Most Recent Posts
- Young Kentucky fan (@nosidam__) shares her passion for Kentucky sports
- Stoops: UK-Louisville future games “up to our administration” but “not interested” in 9 SEC games
- UK football coach Mark Stoops understands obstacles, challenges at UK but “we’re going to play to win”
- Former UK great Jeff Sheppard excited about recruiting class, but says fans should remember players are young
- Kentucky fans even took time to throw up the “3 goggles” in the Alps
- Signee Marcus Lee says Kentucky “will refuse to lose next year”
- Even UK football coach Mark Stoops did not expect this much fan support at Kentucky
- Video: UK softball coach Rachel Lawson previews the Super Regional clash against Arizona State
By LARRY VAUGHT
In an effort to get Alex Poythress to start playing more like he did earlier in the year than how he has recently, Kentucky coach John Calipari had individual workouts with the freshman forward this week.
“After today’s practice I told him, ‘I’m proud of you.’ It was a 27-minute workout. Yesterday that 27 minutes was about 38 minutes. Today, he cut it down because he just – the mental part of being — you can’t break down when you just feel that you’re tired,” said Calipari Monday. “So anytime he breaks down, he has to go again on the stuff that we’re doing. It’s all stuff relevant to him, that’s going to help him in the games.
“This is what I used to do with NBA players if they were injured. I would personally work them out, and until they could get through the workout I wouldn’t let them play in a game. Then when they played in the game, they had better numbers than before they were injured because I knew and they knew they were ready to go play. That’s what I’m trying to get through to him.
“He was way better today than he was yesterday. It wasn’t close. Now, was he all the way there? No. He’s still not ready to play a game. Now we’ve got to go, and the next few days we’ll see where he goes. Then we have time before our next game, and we’ll see where he goes.”
Poythress was the first UK freshman to score 20 or more points in four straight games this season. After five games, he was averaging 18.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and was 36 for 55 from the field. At Notre Dame, he got just one shot in UK’s loss and had only three points to start a downward spiral. In UK’s last seven games, he’s averaging 10.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per gam and is 27 for 45 from the field.
Calipari is working Poythress out with point guard Ryan Harrow and guard Archie Goodwin prior to practice. He’s also gotten sophomore Kyle Wiltjer doing extra work to improve his toughness. Harrow says Calipari gave him no choice but to break some habits and it has shown in his recent improved play.
“Now we’ve got to get Alex to change. Kyle has got to except that he’s got to get rougher and tougher. He’s got to do it,” Calipari said.
Harrow believes it is a “mental thing” with Poythress.
“Listening to what coach Cal says you can’t take it to heart because he is just screaming. That is what he does, he screams. I think once he figures that out and once he starts believing in himself again he will be a beast that you all saw in the Duke game,” Harrow said.
Poythress had 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting and eight rebounds against No. 1 Duke.
Calipari said Monday he wasn’t what happened to the dominating player Poythress was against Duke.
“You’ll have to ask him, but he didn’t do it the whole game. You’re wrong. He did it on like seven possessions, eight possessions. On this seven or eight possessions, he got tip-back dunks, he made baskets around the goal, but the rest of the time he reverted back to his jog, to standing up, to not getting the ball by the guy. The question is, ‘Why’s your mentality that that’s OK? Where did you come up with that, that it’s OK to be that way? If you’re capable of doing this all the time, why would you not do it?’ That’s the whole mentality that’s gotta change. Just takes time,” Calipari said.
“See, the crazy thing is, in a normal situation, a normal freshman that’s going to be with me for four years, is this really a big problem? No. No. Because I’m going to push you and try to make you better, but don’t worry, next year, you’re going to be ridiculous. Your junior year? Oh my! But this is a different — this stuff is on steroids. This is a (one-and-done) process that you accept coming in.”
Teammate Willie Cauley-Stein senses that Poythress might be feeling more pressure because of his potential and high expectations. During the early season, he was even mentioned as a possible candidate for the top pick in the 2013 NBA draft. Calipari doesn’t buy that reasoning for why Poythress is not being as aggressive and intense as Calipari wants.
“I think they’ve all got pressure on them, every one of them, from Ryan to Archie to Alex to Nerlens (Noel). How about Nerlens? He’s supposed to be this, that and the other. So playing at Kentucky, believe me, there’s enough pressure on you,” Calipari said. “Willie may feel that way because there was no pressure on Willie coming in, but now what? He’s performed a little bit, so what? There’s pressure on Willie.”
Calipari says he is concentrating on things that are “pertinent” to how Poythress should be playing in transition during his individual workout.
“In transition, where he catches the ball on the court and what we’re trying to get him to do. Keep his head up. Get the ball by the man. Catch it with two hands. Stay down! How about this novel idea? Sprint the floor. Like, sprint. Yeah, now, you don’t run like that in the game. So we’re doing all that kind of stuff.” Calipari said.
“And then between the stuff that we do, he’s got to shoot free throws. He wants to stop. Well, you’ve got 10 seconds to start. That’s the game. If you don’t shoot it in 10 seconds, it’s a miss. You’ve got to make four of five or you’ve got to run a 31-second run. Now, he hates to run. So today, he made every free throw. No, that can’t be the guy that went two out of six and almost shoots airballs left. Not airballs short. Left airballs. The same kid now makes every one today? Yes. Made every one today. Did not run a 31-second run because of free throws. Well again, you understand the mental toughness, the focus and you got to make losing like it’s running, then. ‘I don’t want to lose, so I’m not missing these.’”
Calipari doesn’t believe the scrutiny UK players get from the media or fans is a problem for Poythress. Instead, the coach says he just has to change some habits like Harrow did.
“The minute he changes his habits, the minute he changes his mentality of how he wants to play and how he needs to play, he’ll be fine. When you see him in two weeks you’ll say slowly you’ve seen the change,” Calipari said. “I don’t know if it’ll be this week, because I’m going to have three workouts with him (before Eastern Michigan Wednesday night), but by that next game I think you’ll start seeing a different. You’ll say, ‘Wow is he playing different.’ But it’s not – I’m not doing anything different. I’m just making him do stuff, making him change his habits and making him think differently about how you should play the game.”