Sunday, March 30, 2003

Teammates laud ailing Bogans for playing in pain

Senior tallies 15 points in final game

By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kentucky's head coach Tubby Smith, right, talks with Keith Bogans during their 83-69 loss to Marquette.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
MINNEAPOLIS - In the end, Keith Bogans had an easier time taking this loss directly. It would have been tougher from the bench.

"We came this far together," Kentucky's senior leader said of the Wildcats. "We wanted to be together no matter what."

And so Bogans strapped on an immobilizing boot to cushion the high ankle sprain in his left leg. Then he tied for team-high scoring honors with 15 points, playing 24 minutes.

"We have to give him thanks, because he was hurt and it took a lot for him to play," teammate Antwain Barbour said. "Not too many players can play like that."

Bogans started the game and had a few bright moments, shooting 4-of-11. Yet he also airballed a wide-open 3-pointer, had a shot blocked, and had trouble defensively.

"He was a step slow," teammate Cliff Hawkins said. "We could see that in warmups."

Said coach Tubby Smith: "He looked pretty mobile, but he had a problem with lateral quickness. That's tough, because Marquette is a tough team off the dribble."

Bogans hurt the ankle Thursday night and had it treated and iced numerous times before Saturday's game. The boot prevented further damage.

"He didn't play pain-free, that's for sure," trainer David Kindy said.

Said Bogans: "I couldn't really get any balance. I couldn't pivot off my left foot (or) jump off it, either."

Bogans ends his career fourth on the school's scoring list with 1,923 points. He owns the UK record for 3-pointers attempted (740) and is second in made 3-pointers (254), behind Tony Delk's 283.

He played two seasons longer than he expected to, after eschewing the NBA draft. Then, Saturday, he played one game more than seemed possible.

"He's been a part of the heart and soul of this team," Smith said. "His competitiveness is contagious, and I think that shows.

"He was a little wounded, so he wasn't as aggressive as we or he wanted. He'll just be phenomenal at the next level."

Bogans was named Southeastern Conference Player of the Year by the league's coaches and SEC Tournament MVP by the league's media. He was named second-team All-American by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and third-team All-American by Basketball Times and The Sporting News.

"My career here has been very special," he said. "When I look at the past four years, I see a huge learning experience where I changed from a boy to a man."

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