By LARRY VAUGHT
Kenny Payne can still remember the play freshman Tyler Herro made in the Bahamas that let the Kentucky assistant coach know he could be a special player.
“He drove to the basket, had the ball in his left hand, didn’t touch it with his right hand, laid it off the glass and winked at me,” said Payne Monday.
Winked at the UK assistant coach?
“I think I drove left, did like a little hop step, made a left-hand layup and on the way back down on defense I winked at him,” Herro confirmed Monday. “I thought I made a good play and me and KP (Payne) have a good relationship, so I kind of winked at him as a funny joke. I think it was towards the end of the game. I love KP. We have a great relationship, like I said. He’s a great coach.”
How did Payne react to the wink?
“I think he just started laughing,” Herro said.
Payne said he tried to ignore the wink, but couldn’t.
“After the game the referee said, ‘Kenny Payne, did you see what he did? He winked at you.’ He has a confidence, a way about himself, that’s pretty good,” Payne said.
Herro had an off shooting game in Saturday’s win over Kansas but drew praise from Kansas coach Bill Self for his defensive play.
“I think that what is happening for Tyler Herro, right in front of our eyes, is non-basketball people are looking at him saying he’s missing shots. Basketball people are looking at Tyler saying, ‘Man, his energy. Man, he can pass. Man, he’s defending. He does a little bit of everything. He can drive to the basket,’” Payne said. “So, there’s people being so concerned with shooting that they’re forgetting and not noticing exactly what he’s bringing to the table.”
Payne is not surprised by what Herro has done. Instead, Payne says Herro is doing exactly the same things he’s always done.
“That’s one of the things that he takes pride in, one of the responsibilities of him walking into this program is, ‘I’m coming here to show people that I’m not just a shooter. I’m going after people. I can play. I can put it on the floor. I’ve got wiggles. I’ve got swag. You name it, I got it,’” Payne said.