By LARRY VAUGHT
Today Alex Poythress will go through Senior Day before Kentucky plays LSU. Not many expected him to be at UK four years, especially with the torrid start to his freshman season, but a severe knee injury last year derailed his chances for going to the NBA then.
Instead, he graduated in three years, is working on a Master’s degree now and recently was named an academic all-American.
Here’s what he had to say Friday about getting ready for his final game in Rupp Arena (pregame ceremony for him is slate to start at 1:45 p.m.).
On his emotions going into his final home game … “It’s been a long ride. I’m just thankful to be playing the game, and just humbled to be in this situation.”
On how he would sum up his four years … “It’s been long, but it’s been great, some of the best memories of my life. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
On if he feels as though the fans love him … “Yeah, I think they do. I’m grateful for that, and blessed to be in the situation I’m in.”
On how important it is to write a good ending … “It’s real important. Our ultimate goal is still to win a national championship, and that’s what we’re chasing here. We’re chasing titles. We’re still working on our goal toward the end of the year to come out on top.”
On how many times he’s been asked how his knee is doing … “A lot. My knees are fine. I’m healthy, so that’s good.”
On what the academic honors mean to him … “I think it’s meant more to my parents, how hard they pushed me growing up to make sure I’m staying on top of school, staying on top of my studies. It’s probably more of a proud moment for them, and speaks volumes of them and how great of parents they are.”
On how long ago his freshman year seems to him in his mind … “Yesterday, man. It’s blown by fast. One day you’re stepping on campus, and then the next day it’s Senior Night. It’s gone real fast.”
On how hard it was to come to grips that he wouldn’t be a one and done … “It wasn’t too hard. Every year you have to make a decision whether you stay or go. Decisions are made, I’m content with them. I feel like I made them for the best reasons, and I’m just moving on from there.”
On if he has a favorite game or moment that sticks out … “Game wise, national championship, Final Four, when Aaron (Harrison) hit that shot against Wisconsin. Probably one of the best moments I’ve been a part of so far.”
On why that moment stands out … “Because he had just hit one the game before and hit it again. Emotions, you know? Then we get to play in the national title game. Just making all your dreams come true, like what you dream of when you’re a little kid. You always dream of playing for a title and we had a chance to do that that year. I mean, this year we’re trying to do the same, but that year we were actually in the title game, just came up short.”
On if he felt down after the latest knee injury this year … “No. If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that you can’t get down on things. Things happen for a reason, you just have to move on with them and just fight through adversity. Everybody gets hit with adversity in life every day. You just have to learn to deal with things like that.”
On if the team thinks about winning the SEC regular season title on Saturday … “Yeah, that’s definitely a goal. Winning any title that we can, SEC title would be the first step in our goal, then the next step would be to try to win the national title. We’re just trying to chase titles, just trying to win games.”
On what he will miss the most about UK … “Just the atmosphere, being a part of Kentucky basketball. It’s something special.”
On whether he has been in the same room the Lodge all four years … “No, I haven’t.”
On whether the Lodge feels like home … “I mean, yeah. I’ve been here for four years. Staying here four years, it is kind of weird but I’m happy to move on to the next level. I’m happy to see what the future brings out.”
On his future aspirations … “Basketball, playing professional, playing in the NBA. It’s my ultimate goal. That’s what I dream to do and I hope to do next year.”
On taking pride in proving athletes are also students … “I take a lot of pride in it. Morals and hard work and work ethic like my parents instilled in me growing up. Making sure I pay attention to school and everything like that. I’m just glad that their hard work’s paying off.”