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By LARRY VAUGHT
Since Bruce Pearl has been out of coaching only two years, the former Tennessee coach recruited and/or watched many of the current Cats play in high school.
“I remember (point guard) Ryan Harrow in AAU. I know what a terrific scorer he is and know he needs to be aggressive offensively,” Pearl said. “That’s who he is and always has been. He does not have to be molded in John Calipari’s point guard mold. Yes, he needs to be a leader and play unselfish. But he needs to score to be effective. That gets the rest of his game going.”
Freshman guard Archie Goodwin came to Pearl’s camp at Tennessee.
“I was one of the first to offer Archie (a scholarship). I love him,” Pearl said. “He’s absolutely a great scorer. Great prospect. Great kid. He’s way too hard on himself. But I knew it would be hard for Archie to be the best offensive player on the team and hard on Kentucky if he was the guy they were counting on to be the best offensive player on the team night in, night out.
“I loved Archie Goodwin. He called me after games. He was so hard on himself. I spent most of my time trying to get him to stop being so hard on himself, and he loved to be coached. He wanted to be coached. He wanted the input. I knew after watching him play it was only a matter of time before my phone would ring and it would be him. It must be great to coach him.”
He watched freshman Alex Poythress of Clarksville, Tenn., and calls him a “rare specimen” much like Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, UK starts last year who went one-two in the NBA draft, were during Kentucky’s national championship season.
“But he grew up in Clarksville. He did not play the same level of competition that some players have,” Pearl said. “He has a ways to go. That does not mean he’s behind. It means he’s a fantastic freshman but his game is not as mature as what Kentucky is used to seeing. Kidd-Gilchrist as a high school freshman was dominating the AAU circuit. As a sophomore, he was a man among boys. That’s not the case with Alex. Too much is being asked of him.”
Pearl credits Calipari with a “great find in Willie Cauley-Stein who may wind up the best pro” on the roster. He’s also been impressed with freshman Nerlens Noel.
“He’s a terrific defender. He’s improved offensively. He’s showed great character,” Pearl said. “I like his body language. Like his energy level. Like the fact he likes to defend and block and change shots and rebound. He is probably behind offensively in the post, but he is scoring with his back to the basket some. I think he is on track to be a really great player.”