris Early on the team, but O.J. Mayo, Scout.com’s number one ranked player in the nation, came back home to West Virginia after spending the last two years in Cincinnati. The two-time Ohio Player of the Year has picked up where he left off in Ohio, averaging 29 points a game including a 47-point outburst last week in Huntington’s narrow loss to St. Patrick’s of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Playing with Mayo has been a real experience for Patterson, who says the two have formed a close friendship.

“He’s definitely living up to the hype,” said Patterson of his USC-bound teammate. “You watch what he does and it shows the type of player he is and what kind of future he has. Every game he does something amazing.”

Once he finishes the high school season and plays in some all-star games, he will announce where he’s going to play college basketball. Ever the poker player who maintains a stoic look on his face when asked about where he’s going to college, Patterson is offering no hints.

“Still the same six in it as last week,” he said. “Nothing’s changed.”

Franz Beard
Back in January of 1969, the late, great Jack Hairston, then the sports editor of the Jacksonville Journal, called me on the phone one night and asked me if I wanted to work for him. I said yes. The entire interview took 30 seconds. It's my experience that whenever the interview lasts 30 seconds or less, I get the job. In the 48 years that I've been writing and getting paid for it, I've covered Super Bowls, World Series, NCAA basketball championships, BCS championship games, heavyweight title fights and what seems like thousands of college football, baseball and basketball games. I'm a columnist and special assignments editor for Gator Country once again, writing about the only team that ever mattered to me, the Florida Gators.