March 6, 2012
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By John Denton
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Usually quiet and reserved with her feelings, Aisha Patrick figures that will not be the case over the next week.
Just think of it as Patrick's "Senior Moment," as in the senior point guard is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure this glorious run at UCF doesn't end anytime soon. She knows that another run through the Conference USA tournament - which begins Wednesday in Memphis - could wipe out a lot of the angst from a somewhat rocky regular season.
"This season has been frustrating, but you have to have a short term memory now. The good thing about the conference tournament is that anybody can win it," said Patrick, whose eighth-seeded Knights face Southern Miss in first-round play Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET. "We just have to play with a sense of urgency now. I think my teammates are really going to see that roar, you might say, from me. It is like a one-game season now. We don't want our season to end anytime soon, so I'm sure that sense of urgency will be there."
Regardless of what happens this week in Memphis, Patrick's legacy on the UCF women's basketball program is indelible. She was a key cog on UCF teams that won C-USA titles in 2009 and 2011 and played in NCAA Tournament games both of those seasons.
In addition to being a four-year starter, she's four steals away from being the school's all-time leader in that category.
Patrick, a native of nearby Rockledge in Brevard County, was the first Florida recruit that head coach Joi Williams signed, and together the two have helped take UCF women's basketball to places it had never been before.
Williams has been amazed by the growth that she seen from the point guard through the years. Now, she says with confidence that Patrick will go down as one of the most important players in school history.
"When you look back at what we've done with her here, there's no question how important she's been to this program," Williams said. "Going all the way back to our first championship, she was just a freshman, but she was a huge piece to that team. And last year we couldn't have won it without her. It's a sad/glad feeling I have right now with her (leaving the program). I'm happy for her and hopefully we'll play for her."
If anyone can pull off four wins in four days, it's the Knights. The last time it was done to win the league championship was UCF in 2009. Patrick was the true freshman point guard/defensive stopper on that team, and she knows what her team is up against now.
UCF (12-16, 7-9 C-USA) beat Southern Miss twice during the regular season and has won seven in a row against the Golden Eagles through the years. A victory would put the Knights opposite of top-seeded UTEP, but for now Patrick's focus is on one victory at a time.
Being in what could be the final week of her UCF career has caused Patrick to reflect on a college career that she figures couldn't have possibly gone any better than it has. But she can't help but being left wanting more now.
"It's amazing how my career has gone here, hanging up two banners and playing for all four years. It's overwhelming to me," she said. "I don't want it to end, but at the same time there's a sense of urgency to finish strong. You want to leave a legacy and leave on a good note."
The fact that Patrick, a first-team All-C-USA selection this season, led the Knights in scoring this season is a testament to the growth she's made as a player. She averaged 14 points a game in addition to leading the team in steals (2.4) and ranking second in rebounding (8.7) and assists (2.6).
"She has grown a lot. When she first got here, defenses didn't guard her and just looked at her as a driver, but she's worked hard on her shooting and becoming more of an offensive threat," Williams said. "I'm proud of how she's worked to make herself better. It wasn't always the coaches making her get into the gym; she was in there on her own."
Patrick's hope is that this week won't be the last basketball she plays as she looks to possibly play professionally after college. But for now her focus is trained solely on helping UCF beat Southern Miss on Wednesday and possibly pull off another stunning run through the C-USA tournament.
"I would like to play professionally, but I haven't really talked to anybody about it. If the offer comes, I'd really like to keep playing," she said. "But for now the focus is what we're trying to accomplish as a team. I've tried to be that leader for this team and help everybody. I talk to them all the time about our past accomplishments and what we can do here. So I'm hoping we can do it again."
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.