CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- His name is not a household word, and his statistics (4.9 points, 4.3 rebounds) don't exactly demand further investigation.
Yet, save for point guard Travis Ford, no one was more visible fo Kentucky yesterday than Jared Prickett, a 6-foot-9 freshman from Fairmont, W.Va., famous as the native turf of Mary Lou Retton.
Prickett was the only first-year player on the all-Southeas Regional tournament team after garnering 22 points and 11 rebounds in the Wildcats' march to the Final Four field against Florida State.
Coach Rick Pitino was dickering about whether to start the talle Prickett or 6-5 guard Jeff Brassow to match up with Florida State's Bobby Sura, a player who could thrive outside against a slower defender.
"We made the right guess," Pitino said.
Prickett learned of the decision just before the game after th Wildcats' bus was delayed by a traffic jam en route to the Charlotte Coliseum.
"I was nervous about it, but I thought I stepped up my play," he said in a massive understatement. "This is probably the best game of my career.
"Usually, I just watch Jamal [Mashburn] and Travis [Ford] tak over games. I just run around and get rebounds."
With Mashburn's shooting sub-par, the All-American turned hi attention to passing and he often found Ford outside and Prickett open underneath.
"I've never seen a player have such a knack for finding the basketball like Jared," Ford said. "If he ever develops a jump shot, he'll be a lottery pick some day."
Pitino said Prickett is a throwback to the players of yore.
"He has a Larry Bird-type work ethic," Pitino said.
"That old-fashioned work ethic. And Jared has the great benefit of playing against Mash [Mashburn] in practice every day."
Joining Prickett on the all-tournament roster were teammates Mashburn and Ford, Rodney Dobard of Florida State and Western Kentucky point guard Mark Bell.
Dobard, playing with a stress fracture in his left foot, wa impressive with 32 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks. He came on offensively in the final seven games, averaging almost 13 points.
The Kentucky connection
Kentucky noted some interesting facts in its pre-game release.
The last time the Final Four was in New Orleans (1987), Pitin was there as the Providence coach.
The last time Kentucky won the NCAA title (1978), Alabama took college football's national title, Dallas won the Super Bowl and a southern Democrat [Jimmy Carter] was the President.