Derrick Jasper: What you mean to us.

Appreciate: To be grateful for, welcome, enjoy, be obliged for, be indebted for, acknowledge, never forget, give thanks for.

Appreciation: Sense of gratitude, thankfulness, recognition, gratefulness.

I suppose we have all felt unappreciated at one time or another in our lives.  Whether it be at work, in a marriage, or on the field of play.  To feel so unappreciated that one considers leaving that job, marriage, or team takes the perceived lack of appreciation to a whole other, very serious level.

I regret that Derrick feels so unappreciated that he would consider leaving the University of Kentucky.  He has been praised by many, including his head coach, for his unparalleled desire to return quickly to the Kentucky lineup after his micro-fracture surgery.  His selfless desire was commended and applauded by many, including most posters on ASoB.  

But, the self-esteem of young men, particularily young men in the spot light, can be fragile.  Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley seemed to receive the bulk of the praise from the media and fans alike for their incredible turnaround season.  What Joe and Ramel achieved this past year should be of great personal pride to those two young men.  Their personal bounceback from a rough and tumble pre-conference schedule is admirable, and has been noted as such.

Responsibility for the TEAM turnarond is due to the guts, determination, and singled-minded focus of one Derrick Jasper.  That is mighty high praise considering Kentucky had three players selected All-SEC, and the co-SEC Freshman of the Year.  His re-emergence into the line-up, not coincidently, coincided with the improved play and results Kentucky experienced.

It was Derrick Jasper who defended with abandon.  It was Derrick Jasper who stretched the opposing defenses with his newfound accuracy from the three-point line.  It was Derrick Jasper who lead the team in defensive rebounds (in SEC play) from both the point guard and small forward spots.  It was Derrick Jasper who replaced the considerable talents of Patrick Patterson in the paint after Patterson went down with a season-ending injury.  It was Derrick Jasper who played out of his mind in the Tennessee game in Knoxville, which enabled UK to have a chance to win what seemed to be an unwinnable game.  It was Derrick Jasper who was responsible for the tears in the eyes of Mr. Wildcat after that memorable UT game ( Keightley was so moved by the effort of his beloved Wildcats that he "cried like a baby" according to Billy Gillispie).  It was Derrick Jasper who nearly single-handedly won the Florida game in Rupp Arena with his cool-headed shooting, and mastery of the from-the-corner-three-point-bank-shot.

It was Derrick Jasper who, while rehabbing his surgically repaired knee, practiced his outside shot even though he was experiencing severe pain.  He displayed selflessness, and a concern about team, not "me".  His efforts and love for his teammates were rewarded with a season that will not be soon forgotten.

Most of us do all we can to avoid pain and hard work.  Conversely,  Mr. Jasper ignored the pain, and embraced the hard work.  High praise is do him for that fact alone.  Considering he contributed like few others to the success of his team, while never playing at 100%, makes him deserving of the Big Blue Nation's gratitude and recognition.

Derrick embodies the attributes every UK fan looks for in a player: hustle, pride, never give up attitude, team first mind-set, and an unmatched desire to win.

Kentucky not only would miss Derrick's talent on the floor, but even more so, the leadership he has displayed through his actions.  Young and older players alike can learn a lot from a teammate possessing Derrick's character.  His willingness to do whatever it takes to win is a trait coveted by coaches who aspire to win championships.  Many athletes talk a good game, Derrick has lived it, and then some.

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