Conventional knowledge says freshmen rarely play a major role in collegiate athletics—particularly if a team intends to be successful. That theory has been proven wrong by this year’s UCSD Men’s Basketball team which is currently 10-6 in CCAA play with a trio of freshmen seeing major minutes. Front and center for that group is Oxnard native Henry Patterson, a 6-5 forward who not only starts for Head Coach Bill Carr but is the squad’s leading scorer (13.1 ppg) and rebounder (3.4 rpg). His .590 field goal percentage leads the CCAA. “I think Henry’s surpassed any expectation we had of him coming out his first year,” says Carr. “He’s a guy that does exactly what you ask and does it as hard as he can. That’s been a big factor in his success and the team’s success.” Heading into the stretch run of the CCAA season, Patterson talked about the game of basketball and his team’s improvement.
Q-Did you expect to make the kind of impact you have this season?
PATTERSON—No. I didn’t really know what to expect. I didn’t know we’d have the kind of record we have or that I’d be able to have the kind of numbers I do. After sitting out a year, I had a lot of energy and excitement about playing, though. I was optimistic and excited about having the opportunity to play collegiate athletics.
Q-Why did you sit out last season?
PATTERSON—I came to UCSD as a computer science major and wanted to play basketball as well. Basketball was second in that equation and the academics were initially a lot more intense than I anticipated, so it made sense to concentrate on that aspect.
I played a lot of intramurals, lifted weights and exercised to stay physically fit. I missed it (basketball), particularly the camaraderie and family-type atmosphere. I’ve been playing basketball since the third grade and to have that out of my life, I really felt something was missing.
Q-How do you approach the game? What are your priorities?
PATTERSON—I try to shut down the player I’m guarding and take him out of his flow. I also concentrate on trying to box my guy out and improve my rebounding.
I approach every game with the attitude that the other team can’t stop me. If you don’t have that mindset going in, you’re not going to produce. It’s easier for your opponents to take you out of your comfort zone.
Q-To what do you attribute your high field goal percentage?
PATTERSON—I try to take the shots I’m accustomed to taking and don’t shoot outside of my range. When I do that, most of the time, they go in.
When I feel comfortable, it seems like I shoot a high percentage. I’ve been comfortable because I’m shooting the same shots I take in practice and the same shots I take when I’m just shooting around.
Q-You don’t seem bothered when you have shots blocked. Is that true?
PATTERSON—I’m 6-foot-5 and am typically playing against guys who are 6-7 or 6-8. I’m going to get shots blocked from time-to-time in that match-up. Some people might get upset, but it doesn’t affect me at all.
I figure that the other guys might get one or two, but they can’t get all of them. If I do get blocked, I try to learn something, understand what they’ll do when the situation presents itself again and use that to my advantage. In basketball, you’re constantly feeling out your defender and you have to adjust as the game goes along.
Q-Is there anything that ever produces a shadow of a doubt for you in terms of ability to perform?
PATTERSON—Other than playing at Gonzaga (where the Tritons went during pre-season), no.
I try to never think negatively. You’ve got to always be mentally-prepared and have that confident swagger. You have to just say that you’re going to do what you set out to do and don’t ever let yourself get intimidated.
Q-The team has started to really come on after a slow start. What is the difference between now and the early part of the season?
PATTERSON—At the start of the year, it felt as if the team was playing just to play and not to win.
Coach Carr began using a five-on-five drill in practice where the first team to10 wins. There are special rules that make it a fast-paced game and the object is simply to win. It seemed to improve our hunger for getting the win.
Early on, we lost a lot of close games. I think we may not have had that hunger and now we do.
Q-There is a group of freshmen that have played key roles in this year’s success. Is there a bond among that group?
PATTERSON—All of the freshmen are really close knit. Shane (Poppen) and I are both 805 (area code) guys. He’s from Thousand Oaks and we go back. I remember him from before high school.
The whole team is close, but the freshmen all live on campus and have our own big brotherhood. We look to the returners for advice on basketball and school stuff but we’re always there for each other.
Q-Who are the team leaders on and off the court?
