By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Monday afternoon that injured junior forward Derek Willis is being “real diligent” with his rehabilitation from Saturday’s ankle injury
“I know he’s going to want to get out there with his teammates tomorrow,” said Barbee.
He also said that senior forward Alex Poythress, out with a knee injury, was scheduled to “resume activities” Monday but he wasn’t sure if he would play against Alabama or not tonight.
“You always want a full complement. We don’t want to go without anybody, but I know we’ve got some other guys that have stepped up in some other guys’ absences, I know with Coach’s philosophy of next man up,” Barbee said.
“You look at what Isaac (Humphries) did last game: really stepped up and was big for us. We’d like to have everybody, but I think everybody’s confident that if we do miss a couple pieces then our other guys will be ready to step in and do their jobs.”
Junior guard Dominique Hawkins said Monday he had not been around Willis much since Saturday night.
“But I always see him in the training room and he’s trying to get healthy. We don’t know when he’s going to come back, but we’re definitely going to need him,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins has also been slowed by an ankle injury.
“Coach (Cal) usually says the next man up. Usually – We’ve never had injuries like this before since I’ve been here, but I guess it just gives other guys the opportunity to play,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins did admit he felt snake-bitten since he was never hurt in high school but he’s had a broken hand and sprained ankle both this year.
“I feel like I’m 100 percent, but the doctors tell me I’ll probably be 90 percent by this time,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins said the training room can be “rough” but is necessary.
Kentucky’s Isaiah Briscoe, Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis and Isaac Humphries have all missed games for health reasons this year.
Calipari says it has all been “knick-knack stuff” keeping players out of the lineup this season.
“You just try to make do. I’m not fazed by it. I’m not – we haven’t used it as an excuse. Next man up,” Calipari said. “For some reason, it doesn’t appear that anyone is crying for Kentucky. So it’s you just make do and look at your team the way it is and say, ‘How do we have to play with this team to give ourselves a chance to win?’”
Barbee says Poythress continues to help the team even while he is not playing.
“He’s one of those guys that can finish coach Cal’s sentences before he even starts them. If you saw the game on Saturday, how engaged he was on the bench. I mean he was a coach/cheerleader/mentor to all the guys as they were on the floor coming to the bench. Whenever he’s ready to come back he’s not going to miss a beat because he’s stayed engaged,” Barbee said.
Hawkins said Poythress has never stopped being a leader.
“In practice, when the bigs are running plays and somebody forgets something, he helps them out. When we go out to eat, he’s one of the funny guys right now. He’s saying jokes and stuff to us. We can just say he’s in a happy mood right now,” Hawkins said.
“His spirits are way up really. To be honest, it’s like he’s not hurt. Like, I haven’t seen any emotions out of him other than happy. He’s in the gym, he’s running and shooting free throws. He’s been here for four years and Coach put leadership in his head that he has to be a leader for us this year.”