Kentucky star looks to hit stride in SEC play
by By Jeff Lockridge, USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress has been pretty good. But that’s not nearly good enough for coach John Calipari.
The 6-foot-7 forward from Northeast returns to his home state and the school he considered committing to when the Wildcats (9-4) visit Vanderbilt (6-6) Thursday on ESPN in the SEC opener for both teams.
“I was somewhat close (to attending Vandy), but I made my decision to come here and I’m glad I made that decision,” Poythress told Kentucky reporters on Wednesday. “It’s like a normal game. I have people and friends coming to the home games all the time, so it’s going to be a regular situation.”
Poythress, who has been sick this week but intends to play, knew that his likely only season in Lexington en route to the NBA would come with high demands and even higher expectations.
At times he has met them. Tennessee’s 2012 Class AAA Mr. Basketball recipient leads the SEC in field-goal percentage (64.2) by a wide margin while averaging 14 points and 6.3 rebounds. In a Nov. 13 game with current No. 1 Duke, he posted 20 points (9 of 12 FG) and eight rebounds.
Other times he has disappeared. Calipari didn’t start Poythress for the first time at Louisville after rough outings against Lipscomb and Marshall. Recently, Poythress went through “Camp Cal” — the name given to individual workouts with his coach after practice.
“Right now what he’s doing in the individual workouts and what we’re trying to get him to the point of is: more exertion, more effort, pushing through comfort levels,” Calipari said.
“If it were normal and he wasn’t in a program that’s on warp speed, he’s fine. He’s a freshman and he’ll get it sooner or later. If not this year, next year or the following year, he’ll get it and then he’ll become unbelievable. But this stuff is on warp speed and you’re held to a different standard as a player. Here he is as a freshman, practically getting a double-double, and it’s not good enough.
“Well, to be honest, it’s not because it’s not his best.”