PATTERSON—I’d have to go with Clint Allard and Andrew Hatch. Both of those guys always make sure we stay focused in the gym. That’s a quality true leaders have—they don’t let the others on their team lose touch with what’s important.
Odioh (Odiye) is like the team Dad—as the only senior, he’s the old man. He keeps our energy up and is a cheerleader on and off the court. He’s our spirit man.
Q-What has been the highlight of your collegiate career so far?
PATTERSON—I think I would have to say the overtime win against Grand Canyon. They were ranked something like 11th nationally at the time and, for me, that game was a defining point in our team’s run towards what will hopefully be the post-season playoffs.
We had just come back from Christmas break, had gone through a lot of tough losses and I felt that game cemented the notion that we had to and could win games at the end.
That’s why we’ve practiced so hard—to be able to take games in crunch time.
Q-What aspects of basketball do you feel are over-rated? Under-rated?
PATTERSON—I would say scoring is over-rated. There are so many other aspects that are key before you make the basket. You can’t score without having the ball by getting a rebound or making a steal. And you can’t stop the other team without making a play. In the NBA, everybody got all excited about Kobe Bryant getting 81 points, but what did he do on defense? Games are won on the defensive end.
I think the “scrappy” plays are under-rated. Things like steals and taking charges. Coach Carr rewards us in practice for making those types of plays.
Q-At the Spirit Night Rally on campus earlier this year, you did a pretty fair R. Kelly imitation. What was that all about?
PATTERSON—Well, there’s an annual competition at this rally where members of the men’s basketball team get body-painted by students from the different colleges. I was chosen to be one of those painted and didn’t really know what to expect.
Revelle College, my college, had a “Hollywood” theme and they painted a blue suit on my torso with a white tie and gloves and gave me a blue wig. They also brought along an over-sized inflatable microphone to make it look like I was a performer.
When I was introduced, the emcee asked if I wanted to sing. So, I just said “sure” and took the real microphone and sang a couple of notes from R. Kelly’s “Happy People.”
I used to sing in church when I was younger. I love music but wouldn’t really consider myself a singer. He’s one of my favorite artists, though, so I knew the words. It was fun.
Q-What other talents do you have outside of basketball?
PATTERSON—I play the piano and did trumpet for awhile. I learned karate, but that was a long time ago.
I do like to draw and write—get my thoughts and motions on paper. And I definitely like to go to the show and watch movies. I usually hit Blockbuster a couple of times a week. It takes you out of the life you’re living for awhile.
Q-What movie tips can you provide?
PATTERSON—Well some of my favorites are Rush Hour, Finding Forrester, Hitch and Coach Carter. I haven’t actually been to the theater for awhile but I’d like to go see Glory Road and I’ve heard there’s a new X-Men and Pirates of the Caribbean coming out.
Q-Outside of basketball, what have you found the most interesting and surprising about UCSD?
PATTERSON—Besides the weather and the great academics on campus, I’d have to say all the good-hearted people I’ve met. Everyone is really nice.
Our crowds have also been surprising. I was told students didn’t come to games but we’ve got a lot of fans. The students really seem to support athletics, contrary to what some people think. When I’m walking on campus or in the cafeteria, people are always coming up to me and saying things like, “good game” or “you guys are really playing well.”
Q-What professional basketball player do you think your game could be compared to?
PATTERSON—I don’t know too many 6-5 guys playing the post in the NBA so that would be pretty tough. Somebody between a big man and a guard, but I would have to think about that.
Q-What’s the best advice you ever received from your parents?
PATTERSON—My mom is a counselor at Pacifica High School and has been in that profession for 20 years. My dad is a mathematician for the government, so I don’t know too much about that.
They’ve given me a lot of good advice over the years. I would have to say the best is just to “do the best you can, knowing you’re not going to win every time.”
That and “be optimistic. Nothing’s for certain but you can always succeed no matter what happens. There’s always room for success.”
Q-What’s the best advice you’ve received from Coach Carr?
PATTERSON—I’ve gotten a lot of advice from him too. He says lot of things that really hit home.
One thing that he says repeatedly is that “we’re better than we think we are.” He has high aspirations for the team and that’s instant motivation.
He’s always telling us that “if we work hard and execute, we can do great things and change the program.”