Eddie isn't only Sutton who's had it rough lately
Son Sean has been object of heat, also
When Sean Sutton decided to play basketball at the University of Kentucky he knew there would be questions.
He knew that no matter what he did, it wouldn't be
^^^^^^^^^ Larry Vaught Cats' Pause Columnist
enough to please some fans and that they would always believe he got his scholarship only because his father. Eddie Sutton, is the UK coach.
"During the whole recruiting process we talked with Sean about that,'' said UK assistant coach James Dickey "He knew he would be subjected to criticism."
Still. DO one could have anticipated just how hostile and unfair the criticism would be.
The 20-year-old sophomore has had to endure more mental anguish the last nine months than many people suffer in a lifetime.
"I'm just to a point now where I don't care what people Bay," said Sutton "If people can't accept me for what I am. that's fine. Some people like me, some don't.
"When I first came here 1 really thought I could make everyone like me I tried to please everybody Now I've learned that was a mistake because there's no way I could please everyone. That's why it doesn't matter to me anymore what people say or think."
Unfortunately, plenty has been said in recent months. Just consider:
His name has been linked to Eric Manuel and questions about Manuel's ACT score that have sidelined Manuel
Two gold chains belonging to him were stolen in Wilacat Lodge and police reported they were pawned In Shawn Kemp, a UK recruit sitting out this year because of academic problems No charges were filed but Kemp left I'K for a junior college.
Fans, especially those in eastern Kentucky, have accused the UK coaches of not playing freshman Richie Farmer enough to protect Sutton's starting position
Those accusations have caused the UK sophomore, who missed the season's first game after breaking his cheekbone in practice, many sleepless nights in Wildcat Lodge.
"Some nights I do have trouble sleeping," said Sutton. "I think about everything that is going on and wonder why it is all happening, what might come next and when it will ever end. it's really hard to put it all out of my mind. I try to stay positive but when you keep getting put down that's not easy."
Eddie Sutton has seen the rumors and current NCAA probe change his son.
"All this certainly has had an adverse effect on him," said the UK coach. "It's hurt him. He's innocent, just like the other players are. I try to tell all of them that life won't always be fair but I'm not sure that really helps Sean or anyone handle adversity like this."
It doesn't. No words of encouragement or advice can ease the pain any 20-year-old athlete feels when his every move or action is criticized.
Sean Sutton isn't the best player ever to wear a UK uniform. He's no Kenny Walker, Kyle Macy or Jack Givens. He has limitations.
But he's not the worst player ever to play at Kentucky as some fans seem to believe. He can direct an offense and would have been an ideal point guard for many Kentucky teams that have been overloaded with talent. This year, though, the Cats don't have that luxury and every mistake Sutton has made has been a xw:*:*>>X'"V.y.\:*:.v*:*^
major topic of conversation.
"We've tried to tell him just to play and listen to the coaches," said Dickey. "He can't control what people sayor think."
"I want to win more than anyone on this team," said Sutton. "It's my responsibility to run the team and get the job done. If we don't, I can accept it when people get on me for not doing the job."
It's tougher to accept when he hears fans crucify his father. He understands any coach will be criticized but the pressure the NCAA probe has put on his father has upset him.
"Sean is a Kentucky player and Eddie Sutton is his coach," said Dickey. "But Sean is still Coach Sutton's son. Sure, it hurts him when people unfairly criticize his dad."
Most of us would, and should, react the same way. Sean Sutton grew up in Arkansas dreaming of one day playing for his father. This year, though, the dream has turned into a nightmare with every new rumor or NCAA allegation.
"It does bother me when people talk bad about my father." said the UK sophomore. "It hurts to hear what people say. especially when I know it is hurting him, too."
Dickey just wishes Sean Sutton could be judged as a student athlete and not as Eddie Sutton's son. Unfortunately, that will never happen at UK
"It's not fair to criticize Sean or spread stories about him just because he's the coach's son," said Dickey. "He's doing his best and representing the university in a class way. People should remember that."
Sean Sutton has the same feelings any 20-year-old
sophomore would have. He's as sensitive to pain as anyone.
"I think it has been very unfair for Sean and the other players to have to shoulder all the burdens they have," said Coach Sutton. "There's no way this all could have not hurt them and it has probably hurt Sean more than any of them."
