Keith Bogans said that growing up in Alexandria, he always was a Kentucky basketball fan. Now, as a freshman guard for the Wildcats, he is learning what it is like to be a Kentucky basketball player. He has learned it is not easy, even when things are going well. And recently, things have not been going so well.
The 23rd-ranked Wildcats (4-3) ended a three-game losing streak--their longest since the 1989-90 season--with an 86-41 victory over North Carolina Asheville on Tuesday. But the easy victory was not enough to satisfy the crowd at Rupp Arena, which booed midway through the second half when Coach Tubby Smith replaced five reserves, including Bogans, with the starting lineup.
"It's ridiculous," Bogans said of the scrutiny surrounding the Wildcats. "You would never think back at home that basketball would be taken this seriously by people. They take basketball serious here. I don't think any other college is like this. It's real intense."
Much is expected from Kentucky, which has averaged more than 30 victories over the past eight seasons, and from Bogans. In a poll on the Lexington Herald-Leader's Web site asking fans which Wildcats player they expect to have a breakout season, Bogans is the leader, with 29.1 percent of the 5,077 votes. Bogans has been one of the first players off the bench in each of Kentucky's games and is averaging 7.6 points per game.
"From the outside, fans try to give you a lot of pressure, but we really don't pay any attention to that," the said Bogans, a 6-foot-5 guard-forward. "We just try to do our best every night."
In high school, Bogans's best was usually good enough. But playing against older players, he is finding it difficult to make his mark.
"The games are a lot tougher now," Bogans said. "You have to play a lot harder than you did in high school. The game moves a lot faster and you always have to be on your toes to be in the right place at the right time."
DeMatha Coach Morgan Wootten believes it won't be long before Bogans establishes himself for the Wildcats.
"I think that Keith has the physical and mental toughness, and that is what it takes to be successful right away," Wootten said. "I saw it as a freshman [at DeMatha] when we played in front of 9,000 at Raleigh against [current Philadelphia 76ers forward] Tim Thomas and he knocks in 29 like it is a stroll in the park. They're fouling him at the end and he is knocking them all in.
"He had that belief. He would always compete and make the blue-collar, physical play where a lot of guys are a little softer--they're not going to take it to the hole in traffic. Keith would do that. He would always take it into bigger and stronger guys. He wasn't afraid of them at all."
Bogans still isn't afraid, but in his first two games this season, he made just 1 of 10 shots and scored two points. But he ended the slide in Kentucky's third game by scoring 17 points against Maryland in the Preseason NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. The teams meet again Saturday night at Cole Field House.
"It was a lot of fun," Bogans said earlier this week. "Maryland is right up the street from DeMatha and I know most of the guys on the team. You always want to play well against your hometown team. Now I have a feel for the college game. I've played seven games. I'm just ready to play. I think if I keep working hard, it will all fall into place."
CAPTION: Keith Bogans and Kentucky will collide with Steve Blake and Terps Saturday.