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Archive for Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Padgett learning at L’ville

Ex-Jayhawk happy with transfer decision

March 30, 2005

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David Padgett reached the Elite Eight his freshman year at Kansas University.

Now, he is headed to the Final Four his first season at his second stop -- Louisville.

"I wouldn't say I'm good luck," Padgett said, laughing. "If I was good luck, we'd have won it all last year."

Last year is a long time ago to Padgett, a 6-foot-11, 245-pound former McDonald's All-American. Tuesday, in an interview with the Journal-World, Padgett spoke to a Kansas media member for the first time since last spring's decision to leave KU for Louisville -- a Conference USA school that has rolled to a 33-4 record and spot in this weekend's Final Four in St. Louis.

"The year has gone by pretty fast -- faster than I thought it would," Padgett said. "It does seem like I was there awhile ago, but it's just been a year."

It's been a whirlwind year for Padgett, who has been able to practice but not play in games in accordance with NCAA transfer rules.

"Having to watch, knowing I can't help is frustrating," said Padgett, who is expected to start next year after the Cardinals lose several key upperclassmen as they make the move to the Big East Conference.

"I told myself all year, 'This will all be worth it.' I told myself that every day. I'm not saying I've gotten used to it, but it has been a huge year for me. Next year, I'll be able to step right in and know what coach (Rick) Pitino wants."

He says he's learned as much from Louisville's gritty players, who have won 22 of their past 23 games, as Pitino.

"These guys are unbelievable, the most relentless workers I've ever seen," Padgett said. "They were determined to make noise in the tournament and won't be satisfied until they make more noise."

Padgett feels as passionate about KU's four seniors, who bowed out of the NCAA Tournament after a first-round loss to Bucknell.

"I think, like everybody, I was more surprised than anything, but that's the nature of the tournament," Padgett said. "I felt for them. I know how much the seniors wanted it. They've been to the national championship and lost. They didn't want to go out at all this year."

Padgett, who has kept in contact with second-year KU players Nick Bahe and Jeremy Case, said he followed his former team this season.

"If they were on TV I'd watch a few minutes," Padgett said, "but I didn't really follow it closely. I heard this and that about how they were doing like everybody, still they had a pretty good year."

Padgett caused an uproar in announcing his sudden decision to transfer last spring after a trip to his hometown of Reno, Nev., but he doesn't want to rehash the details.

"It's behind me. I'm looking to the future now," Padgett said, adding, "like I said when I transferred, the move is the right fit for me. Both are great coaches (KU's Bill Self and Pitino). This is little more of an up-tempo game."

He said at the time of his transfer he would be allowed to face the basket more at Louisville.

"I won't do things any different from what the guys do now," Padgett said. "If we are open, we have permission to shoot the ball. I'll still be primarily a back-to-the-basket player."

He dispelled rumors that he left KU because of harsh treatment of the fans, who called in negative comments to the University Daily Kansan's public forum, "Free For All."

"To tell the truth, I didn't pay attention to that," said Padgett, who chose Louisville over UCLA and North Carolina. "While I was there, the fans couldn't be better in public. They might have said some things behind my back. There's definitely no hard feelings. They were always good to me.

"I miss all the guys on the team. It wasn't easy leaving those guys. It was definitely a good learning experience. Any time you go through a freshman year in a big-time program, playing tough ball in a good conference, it's invaluable. It had its ups and downs like any program. I've moved on to the future."

As far as the future, he realizes Louisville could face KU in the next three seasons.

"I definitely don't think it'll be scheduled," Padgett said. "It very well could happen in the (NCAA) Tournament. If it does, we'll get ready for it then."

He could meet the coach who signed him, UNC's Roy Williams, in Monday's NCAA finals.

"That'd be crazy. If I saw him, I'd say hello," Padgett said of Williams. "I actually know a few guys on their team from past playing experiences."

Pitino is looking forward to coaching Padgett.

"He's a hard worker. I think he'll fit in well with us," Pitino said. "I've always liked the way he ran the floor, and he's willing to be physical inside."

"I think he'll do very well," KU's Bahe said. "David is bulking up. It will help his game. The bigger you are at his position, the better you'll play."

He still hopes to play in the NBA.

"It's every player's dream," Padgett said, "but right now I'm thinking about this team and this weekend. I would be ecstatic (to win it). It'd be the perfect ending. Only one team gets to win it, if it's us, it'd be great."

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