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By KEITH TAYLOR, Winchester Sun
Sophomore Alex Poythress plans on becoming more of a leader on a team stockpiled with freshmen.
“I’m trying to step up and be a leader,” he said. “I’m one of the veteran leaders, and me and Willie (Cauley-Stein) are trying to step up. We don’t have that many veteran leaders and me and Willie are stepping up to be the two veteran leaders that we need. If we can get five leaders on the court at one time, we should be good.”
Poythress is working on becoming a vocal leader to coincide with his plans to be a leader by example.
“I’m going to try to be more of a vocal leader and that’s what I’m trying to work on,” he said. “I’m a quiet guy, but I’m going to try to be more vocal this year.”
Based on his experiences from a year ago, Poythress advices the incoming freshman class “to work hard” and not take anything for granted.
“Things aren’t going to be given to you,” he said. “Every game is going to be tough and so you’ve got to be ready — just play basketball.”
Poythress said the newcomers will be counted on to give the Wildcats a boost on the court and help ease the pains of last year’s disappointing season.
“They’re all great players coming in and they all bring something different to the table,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with Aaron (Harrison) — he’s a scorer.”
In order to mesh as a unit, Poythress said the Wildcats “have to come together as a team” to be successful.”
“It will take everybody doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said. “You have to learn not to pay attention (to the hype) and keep being a team, a family with the coaching staff. It’s all how you come together as a team. The sky is the limit for this team, really.”
Using last season as an example, Poythress added that blending talent isn’t an easy task.
“It’s real hard,” Poythress said. “People say it’s easy by just getting good players, but you have to figure out what they do well and how they mesh with each other, how they gel with each other, and chemistry is a big factor. It was a problem last year, we didn’t mature as fast as we should have we didn’t improve as good as we should have improved.”
In addition to the non-conference schedule, Poythress said the Southeastern Conference slate also presents a challenge for the Wildcats.
“Every SEC game is tough, especially road games,” he said. “That’s one thing I learned as a freshman. Everybody plays good (at home) and you’re playing in front of a hostile environment. You’ve just got to be ready for it, the fans and everything. You’ve just got to play basketball. You can lose any road game no matter who you are playing — you’ve got to be ready. You’re not playing in your own gym. … Every game on the road is tough.”
Although getting back to the NCAA tournament is a priority, Poythress said “at the end of the day, the team goal is to win a national championship.”
“That’s why you play the game,” he said. “We all want to win a (NCAA) championship, and that’s our goal right now. That’s why I came back. We can win a national championship and do it all, really. We’ve got the pieces, we’ve just got to put them together.”