By KEITH TAYLOR, firstname.lastname@example.org
Alex Poythress began his collegiate career with a bang.
The former Tennessee Mr. Basketball scored 20 or more points in four of his first five games at Kentucky and reached double figures in eight of his first 10 games. Despite the fast start, Poythress struggled to regain the same level of consistency he enjoyed during the first month in his first season with the Wildcats.
He averaged 11.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and ranked second on the team in both categories. He scored 20 or more points in four consecutive games, becoming the first Kentucky freshman since Dwight Anderson during the 1978-79 season to achieve the 20-point plateau. His early numbers signaled a jump to the NBA at the end of the season, but his stock eventually plunged, and Poythress opted to return to Kentucky for a second season.
Although his draft status played a role in his decision to return, Kentucky’s disappointing 21-12 season that ended with a loss to Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT, left a sour taste in Poythress’ mouth, prompting the Clarksville, Tenn., power forward to stay for at least one more season.
Poythress has already put last season in his rear-view mirror and isn’t looking back.
“Last year was last year,” he said. “We’re just trying to focus on this year and do great things. I’ve already put last year behind me. It is what it is. You can’t change the past.”
He’s also not giving a second thought on his decision to return to Kentucky.
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I made my decision and I told myself I wouldn’t look back at it.”
During the summer, Poythress participated in the Kevin Durant Skills Academy and spent more time dribbling the basketball than sharpening his shooting and rebounding skills. He also spent time on campus for a couple of months.
“I worked on my ball-handling,” he said. “I’ve been working on my mid-range game, and I think it’s coming along real good. I’ve been trying to add (those skills) to my package. I’ve been spending a lot of time working on individual stuff. It’s coming along. We did a lot of individual workouts, and I’m just trying to become an all-around better player.”
The growing pains Poythress endured as a freshman served as a learning experience for him.
“Sometimes when things don’t go your way, you’ve got to fight through adversity and cope with it,” he said. “It helped me a lot and helped me mature as a player, helped me grow up and mature. I have a different mentality going into this year. Sometimes you just need a different mentality, a different mind set. I need to be more aggressive out there and not be as passive. I’ve matured a lot from the last year. I’ve got the mentality I need to improve and get better.”