As the NCAA continues to try and drop a fork in the road
on potentially passing an immediate transfer rule, questions surrounding who will/won't be able to play collegiate sports this fall won't go away until the committee makes its final decision.
For rising senior point guard Chasity Patterson
, she'll be met with a new challenge either way. Regardless of what happens with the eligibility of incoming Kentucky women's basketball transfers Jazmine Massengill and Robyn Benton, the 5-foot-5 guard is going to have some big shoes to fill, but she's more than capable of leaping over the hurdle.
Head coach Matthew Mitchell is losing five seniors from last season's squad, three of them rotational pieces in the backcourt; Sabrina Haines, Jaida Roper, and Amanda Paschal. Roper and Paschal split starting point guard duties throughout the year, with the former ultimately taking control once the SEC schedule got rolling while Haines was the off-guard with a deadly clip from deep. With those three experienced guards graduating, the 'Cats will lose over 31 percent of their scoring production from a year ago - not to mention the playmaking and defense they also brought to the floor.
Patterson won't be able to rack up 31 percent of the team's scoring next season (even Rhyne Howard
managed *just* 29 percent of last season's points total), but she probably could if given the chance. If there is one thing everyone should know about the native of Houston, it's that she can put up points quicker than almost any player in the country.
She averaged 11.5 points per game a season ago, second-most on the team despite the fact she had to sit out the first half of the season. After transferring away from Texas just a few games into her sophomore season, she was required by the NCAA to wait until late December of 2019 before she could finally represent UK. And once she stepped foot on the court, there was no denying how good she was.
But dropping 15-20 points per game isn't what Kentucky needs from Patterson. Coach Mitchell will have enough talent to spread the scoring around. If anyone is pouring in over 20 points per game, it's going to be Howard.
Again, a lot of next season's rotation will depend on if Massgengill/Benton can play right away, and if they can't
, Patterson is going to have a load of responsibilities out of the gate. Kentucky is going to need in-your-face defense at the point of attack, a reliable playmaker who can alleviate pressure off of Howard, and someone who can get a bucket when nothing else is going right. The graduating trio of backcourt seniors all excelled in those areas in their own unique way; Patterson is going to have to combine different parts of all three players into one.
Fortunately, she's skilled enough to do so.
Patterson posted 11 games with at least double-digit points in just 19 total appearances, including a stretch of six in a row. A career-high 32-point performance on the road against a ranked Arkansas team put her on the opponent's scouting report going forward. She played at least 20 minutes in 10 games on her way to being named the SEC's Sixth Woman of the Year.
What makes Patterson special is how she plays taller than what a measuring tape might indicate she should. 99 percent of the time, she is the smallest one on the floor, but you wouldn't be able to tell by the way she attacks opposing defenses. Most of her damage is done inside the perimeter, even though she is more than capable of stepping back for 3s. The pull-up, mid-range jumper in transition became her go-to shot.
She's adept at initiating contact with taller defenders while still getting off good looks, which she typically finished. Her balance in is impressive - and necessary. Patterson keeps her dribble right next to her body, and being lower to the floor than everyone else makes her almost impossible to steal the ball from. She goes DEEP into her bag of tricks to beat her defender off the dribble and you'd be foolish to think she'd use the same move in back-to-back possessions.
Like Roper and Paschal, Patterson has a keen eye for poking balls loose, and she's even better at converting those opportunities on the other end. Her steal rate of 3.3 percent was one of the heftiest marks in the country last season, according to Her Hoop Stats
. Her skinny frame allows her to literally rip right through the ball handler, and before you can blink, she's already laying it up.
But going from Sixth Woman of the Year to a potential full-time starter is a different world. 19.5 minutes per game a season ago could jump to 25-plus if Massengill/Benton can't provide immediate relief. Even if those two can
play, Patterson is still the most well-equipped to fill the role of the lead guard. She'll easily be the most experienced and the most talented among her backcourt teammates of that were to be the case.
However, such a position comes with a high level of responsibility. Playmaking is the one area she could benefit from improving the most. Too many times a season ago did she miss open teammates cutting to the rim or lingering around the perimeter. Scoring is her first instinct, and it got her into some trouble last year that she could have avoided had her eyes been sifting sideline-to-sideline (something Roper, in particular, excelled at). Out of the pick-and-roll, she locks eyes the basket instead of hunting for a roller or cutter. The long-2s need to take just one step back.
These are just tiny issues, however, compared to the big picture. From a pure talent standpoint, Patterson is arguably one of the best in the SEC. Her size isn't a hindrance, rather something she utilizes into a skill. She was thrown into the fire midway through last season and still shot over 44 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the free-throw line. Getting buckets is never going to be an issue for her - it's the other responsibilities of a Matthew Mitchell point guard she needs in order to reach her full potential.
Filling the shoes of three backcourt players who all played slightly different styles isn't going to be easy for Patterson, although it's a challenge she'll be up for. Her quiet demeanor might make you think otherwise, but that's exactly when she'll burn you.