Lenox's Bailey Patella set to begin his freshman hoop season at the University of Vermont
BURLINGTON, Vt. — The next real step in Bailey Patella's begins in earnest on Sunday in Lexington, Ky.
"Everything all around has been great, especially the basketball, school life, and my classes are going really well," said Patella. "It's a good fit. Basketball is going great.
"I'm starting to get in the swing of things, and starting to getting a handle on everything which is good."
The forward from Lenox, Mass., is in his freshman season playing for John Becker at the University of Vermont. He signed a National Letter of Intent with Vermont after wrapping up his prep school career at Vermont Academy. Patella was a two-time NEPSAC All-League pick. He was also a 1,000-point scorer at Lenox High School.
Vermont started practicing a month ago, with the rest of the Division I teams. Patella said it was a day he had circled on his calendar, but it still caught him a little by surprise when practice started.
"It came up quick," he said, during an interview with The Eagle at UVM. "We had only been here for a little while. All the guys said 'You better be ready. It's going to be a grind.' It's a lot different. It's faster paced, a lot more physical, every guy is faster and stronger.
"Getting adjusted to that took a little while, but I think I've kind of gotten past that phase."
The Catamounts went 3-0 in their preseason games, and open their regular season Sunday afternoon at the University of Kentucky. That game will be televised live on ESPN.
After that, UVM will head to the Islands of The Bahamas Showcase, playing Bradley and then either Coastal Carolina or Texas-San Antonio.
UVM's home opener is Nov. 22 against Division III Maine-Fort Kent.
Vermont will be at America East opponent Hartford on Jan. 21, and then at UAlbany on Feb. 8.
Patella's new coach led Vermont to a 25-8 record last year and a trip to the NCAA Division I tournament. Becker is 113-51 since taking over for Mike Lonegran for the 2010-11 season.
"We had seen him play with [AAU team] BABC, and obviously with the Vermont Academy program being relatively down the street for us. We knew the coach there very well," said Becker. "We had seen him the year before in the prep school scene, and followed him in July. In the summer and into the fall, we really started to recruit him hard."
Patella is part of a four-man freshman class recruited to Vermont. The 6-foot-5, 185-pound forward was the only wing player recruited in the last cycle. There are two other redshirt freshmen making their debuts with the Catamounts.
"It's a position we really need. We need a wing," Becker said of Patella. "His length, his defensive instincts, and from his skill set, he's still developing. We saw a lot of upside with him. His athleticism was something I noticed right away. His defense, he's going to be really good for us."
What Becker has Vermont doing is a lot different than what Popp did at Vermont Academy and what Scott Sibley ran at Lenox.
"How I played at Vermont [Academy] was a lot different than how I played at Lenox. Trying to find my role was a big thing at Vermont Academy," said Patella. "Now here, it's another adjustment. Coach has been great telling me what he needs from me."
Patella said Becker and his staff usually practice in the middle of the day. Patella has two classes before and usually one later.
As to playing time, Becker said that is an open question. The Catamounts had 10 players who averaged 10 minutes or more last year, and six of them return. That number includes the top four leading scorers.
"In this situation, on this team, our freshmen aren't going to play a lot, I wouldn't expect," Becker said. "We're returning four starters. We're returning six of our top eight guys. We had three guys who redshirted last year and really know the system. We have nine guys at every position.
"Our freshmen are up against it a little bit, just because there are juniors and seniors, third, fourth and fifth-year guys who are way ahead of them."
The University of Vermont is not a small school, so that adjustment has been pretty big for Patella.
"Luckily my dorm is right outside the gym. It's one of the dorms on the athletic campus, so it's about a 10-minute walk to my classes," he said, "and a really quick walk to the gym.
"The first couple of weeks, just getting to my classes, I was leaving 20 minutes early just so I would get there on time. Now I know I can leave 10 or 15 minutes [early] to get to my classes."
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.
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