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By LARRY VAUGHT
Alex Poythress has been as good as Northeast High School coach Al Cooper expected this season and has not let his decision to sign with Kentucky impact his play in any way.
â€œHeâ€™s playing at a high level. All the recruiting attention did not bother him. Alex is very mature and handled all that recruiting process very well,â€ said Cooper. â€œHe was methodical about eliminating teams and had a very good grasp on how everything worked.â€
Poythress, who scored over 30 points in four of his first six games this season, had recruiters across the country coming to Clarksville, Tenn., to see him play before he signed with the Wildcats. The 6-8 Poythress picked UKâ€ˆover Memphis, Vanderbilt and Florida after narrowing his list to a final four.
“He’s an extremely gifted athlete that can really run. He has a huge wingspan and he really attacks the basket,â€ Cooper said.
However, Poythress is also carries a 3.9 grade-point average and is what Cooper considers a model student-athlete.
â€œHe is a great role model in our community. Heâ€™s ranked 12 academically in our senior class. He is a student first in every sense of the word,â€ Cooper said. â€œHeâ€™s a very mature young man. He’s thoughtful and bright, analytical and there’s a reason why he’s a 3.9 student. Everything he does, class work or scouting reports, he thinks about the best way to do it.
â€œAlex was a canâ€™t-miss guy. He has great character, academics, behavior. You name it, he has it. He is a great role model for our school and community. In talking to (Kentucky coach) John Calipari, he wants kids that are not afraid of competition and are great character kids. I have found coach Cal to be a great coach to deal with. If a kid has great character, high expectations and big dreams, Cal wants him.â€
Poythress, who is averaging about 30 points per game, is one of six senior players named to the Naismith Trophy High School Player of the Year preseason watch listÂ announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club. The watch list was comprised by leading basketball journalists from around the country. Scout.com ranks Poythress 16th overall in the class of 2012 and the No. 3 small forward. ESPNU has him 17th overall and No. 4 at his position, while Rivals.com ranks him 19th overall and No. 8 at his position.
Thatâ€™s quite a feat for a player who was cut from his sixth-grade team.
â€œHe was a tall, gangly kid then,â€ Cooper said. â€œHe was trying to grow into his body. As he did that, his skill set got better and better. You could see it coming. What level he would get to, you did not know. But as his body filled out, he attacked the weights. Now he is a pretty special physical specimen.â€
Cooper has know Poythress since he was in the fifth grade because his twin sister played on the travel team that Cooper coach that also included his own daughter, who is going to Florida to play basketball.
â€œMy daughter and Alexâ€™s sister were great friends,â€ Cooper said. â€œI got to see him get cut from that sixth-grade team and all the emotion that went with that. Now heâ€™s been on a couple of state tournament teams. As a freshman, he played here behind a 7-footer. Iâ€™ve been around him and known him a long time.â€
Cooper will bring Poythress and his teammates to Lexington Catholic to play Saturday night against Lafayette. The previous game will feature UK signee Archie Goodwin of Arkansas playing against host Catholic.
â€œWeâ€™ve already had a lot of Kentucky blue popping up at our games,â€ Cooper said. â€œI would think there would be a bunch of blue when we play in Lexington.â€
Cooper thinks Kentucky fans who get to see Poythress play are going to be impressed.
â€œThe first thing you are looking at is a 6-8, 225-pound athlete with a 7-foot wing span. He has a very high vertical (jump). He has outstanding athleticism,â€ Cooper said. â€œThe best thing he does is attack the rim. When he attacks the rim off the dribble facing the basket he is a hard person to stop.
â€œIf you like guys that slash and get to the rim and finish with authority and torque their body to avoid charges and stuff, then you will love him.â€ˆHe is also our best 3-point shooter. Fans who get to see him are in for a treat. He fits in line great with what Cal does. I just see Alex has the next guy following the Calipari pipe line to even more success.â€