Patrick Ignites Sparks—Again

By Steve LeMaster

Right now, University of Kentucky junior guard Patrick Sparks is one of the Commonwealth’s favorite sons. Sparks has been named the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Player of the Week for a second time. Sparks, who came to UK following a successful two-year stay at Western Kentucky University, earns the latest SEC PoW honor following his 26-point performance on the road at Alabama. On Saturday, Feb. 26, Sparks simply ignited, lighting the host Tide up to the tune of seven-made three-point field goals.

Against Alabama, Sparks connected on a career-high seven three-pointers, the third most in school history. His long-range effort helped Kentucky to a come-from-behind 78-71 win over a team Wildcat Coach Tubby Smith said “could win it all.” The win over Alabama allowed Kentucky to clinch its 43rd SEC regular-season title.

In the win over Alabama, Sparks did most of his damage in the second half, scoring 20 of his 26 points. The Central City native’s performance helped Kentucky bounce back from a 14-point first-half deficit. Sparks, long known for his long-range shooting, was seven-of-10 from three-point range. Kentucky was 13-of-19 from beyond the arc for a school-record .684 percentage.

Sparks was first named SEC Player of the Week back on Dec. 20 after scoring 25 points against rival Louisville, His effort in the Louisville game included draining three free throws with 0.6 seconds remaining to seal for Kentucky a 60-58 comeback win. The Wildcats trailed by as many as 16 points in the game against the rival Cardinals.

Although just in his first season as a Wildcat, Sparks has wasted little time in making a name for himself as he gets into the record books quite often.

He is the first University of Kentucky player to earn the honor twice in one season since current Detroit Piston Tayshaun Prince did the same in 2002.

l Smith a finalist: UK Coach Tubby Smith has been named one of 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award. The 10 finalists for the Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award were announced on Monday. The 2005 recipient will be announced on April 1, at the Final Four in St. Louis, Mo. Other finalists for the national award include Ray Giacoletti (Utah); Bobby Lutz (Charlotte); Bruce Pearl (Wisconsin-Milwaukee); Skip Prosser (Wake Forest); Al Skinner (Boston College); Bob Thomason (Pacific); Bruce Weber (Illinois); Ralph Willard (Holy Cross) and Roy Williams (North Carolina).

The Phelan award has gained status as one of the most prestigious national men’s basketball coaching honors.

The Jim Phelan National Coach of the Year Award, in conjunction with, is voted on by a 21-member panel, which is chaired by the former Mount St. Mary’s head coach. The voting panel is made up of current and retired head coaches, athletic administrators and distinguished members of the media. renamed its National Coach of the Year Award to honor Coach Phelan. Mercer’s Mark Slonaker was the first recipient of the award in 2003 and St. Joseph’s Phil Martelli was honored in 2004.

Previous recipients of the National coach of the Year include Rod Barnes (Mississippi), Rob Evans (Mississippi), Bob Huggins (Cincinnati), Greg Kampe (Oakland), Mike Krzyzewski (Duke) and Bo Ryan (Wisconsin).

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l UK Women’s team has three named All-SEC: The UK women’s basketball team has three All-Southeastern Conference players. The league announced the honors Monday. Guard/forward Sara Potts was named to the All-SEC second team for the second straight year. In her college career, Potts had scored 1,430 points.

Sarah Elliott, a 6-6 center from McKee, and Samantha Mahoney, a 5-10 guard from Detroit were each named to the All-Freshman team. Elliott has scored in double-figures in nine of the last 12 conference games.

Mahoney has started in 22 straight games. She is third on the team in scoring with a 10.6 ppg average. These selections did manage to make history.

This is the first time two UK women’s basketball players have been named to the SEC All-Freshman team in the same season. It is also the first time a UK women’s hoops player has been named to the SEC All-Freshman squad since SeSe Helm in 2001. Only four players in UK history have previously earned the honor.

l The UK women’s team received the number 10 seed in this year’s SEC Tournament and will take on seventh-seeded Auburn in the first round on Thursday. Game time at the Bi-Lo center in Greenville, S.C. is scheduled for 3:15pm. n