Lenox's Bailey Patella's redshirt year is over, he will be eligible for play on the court
That's why the freshman wing from Lenox found himself on the floor at Harvard on Jan. 2, and was ready to go Wednesday night when the Catamounts played a non-league contest with Dartmouth.
"I've been waiting for this moment my whole life," Patella said in an interview before the team left for Hanover, N.H. "It's been an up-and-down season for me with the whole redshirt thing. Am I going to be active or am I not going to be active?
"Then to finally step on the court, I was just very excited."
Patella played seven minutes in UVM's 62-56 win over the Crimson in Boston on Jan. 2.
He has not, however, played in the two America East Conference games since then. Vermont, 11-5 and 2-0 in America East going into Wednesday night, beat UMass Lowell 88-77 and Maryland Baltimore County 71-56.
Wednesday was Vermont's final non-conference game. The Catamounts were 9-5 in non-conference play.
Vermont coach John Becker had originally planned for Patella to sit this year as a redshirt, which would still give the Vermont Academy graduate four years of eligibility.
Injuries may have forced Becker's hands. Two of the wings ahead of Patella on the depth chart, Anthony Lamb and Skyler Nash, are both out of the lineup with injuries.
Nash, a 6-foot-6 freshman, had averaged 6 points per game in nine games before suffering an ACL tear and will be out for the season. Lamb, a 6-6 sophomore, was averaging nearly seven points per game as UVM's leading scorer. He has a foot fracture.
"It was right before we were about to head home for Christmas break," said Patella. "He said 'I'm going to evaluate you this week. You're ready to go, and I could put you in a game that's going to be a close game in crunch time.' We went home for Christmas break for six days, and I came back to school. I had a couple of good practices. Anthony Lamb actually went down with a foot injury.
"He kind of said you're active and you're going to play."
The former Lenox Millionaire had adjusted to being a redshirt, even missing a couple of early road trips. He did, however, make the trip to Lexington when the Catamounts played the University of Kentucky.
Instead of being with the team, he got some some individual workouts and lifts done.
"And kind of, all of a sudden, Skyler went down with an injury, and I was back on the trips," Patella said. "I wasn't un-redshirted yet, but I was in uniform sitting on the bench and warming up with the guys. Right before Christmas break, I got in a couple of good practices and came back and had a couple of other good practices.
"Then Lamb went down, and they were like 'Do you want to play?' I said yeah, whatever the team needs."
Patella made his college debut in front of his family, some friends and a New England television audience. The game was on NESN Plus.
He took the court for the first time in his college career with 6:52 left in the first half and exited with 3:13 remaining. In all, he played seven minutes and did not take a shot.
"I guess I was very jittery and jumpy when I was on defense," Patella said. "One of the coaches, actually on the first possession, and [Greg Snyder, basketball operations director] came over to me and said 'I know you're excited, but calm down and defend.' The next time down the court, I guess I wasn't as jumpy."
Vermont will host conference rivals Stony Brook on Saturday and Maine on Monday. The Catamounts will be in the area on Sunday, Jan. 21 at the University of Hartford and Thursday, Feb. 8, at Albamy.
"It's the next-man-up mentality," said Patella. "That's what I'm trying to be, the next man up."
Howard Herman can be reached at email@example.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, and 413-496-6253.
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