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By LARRY VAUGHT
Will Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin leave Kentucky after one season to take their chances in the NBA as other UK players have done after one year under John Calipari?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Goodwin is averaging a team-high 14.1 points per game along with 4.5 rebounds. Poythress contributes 11.6 points and 6.2 boards. Goodwin is second on the team with 87 assists and has 35 steals. Poythress has 21 assists and 12 blocks. They are one-two on the team in turnovers as Goodwin has 97 and Poythress 64.
Both are still projected as lottery picks in some NBA mock drafts even though they have not played as well or as consistently as they hoped or coach John Calipari anticipated. However, family members insist that the only thing both players have been thinking about is winning now.
“We just let him play and we will think about it when the time comes,” said Antoine Poythress, Alex’s father. “If the opportunity (to go to the NBA) comes, then we will evaluate it. It is not something we spend a lot of time analyzing or talking about at all. We figure if he plays well, fine. If not and he comes back to school, that’s fine. Just let his play dictate where he goes. He has enough pressure on him already. So you can imagine if we had a conversation every day about doing well to go the next level, that would be too much pressure for any 19-year-old kid.
“Kentucky is enough pressure already. That’s why we don’t spend any time talking about it. My thing is just play well and we’ll analyze things after the season ends. If he plays well, then he will be evaluated on that. But it all starts with having to play well. If he plays well, he’ll have decisions to make. If not, then the decision is made for you and you come back until your skill level gets up high enough.”
Datron Humphrey, Goodwin’s step-father, says “we don’t discuss it” when asked about what might impact Goodwin’s future.
“We discuss one game at a time. We are making sure his grades are good and making sure mentally he is good,” Humphrey said. “When it is time to talk about will you go the NBA or whatever, we’ll talk. But right now as a parent — and I used to coach him, too — we are one game at a time. We try to get better one game at a time.
“We are humbled he is even at Kentucky. We never thought about going pro and all that stuff. He’s just a kid that wants to play basketball. He has that competitiveness and hunger to get better and he will keep working. It is a blessing already what he is doing. I feel like we have already hit the lottery just getting a scholarship to Kentucky and him having a chance to reach his dream and play for coach Calipari.”
Antoine Poythress admits playing in front of 23,000 fans like his son gets to at Rupp has been beyond his son’s “wildest imagination” but that it has been hard on him to watch the ups and downs of the season
“Just watching is grueling on me. I get knots in my stomach and can’t sit still. I get excited, but it is also heart-wrenching to watch,” Antoine Poythress said. “You want him to do so well. If he misses a free throw, I am on the floor in agony. It’s just tough to watch and not be able to help him.”
Alex Poythress matched a career high with 12 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Florida in UK’s final home game. He was asked after the game how it felt to be playing in Rupp Arena for perhaps the last time.
“It was incredible. I love Rupp. I love the fans. The fans showed up every single game whether we were winning or losing. The fans were incredible and always had our backs. I just want to thank the fans and everything,” the UK freshman said.
But if Alex Poythress does return to UK, he won’t mind another year of academic work.
“I don’t worry about his classes. He likes school,” Antoine Poythress said. “Some players don’t like going to class. He enjoys the school part of it. He know he has to do it, but he does it willingly. That doesn’t factor in that he hates school, so he has to come out early (for the draft). He enjoys school, enjoys his teammates, enjoys UK.
“If anybody gets an education, it will be him. He would be a kid if he did go early, he would show back up in the summer for class or take online courses to get his education without me or his mom telling him to go back. He is self motivated with education and does it so early. He will study. He does not dread going to class. He likes the whole learning process.
“We’ve always pushed him to make the best grades he can. Average doesn’t get you far in the world. You want to do you best and the classroom is no different than the basketball court. If you can score 20 points and get 10 rebounds, you should not settle for less because you can get by. That’s the same attitude you should have in the classroom, and he does.”