Alex Poythress returned home to Clarksville, Tenn., during a break at Kentucky and worked a summer camp at his high school that George Robinson, a sports writer with The Leaf Chronicle in Clarksville, said thrilled the camp participants.
“Kids at the camp were excited to see Alex. They were hanging on his every action. If he shot the ball they oo’d and aww’d. Was cool to see that,” said Robinson, who covered Poythress during his all-American prep career before he picked UK over Florida and Vanderbilt for his college basketball.
Poythress played a key role in Kentucky’s postseason run that got the Wildcats to the national championship game and then decided to stay at UK for his junior season rather than opt for the NBA draft.
“There was nothing about the NBA that he talked about specifically,” Robinson said. “I sort of got the impression that he had moved on from the decision, meaning that he was done with the subject and wanted to focus on his junior season.
“Barring any catastrophic injury, the NBA will be there for him in the near future. I think the goal of being a lottery pick is there and real if he can gain back confidence in his perimeter shot.”
Poythress did tell Robinson that he liked “being in college” and that he was “not in any rush to go pro” because he wants to stay in school and improve. He also noted that he’s on track to graduate after his junior season and enjoys being in school with his sister, Alexis.
Robinson said it was the “same Alex” he saw at the camp compared to the player he covered in high school.
“Sort of quiet. He’s never going to be a rambunctious individual. He keeps everything close to the vest which is OK. I don’t think anyone can or should change his personality. You just work with what is there,” Robinson said.
Poythress has frustrated UK coach John Calipari, and even UK fans at times, with his up and down play. However, he’s shown stretches of brilliance highlighted by extraordinary athleticism. Calipari’s biggest complaint at times has been having to push Poythress to play with the all-out intensity the coach wants.
“I think he can be much more aggressive. I think that’s what Cal wants, too. I think sometimes fans get aggression and mean confused. I don’t think he has that DeMarcus Cousins personality, but he can attack the basket harder which will help his game,” Robinson said.
“Perfect example: Anthony Davis was never a mean player but he was an extremely aggressive player. I think Cousins was both.”
Robinson said Poythress just needs to regain the confidence he had in high school.
“The Alex I saw as a senior in high school was one that had all the confidence in the world and wasn’t afraid to take outside shots. Obviously the competition is much greater at the college level, but It’s difficult trying to accept a role on a college team for the betterment of the team while trying to maintain, or even introduce, skills that will translate nicely to the pro level,” Robinson said.
“College role players are hardly ever first round draft picks but Alex has the size, frame and skill set to be one of the few. His ballhandling and outside shooting are two things NBA scouts are really looking for from him. He’ll get there. I think he has a huge opportunity the coming season because he will be an older player on a supremely talented team that should win the NCAA title.
“His leadership ability and confidence in his play, especially early in the season, will be telling when games begin in late November. Again, the biggest thing with Alex is his comfort level and confidence. If, or when, those two things hit their stride, you will see a monster on the court.”