LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - New Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie said he wasn't surprised that coveted power forward Patrick Patterson picked the Wildcats. What surprised him was that Patterson kept it a surprise.
When the recruit from Huntington High School in West Virginia announced his collegiate choice Wednesday from a short list that also included Florida and Duke, even his new coach remained in the dark until the news conference.
``I've been involved in a few recruiting situations,'' Gillispie said Thursday. ``You always know before the announcement is made. This is like being a bubble team and seeing your name appear on the screen on Selection Sunday. We didn't know. We had no idea until he put his hat on.''
The hat - beige with the blue letters UK - marked the first major recruiting coup for Gillispie, just six weeks after taking the reins of college basketball's winningest program.
Gillispie gave former coach Tubby Smith and his staff much of the credit for landing Patterson, who fills a glaring need on a guard-heavy team. The 6-foot-8 Patterson led his high school to three straight Class AAA championships, last year with the help of O.J. Mayo.
``When you draw up a power forward for me, he possesses everything you need to have,'' Gillispie said. ``He has great size and athletic ability, extremely long arms. He has really good hands. He's tougher than anything.''
Patterson was one of the final blue-chip high school prospects to designate a college choice, and his decision came after other Kentucky targets - including point guard Jai Lucas - opted to go elsewhere. Lucas picked Billy Donovan with the two-time defending national champion Florida Gators and urged his friend Patterson to join him.
``I wanted to stay close to home. I didn't want to have to move my family,'' he said. ``The key thing was distance. I do get homesick a lot.''
Gillispie said Patterson also embraced the passionate Kentucky fan base. He sent the recruit text messages urging him to be a leader, not a follower - although Gillispie insisted that wasn't meant to suggest Patterson would be a follower if he joined Lucas at Florida.
Although there will be plenty of opportunities to renew the Kentucky-Florida rivalry, Gillispie said he doesn't view recruiting as part of that - even though the two players considered both of the schools.
``You get a chance when you play a game to go toe to toe,'' Gillispie said. ``You don't really have any encounters or confrontations in recruiting. There's space in those kind of things.''
Kentucky has one unfilled scholarship for next year, but Gillispie didn't indicate whether he would fill it.
``We're going to step up to the plate with recruiting,'' he said. ``We're going to swing and miss, but we're going to hit some home runs too. I'm not afraid to fail, and I don't think those guys are either.''

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