Sean Sutton must feel like a dark cloud has hung over his head for months. Where he goes, controversy follows.
That's a lot of pressure for any youngster to cope with daily.
"I'm just 20 and do sometimes feel overwhelmed by the pressure of everything here." said the UK guard. "I'm not a professional. I'm not even an adult yet. But the stress and pressure just keeps coming."
Maybe time will eventually reduce the pressure. Maybe time will heal the wounds Sutton has had opened.
But today Sean Sutton is a youngster who is under constant pressure because he loves his father and playing basketball at UK.
Most years those would be traits that would endear a player to Kentucky fans. For Sutton, though, those feelings have been more of a curse than blessing this season.
"It's just unfair the way people have treated Sean," said Dickey. "The people making the judgments don't see what goes on here every day. They act on assumptions. But Sean will be OK. He's a tough individual."
That's good because if he wasn't, he would have had even more sleepless nights.
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SOUTHEASTERN Conference teams traditionally have beaten up on each other during the 18-game league season in recent years.
However, this season SEC teams may be glad regular league play is ready to begin. The SEC did not fare well against non-league opponents in December and lacks the dominant one or two teams it has had in recent years.
"The SEC can't compete with the top leagues right now," said Georgia Coach Hugh Durham. "The key phrase is right now, though.
"Kentucky obviously has had problems. Florida has an inexperienced lead guard and that makes it dif-
ficult to win on the road. We've lost to some good teams as we struggle to find our identity. But we are all young teams.
"That's why Tennessee has to be the league favorite. They play five or six seniors while the rest of us are very, very young."
Florida, one of the preseason SEC favorites, has probably been the league's biggest disappointment The Gators were routed at Illinois and even lost their league opener at home to LSU, a team picked to finish in the bottom half of the SEC
"I tried to get this message out without being obnoxious or taking issue with the media," said Florida Coach Norm Sloan. "We only have one veteran player People forget that."
That veteran is 7-2 junior center Dwayne Schintzius. "His rebounding is up. his shooting percentage is af and we are doing a lot of things around him," said Sloan. "He's having to handle a lot of physical abuse. Teams are trying to bang and hack him."
The other Gators are having more problems, something that hasn't surprised Sloan.
"Livingston Chatman did not have a normal freshman year because of injuries." said Sloan. "Clifford Lett, our senior guard, has less playing time in three years than Chatman does. Overall we're just young. That plus a tough schedule equals losses."
Sloan, like Durham, feels it would be a mistake to think this is the start of a down cycle in the SEC.
"We have some great young talent in this league, said the Florida mentor. "The SEC will continue to be one of the strongest in the country."
Eddie Sutton fully agrees with Sloan about the SECs future.
"We don't have one, two or three Top 20 teams like we've had in the past few years," said the UK coach. "But as some young players mature we will have some worthy teams.
"We don't have as many great players in the upper classes except for (Dyron) Nix of Tennessee. He's the best and that's why Tennessee has to be favored to win the league.
"It should be an interesting league season, though. Anything can happen when you have a lot of young teams going against one another."
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UK FANS will see one of the SEC's top newcomers Wednesday when the Cats open conference play by hosting Georgia.
Litterial Green, a 6-2 guard, has all the tools to be one of the league's best players the next three years.
"Green is a good outside shooter, an excellent passer and a strong guard," said Georgia junior Alec Kessler. He can do so many things well. He's quick, strong and shoots well. He's just fun to play with."
Even Durham doesn't try to hide his enthusiasm when talking about Green.
"He can do a lot of things," said the Georgia coach. "He sees the floor well, can dribble, can pass and is an excellent shooter. He was also physically strong enough to play, something a lot of freshmen aren't."
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NOTHING WOULD help Deron Feldhaus' confidence more than to hit a few clutch shots in a game.
Until that happens, though, the Kentucky freshman forward plans to keep playing as hard as he can to help the Wildcats.
"I haven't shot well and I've been down at times because of that," said Feldhaus. "But I'm confident I will get better.
"It would probably really help me if I could score a few points and just relax. But when I go into a game I know we need help on the boards and on defense. I concentrate on those things first."
He's confident he can play defense. That's
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