By LARRY VAUGHT
John Calipari has heard plenty about the “disappointing” freshman season that Alex Poythress had. Of course, at times the Kentucky coach sounded frustrated and disappointed himself with Poythress last season even when he averaged 11.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 25 minutes per game while shooting 58 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range.
“He just wasn’t Anthony Davis. But as far as freshmen go, he was good. But I had to play him whether he was playing bad or good. It wasn’t his fault what happened. But he can shoot,” said Calipari.
Poythress didn’t put his name into the NBA draft as former teammates Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin did last year. Instead, he opted to come back to UK along with Willie Cauley-Stein and is now the most experienced player on Calipari’s talent-laden roster. Calipari also likes the change in Poythress’ mindset.
“His head’s up, he’s looking you in the eye. He’s not … I think he’s more confident. He’s ready for the year,” Calipari said. ”He’s well beyond where he’d been. But that’s the growth. Again, when you look at his numbers as a freshman in this league, you say, he had a hell of a year for a freshman, But this is Kentucky. This is a different animal.
“There’s nothing like this. There’s never been anything like this, what we’re going through, and everybody’s held to a different standard. It’s just how it is. If you want to come here, you better accept that, or don’t come here. It’s not changing. You think it’s changing? No, it ain’t.”
So has Poythress changed?
“Now what happens to him is he comes back, he knows ‘I’ve got to change. There are things I’m going to do different, and I’m going to do them.’ It’s part of growth. And that shouldn’t be like something bad,” Calipari said. “You know how happy I’d be if I had guys for three and four years? I’d be ecstatic. Are you kidding me? But, each year, we’ve got … Each kid is on his own time frame.
“Like I tell these kids when we recruit them, ‘I don’t know what your timeframe is. I don’t know what the maturation for your body is going to be. What do you think, I’m looking into a crystal ball and I know stuff? I don’t. I don’t know if you’re skill level is going to come. I don’t know if you have toughness in late games to make plays to turn people on. We don’t know all that. If you have all that, then you’re going to leave after a year. If you don’t, you can’t, you’re not leaving after a year.”
Calipari has more depth this year than he did last season when Noel’s injury doomed UK to the NIT. This year if a player is not playing well, Calipari will be able to put him on the bench because he believes he has depth at every position.
“We don’t have too many guys, but I think we have enough where everybody’s going to be kept honest,” Calipari said. “But we’re young. We have two (guys back who started last year). (But) This team went to an NIT and lost on the road (last year).”