Pettigrew deserves another blue ribbon

Jonathan Lintner

In case you missed it, the Blue Ribbon Yearbook released its preseason men’s basketball predictions a little more than a week ago.

WKU was tabbed to finish first in the Sun Belt Conference’s East Division, senior forward Sergio Kerusch was named to the Preseason All-Conference Team, and senior forward Juan Pattillo was tabbed Preseason Newcomer of the Year.

That’s all great, and all those predictions will most likely repeat themselves when regular-season awards are handed out in the spring (give or take the East Division prediction).

But the Blue Ribbon experts seem only to deal with talent, size and raw skill. In the process, they forgot about arguably the biggest heart in the Sun Belt this season — the one that belongs to senior forward Steffphon Pettigrew.

It’s Pettigrew, along with the now-graduated Jeremy Evans, who Head Coach Ken McDonald repeatedly said took to the WKU coaching staff’s teachings from the word “go” last season. And while the pair formed the backbone of a team that entered last season with lofty expectations, things never came together the way McDonald had hoped.

Because he was a standout player on an underperforming team — maybe that’s why Pettigrew, a fourth-year player out of Elizabethtown, hasn’t earned the proper recognition.

Yes, a possible reason why — just not a very good one.

Pettigrew averaged almost 15 points and six rebounds a game last season and posted double figures in scoring in 29 of 34 games. He also played 32.9 minutes a game, second only to now-graduate A.J. Slaughter.

Those numbers were good enough for the Sun Belt’s all-conference second team last March. Now the Blue Ribbon Yearbook is telling us that Pettigrew, one of just 45 players in WKU’s 1,000-Point Club even before his senior season, isn’t a top-five player in one of the worst basketball conferences in the country?

It’s almost like he’s being punished for not having his portrait taken for the Blue Ribbon Yearbook despite its slogan, “Gary did it. Why not you?” or whatever the non-WKU yearbook’s equivalent is.

Then again, it could have been an oversight. A simple mistake. A classic case of a national publication eyeballing who the Sun Belt’s brightest stars might be this season rather than really doing its homework.

But it’s not like the Blue Ribbon Yearbook — “the most comprehensive guide on the market” — hasn’t heard of Pettigrew before.

At least I hope so.

Pettigrew is the first Mr. Basketball to attend WKU since 1984, and he was named Kentucky Player of the Year by both the Associated Press and Louisville Courier-Journal following his senior season at Elizabethtown High School.

So someone out there — a lot of someones — have awarded Pettigrew blue ribbons before.

Very few, though, have probably given Pettigrew as much motivation to prove them wrong as the Blue Ribbon Yearbook.