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It certainly looked like it while the player nicknamed "Boogie" helped Kentucky return to its place among the national elite. The Wildcats won their first 20 games and briefly rose to No. 1 in the polls.
It's a rise that seemed hard for Patterson to fathom during his first two years with the team as the program slumped under former coach Billy Gillispie.
Patterson could have gone to the NBA last spring but opted to stick around to expand his game in Calipari's "dribble-drive" offense while also finishing his degree. He averaged a career-low 14.3 points but became a better shooter and fit in with his less-experienced teammates.
If the departure of Wall, Patterson and Cousins was expected, Bledsoe's and Orton's decision to join their teammates in the draft came as a bit of a surprise.
Bledsoe averaged 11.3 points and proved to be just as fast as Wall in the open floor and an even better long-range shooter. Bledsoe's 49 3-pointers were second on the team and he made eight 3-pointers in a romp over East Tennessee State in the opening round of the NCAAs.
"I never thought I'd be in this position after one year," Bledsoe said. "Coach Cal pushed us all to be the best we could be and he believes I'm prepared to take my game to the next level."
Orton, thought to be a project when he came in, instead became the team's best defender while filling in for Cousins. He averaged a modest 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per but also finished among the leaders in the SEC in blocks (53). Orton said going against Patterson and Cousins in practice each day helped him believe he could make it in the NBA.
If they all leave, it leaves Calipari with a rebuilding project on par with the one he inherited a year ago. The departure of Wall and company combined with the graduation of Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson and Mark Krebs leaves Kentucky with just five players returning next year, only three of whom -- guards DeAndre Liggins and Darnell Dodson and forward Darius Miller -- played significant minutes this season.
Calipari will try to replace them with another highly ranked recruiting class, though one that will find it difficult to duplicate the magic Wall and company brought to Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats already have commitments from center Enes Kanter and Stacey Poole and are considered to be in the mix for a handful of elite recruits, including guard Brandon Knight.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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