Padgett, Sheppard aim to convert 2nd chances Two 'Cats seek redemption for missed glory in '96, '97

Men's notebook

March 30, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

SAN ANTONIO -- For Kentucky starters Scott Padgett and Jeff Sheppard, tonight's game against Utah at the Alamodome represents more than just a chance to play for the national championship. It's also a chance to make up for lost opportunities.

Padgett lost his chance two years ago as a freshman, when he flunked out of school at midseason and the Wildcats went on to win a national championship. Sheppard missed out last year, when he was redshirted by former coach Rick Pitino and Kentucky reached the championship game.

They will both play pivotal roles against the Utes.

Padgett, a 6-foot-9 forward, is both an inside presence and an outside threat. Sheppard, a 6-3 guard, has become Kentucky's hottest player. Sheppard scored a career-high 27 points in Saturday's 86-85 overtime semifinal win over Stanford, while Padgett added 10 points and six rebounds.

Asked if it was difficult to sit out last season and then watch a team with an injury-depleted backcourt lose to Arizona in the final, Sheppard said: "I had a great time last year sitting out. It was a neat experience to be with the team during the tournament run. But anybody who has a competitive spirit wants to be involved in that."

After his academic problems as a freshman, Padgett returned home to Louisville, where he worked a number of jobs. Among them was helping his cousin in a landscape business and working as a telemarketer. "I tried to sell things to people they didn't need," Padgett said.

Padgett returned to Lexington the next fall and, under terms set by Pitino, couldn't become eligible until attaining a 3.0 grade-point average. He has since become an honor roll student.

"I think it ended up being a blessing in disguise," Padgett said. "I think I have grown up a lot and matured because of the experience. And I have definitely become a better student."

Coaching contrast

Kentucky coach Tubby Smith and Utah coach Rick Majerus present an interesting contrast in personalities.

Smith, who learned the game while playing for and later coaching under the ultra-serious J. D. Barnett, is all business. Majerus, who playing briefly for and later worked under the free-spirited Al McGuire, is a media darling with a propensity for one-liners.

Asked yesterday to describe the similarities and differences between himself and Majerus, Smith said: "Similarities? We had the same name from what I read this morning. Somebody named him Tubby and named me Tubby. He is a much funnier guy than I am. I could be a little more humorous. He's got a great program."

When Smith's comments were relayed to Majerus, the Utah coach said with a straight face, "Coach Dean Smith?"

After the laughter subsided, Majerus said, "I don't know Tubby that well. A good friend of mine, Jim Crews, knows Tubby. He thinks Tubby is really funny.

"I don't know about personalities. He makes so much money, if he gives me some, I will write a few lines for him."

Pub Date: 3/30/98

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