The Wildcat Outlook
The University of Kentucky Wildcats began preseason practice with 11 returning lettermen, including four starters, and for the second consecutive season, with concern about the physical condition of All-American Sam Bowie.
Only starting forward Chuck Verderber (5.0 ppg., 3.7 rpg.) and reserve guard Bo Lanter (1.5 ppg.) are gone from last season's 22-8 squad that tied for the Southeastern Conference championship, giving UK its 33rd league crown. Heading the list of returnees are 1981-82 starters Dirk Minniefield (6-3, G), Jim Master (6-5, G), Derrick Hord (6-6, F), and Melvin Turpin (6-11, C), along with top reserves Charles Hurt (6-6, F) and Dicky Beal (5-11, G) and red-shirts Bowie (7-1, C-F) and Bret Bearup (6-9, F).
Bowie missed all of last season while recovering from a small, incomplete fracture of his left tibia (shin bone). He made consistent progress through the spring and summer and was even able to participate in drills leading up to UK's trip to the Orient during June and July. But some minor pain and troublesome swelling developed from time to time, and in early August, doctor's detected a slight weakening in a portion of the fracture line that had healed and elected to re-apply a cast and continue electrolysis to the injured area. At press time, there was optimism about Bowie's chances to return at 100 percent this season, but final decisions had not been made.
With Bowie's return, the Wildcats would feature an imposing duo in the front court in Bowie and Turpin. Bowie led the squad in scoring (17.4 ppg.) and rebounding (9.1 rpg.) in 1980-81 and was named to most All-America first teams. Turpin led the 1981-82 Wildcats in rebounding (7.1 rpg.) and ranked third in scoring (13.1 ppg.). Bowie's ability to play both
forward and center may enable Wildcat Coach Joe B. Hall to play the tandem together at times this season.
Hord heads the list of other front court returnees. The senior from Bristol, Tenn., led the Wildcats in scoring last season (16.3 ppg.), was named All-SEC, and was an honorable mention All-American. Hord could see action at both forward and guard this season.
Kentucky has excellent depth in the front court with part-time
starter Hurt, Bearup, Tom Heitz, Troy McKinley, and freshmen Todd May and Kenny Walker. Hurt started eight games last season and ranked fifth on the team in scoring (6.6 ppg.) and third in rebounding (4.5 rpg.). Bearup elected to sit out last season after averaging 2.7 ppg. as a freshman. Heitz (6-9) saw action mainly in reserve of Turpin in 1981-82 and averaged 3.1 ppg. and 1.9 rpg. McKinley (6-6) saw action in 16 games last season and averaged 1.0ppg. May (6-8) and Walker(6-8)