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Keegan: UK’s Rondo complete player

January 6, 2006

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Kentucky's Tubby Smith has three 7-footers on his roster. If Jared Carter stood on Shagari Alleyne's head and Lukasz Obrzut stood on Carter's head, they could form the world's first 21-foot-5 center.

Combined, they have 59 rebounds for Kentucky, which visits Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday morning.

Rajon Rondo is a 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard. He has 98 rebounds. In a loss in early December to Iowa in the Guardian Classic, Rondo had 19 rebounds, 17 of the defensive variety.

If height is the most overrated rebounding tool, then quickness and balance, strength and anticipation, hands and heart are the most important aspects.

Rondo has an abundance of all those qualities, is a disruptive defender, a skilled distributor and, when playing at Rupp Arena, at least, an accurate three-point shooter.

"I think Rondo, and this isn't coach-speak, is the best, most complete guard in the country," Kansas University coach Bill Self said. "Defensively, helping others, rebounding the basketball, scoring. He's got a unique way about him. He can change a game defensively in one or two possessions because of his length and his hands."

Self talked about how Rondo is one

of the few players in the country who can get the rebound, eliminate the step of throwing the outlet pass and take it coast-to-coast himself. The more he talked about Rondo, the easier it was for the mind to race back nearly 20 years to an energetic Michigan State player.

"I would say his defense keys his offense as much as anybody in the country," Self said. "How many guards in the country average that many rebounds and don't have to make an outlet to start a break? It's one of the things that's a big bonus for them. He doesn't have to pass. He gets it and brings it, very similar to the way Magic did it."

(Here's hoping KU's Julian Wright doesn't get any ideas watching Rondo, a mini-Magic Johnson of sorts).

Rondo leads Kentucky in scoring (15.1), rebounding (8.2), and assists (5.3), better numbers than KU's leader in the big three statistical categories. He's Kentucky's only scorer in double figures.

Yet, a closer examination of Rondo's numbers shows he still has one hurdle to clear.

Kentucky (10-3, ranked 19th), which is noted for playing home games in surrounding cities to satisfy its wide fan base, has played seven games at Rupp Arena, five at other venues.

At Rupp, Rondo has an adjusted field-goal percentage (one credit for two-pointers, 1.5 for three-pointers) of 71. Away from Rupp, that figure plummets to 45 percent.

In Kentucky's last game, Rondo spared the Wildcats' the embarrassment of going into overtime at home against Central Florida when he hit a turnaround jumper with one second left for the 59-57 victory.

Afterward, Rondo, a native of Louisville, said it was the first time in his life he ever had hit a game-winning shot. He's going to play the game for a long, long time. Here's guessing it won't be the last game-winning shot of a career he'll take to the NBA, possibly as soon as after this season.

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