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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).”

6 Responses to Calipari on Poythress: “He’s well beyond where he’d been”

  • Jim Harris says:

    Cal says he’d like to have these kids for four years—how incredible this year’s team would be, say in 2015/16!

    HOWEVER, so many of his recruits list “a quick trip to the NBA” as a key reason why they choose Cal and UK. Reckon he’d still land most of them if they didn’t feel he could get them to the big money sooner because they all had to stay in school 4 years?

    • Karen Sprinkle says:

      I may be naive, but yes, I still think that the most talented players would still pick UK if the rules changed and they had to stay multiple years before being eligible for the draft. If you listen to the interviews with many of Cal’s former players, they all say the same thing–he prepared them to play in the league, not just in teaching them basketball, but in teaching them how to carry themselves and to see the bigger picture.

  • King Ghidora says:

    What I find hilarious is all those other coaches bellyaching about Cal’s system but they’re dying to get the same players Cal gets and they couldn’t keep them in college any longer. That stuff worked for those coaches until people started seeing their players go pro after one season. They it just made them look like the crybaby jerks they are for ever criticizing Cal for playing one and done players. Seriously how many teams wanted guys like Wiggins and how many of us think he will be around more than one year? And any coach that tries to talk a kid like that into staying college is a selfish jerk looking to line his own pockets with the talent of his players. Roy is seriously bad about that stuff. So are his fans. Check out this article and notice the whopping lies told about Cal and “…his recruiting tactic of telling players they will only need to play college basketball for one year before they can head to the NBA.”

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1587992-unc-basketball-recruiting-how-andrew-wiggins-decision-will-affect-tar-heels

    It’s funny how they never bother to produce anyone who says they were told that. That would be expecting actual journalism I guess. Still Roy’s Boys go early and he tries to sign other players that everyone knows will go early. Like Wiggins. They were frothing at the mouth to get Wiggins on the team. I guess it’s only bad when other teams have one and done players. UNC is such a pure and pristine place to play basketball after all (except for all those fake classes and players who get driving charges dropped so they can play after their “indefinite” suspensions which last maybe 2 days of practice). Who would dare sully the name “Tar Heel” by going pro after just one year. Roy has to eat too after all. And buy his big houses and fancy cars and how can he do that if he doesn’t convince great players to carry his water?

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    It will be interesting to see how Poythress fits in with the super freshmen. Will he push a freshman to the bench, or will he see bench time?

    It has been speculated that Calipari would still get the great players if it were not for his one and done system. He would get his share. But with players staying 3 or 4 years the super players would be distributed among the other better programs. After all, without the one and done system, how could he continue to have a number one recruiting class year after year? There simply would not be room on the roster.

  • Kokamo Joe says:

    Poythress may well be a beast this year. I have found that it is best to wait and see. We see stories much like this during the summer and before each season starts. I remember stories about how great Ryan Harrow was going to be. Coaches push their players and newspapers gladly report it.

    The truth is that we don’t know just how great each player will be or how great the team will be until they toss the ball up. UK does have Michigan State, North Carolina and Louisville on the preconference this year. By the end of the UL game we should know something about this team. If they have jelled the SEC will be no challenge and the Cats should skate into the NCAA tournament with a number one seed.

  • Don says:

    Maybe some of cal’s calls about Kentucky isn’t for everyone and you have a target on your back and you can’t hide here might be a negative for some of these great recruits. To me all of those statements are negative and maybe should be discarded for more positive statements about Kentucky, we are a good academic school.
    and we have a great fan base and we do prepare students for life after university.

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