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By LARRY VAUGHT
There’s is no doubt and never has been about Alex Poythress’ talent for John Calipari. Instead, the question for the Kentucky coach becomes just how hard he can get the UK freshman to play.
“Alex, it’s just a motor. We’ve got to get him to understand how hard on every possession you must play,” Calipari said. “When we get him there, he will be scary. But right now, we are going to be behind. That’s just the way it is,.
“Last year we had Doron (Lamb), Terrence (Jones) and Darius (Miller). They had all been to a Final Four the year before. You are talking about one truly veteran player (Kyle Wiltjer) and two that seem to be as veteran as we keep here in two-year guys. We need Alex to play with that motor.”
Poythress, a power forward from Clarksville, Tenn., knows that and has already had many one-on-one conversations with Calipari about his intensity.
“He talks with me a lot about that. I am just trying to be like Mike (Kidd-Gilchrist was last year), trying to walk in his footsteps and play that role he played last year,” Poythress said.
Those are big footsteps, because not only was Kidd-Gilchrist the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft behind teammate Anthony Davis, but he was also one of the most intense players ever to play at Kentucky.
“I play that way all the time, I think. I can do that for this team. You just have to play hard all the time and not take plays off,” Poythress said.
“I was used to doing that in high school when I was double- and triple-teamed so much. It was good preparation for here now that everybody is really good and I won’t have two or three people on me. There’s no reason for me not to play harder than anyone else.
“I like that expectation of being like Mike. You have to have big expectations and set expectations high so you have something to live up to and work for.”
DraftExpress.com analyst Matt Kamalsky said he believes Poythress has even better talent than many realize.
“Poythress has all the physical tools to be a great NBA small forward and has shown remarkable development in his skill set over the past year and change,” Kamalsky said. “He is so versatile on the offensive end for a player his age, and it seems like he keeps finding more ways to impact the game as he’s matured.
“If he can become a reliable 3-point shooter, get stronger and learn to make the most of that strength when attacking the rim, he can be a special talent.”
“Even with how highly touted he is coming in, I think Poythress has the potential to be to surprise of this UK recruiting class.”