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Parker latest loss for young and restless Wildcats

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Sept. 3
Last season, the Kentucky basketball program was a big-time soap opera. There were suspensions, transfers and all kinds of problems. Big Blue was plagued by turmoil.

I've often said that I can't comprehend why this program has problems. Kentucky has an outstanding, quality coach in Tubby Smith, and a program with tremendous fan support showing great love and passion. Fans travel all over the country to support this team; no team in America has the support away from its home court that the Wildcats enjoy. Those people eat, drink and sleep the game!

Jason Parker
Forward Jason Parker has a handle on this rebound, but his career at Kentucky has slipped away.
You would think kids wearing the Kentucky uniform would be so proud that they'd do everything to make certain they don't jeopardize playing at the school. But once again, another news flash came out of Lexington. Jason Parker, a true low-post presence who would have been a big plus inside, has been thrown off the team for violating athletic department policy.

What a shame. Parker missed last season with a torn ACL, but he worked hard to rehabilitate the knee and got himself ready to play this season -- and now he throws it all away due to bad judgment.

Parker isn't the first personnel loss for Kentucky this offseason. Think about the talent Kentucky could have had: Marvin Stone transferred to Louisville, Rashaad Carruth transferred to Oklahoma, and Cliff Hawkins was suspended for the first semester due to academics. Who knows whether Hawkins will be back in January ... only time will tell.

The absence of Parker certainly changes the complexion of this Kentucky team. When I originally projected the Wildcats' season, with the players who were supposed to return, I felt they were capable of making the Final Four. There's no doubt that Smith can flat-out coach; he knows how to handle the practice sessions and the sidelines and he can get the most out of his players. But now, in terms of his personnel, Smith has to wonder what will happen next.

Players have to look in the mirror and be mature enough to make good decisions. Coaches can't hold their hand and take them around every minute of every day. It's a shame, but Kentucky basketball took a hit with the loss of Parker.

I had Kentucky ranked at No. 4 in my preseason Dazzling Dozen. Now, with the loss of Parker, I've revised my list and moved the Wildcats down to No. 12.

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