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By ASHLEY SCOBY
To be yourself is one of the first lessons taught in school, and the one that is continuously stressed throughout the high school years. Once you join a sports team, however, that idea sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. It’s suddenly not as important who you are individually, as long as the team comes first.
Well, maybe it does matter at Kentucky.
Senior Twany Beckham is learning the importance of just that — being himself — as he continues to build his role on the Kentucky squad in the year after the Wildcats won the national championship.
“We don’t try to compare ourselves to last year’s team, you know. Guys like me and Kyle (Wiltjer) and Jon (Hood) and JP (Jarrod Polson), some of us were on last year’s team, but nobody even brings it up,” Beckham said. “This year we’ve got to find our own identity and try to do what we did last year. But we never talk about what the team did last year, or expectations.”
And the individual identity that Beckham will bring to the team?
“I’m an energy guy,” he said. “I come in and play hard at both ends of the court. I specialize in defense. Whenever we need to stop somebody, hopefully I can get put on that guy to stop him.”
The first step of being called upon to defend an opponent’s best player, of course, is to get on the court, which is another goal of Beckham’s. He played a total of 44 minutes last season, and hopes to build on that during the upcoming year. The key to increasing his participation this season is, you guessed it, defense.
“Playing for coach Cal, defense has got to be one of your strengths or you’re not going to play,” Beckham said. “Individually, I’ve been getting in shooting, working on my ball-handling, just trying to get better at everything I can get better at, so when the season comes, I can get some minutes on the floor.”
Getting onto that floor is not only a goal of Beckham’s, but a lifelong dream. A native of Louisville, Beckham said his “dream school” was always Kentucky, but he instead went to play for Mississippi State before returning to the Bluegrass.
Now Beckham has a national championship ring and a chance to compete for more playing time during the upcoming season. The key to that happening, as well as the key to Kentucky backing up its national title, is holding onto individual identities within the framework of the overall team, according to him.
“Once we start practice, everyone will have a better clue about what their job is,” he said. “Everyone just needs to be themselves and do what they have to do on the floor to help us win. Nobody should try to do too much. We all need each other.”