By LARRY VAUGHT
As he’s watched his son, Jarrod, play for four years at Kentucky, George Polson admits the overall experience has been even better than he anticipated it might be.
“It’s been better because of the increased playing time the last two years,” said George Polson as the senior guard, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship, prepares to play his final game in Rupp Arena Tuesday night against Alabama. “Obviously, getting a (national) championship in 2012 even though he was not playing a lot was special because not everybody does that. He has been to two Final Fours.
“I could not say anything except that his experience has been beyond what I expected. We fully expected him to play, but we didn’t know how many minutes. We didn’t think he would be a walk-on player who never got in a game. We figured he would play some. So in some ways his career has been more than we expected and in other ways about what we expected.”
Polson averaged 18.2 points, 6.4 assists and 4.9 rebounds as a senior at West Jessamine High School and led his team to two straight 12th Region championships. He finished his career as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,884 points and picked walking on at UK over a scholarship offer from Liberty.
He played in 17 games as a freshman, including appearances against Florida, Indiana and North Carolina. During UK’s national championship season, he got in 11 games, including the NCAA Tournament win over Western Kentucky. He opened his junior season with 10 points and three assists in 22 minutes against Maryland and finished it with 10 points, three assists and a career-high 31 minutes against Robert Morris and became reliable performer for coach John Calipari.
This year he’s played a season-high 30 minutes against Mississippi State and has played in 24 games. Overall, he’s been in 85 games and scored 133 points in four years.
Every year, though, he’s been one of UK’s most popular players — and had girls show up at games with signs asking for dates or even a marriage proposal. However, his popularity transcends any age or sex barriers.
“It still blows my mind how popular he’s become,” George Polson said. “It is young men, old men, young boys, coaches, women, girls. You just go across the board and the support for Jarrod is there, especially locally. He is everybody’s son or grandson. I still have people come in my work to talk to me and bring me articles about Jarrod or just talk about the game.
“Another person came in the other day to get my autograph. That’s happened three or four times. It’s kind of weird each time and I think people are pulling my leg, but they are really not. Just various things like that remind me of how popular he really is.
“He has a fan following that is kind of different than the normal Cat. I told him recently that he might thinks this ends when the last whistle blows, but he’s going to be more in demand for speaking appearances and stuff like that. That’s usually reserved for star players, but he gets it and he’s not a star player. It just goes back to him being like your son, grandson. Everybody relates to him. Every Joe Fan can relate to Jarrod because he’s one of them.”
Yet what George Polson is most proud of concerning his son did not happen on the court. Instead, it’s his academic and off-court success.
“He is going to have two degrees (finance and marketing) and one minor (communications) in four years,” George Polson said. “I don’t know of any other player who has done that. That’s made me so proud.
“Then from a faith perspective, to be involved in all he has for his time at UK has been wonderful. His faith has grown exponentially since he’s been at UK, and that’s unusual. I am more proud of that than anything. He’s been on a mission trip and was nominated for the Southeastern Conference Good Works team. How could I not be proud of that.”
Plus, George Polson has also seen how teammates respect his son.
“His teammates truly do love him. Everybody knows he’s different than the normal scholarship player and how special his story at Kentucky has been,” George Polson said. “It’s going to be emotional for all of us (on Tuesday night), but there are no regrets. He followed his dream to Kentucky and we couldn’t be prouder of him.”