Kentucky coach John Calipari promises that Alex Poythress will improve.
In fact, he’s taking a personal interest to ensure the freshman’s growth.
One of the Wildcats’ four highly touted rookies, Poythress is struggling. Despite being Kentucky’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, inconsistency has raised concerns about his commitment.
Poythress didn’t start in Saturday’s 80-77 loss to rival Louisville and had just seven points and five rebounds in a season-low 15 minutes. Calipari hinted earlier this week that Poythress might not play in Wednesday night’s non-conference home game against Eastern Michigan unless he improves.
The coach is trying to avoid that scenario through one-on-one sessions with Poythress, aiming to correct flaws in his game and motivate the soft-spoken forward. Calipari’s personal instruction has already helped guard Ryan Harrow rejoin the starting lineup for Kentucky (8-4).
“He just has to change his habits just like Ryan (Harrow) had to,” Calipari said. “The minute he changes his habits, the minute he changes his mentality of how he wants to play and how he needs to play, he will be fine. I will say in two weeks, when you see him play in two weeks, you will say you are slowly seeing the change.
“I don’t know if it will be this week because I will only have three workouts with him, but by the next game, you will start to see a difference and say, ‘Wow, is he playing different.’ I am not doing anything but making him do stuff and change his habits and making him think differently about how you should play the game.”
Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley-Stein and Poythress arrived at Kentucky this season facing high expectations of duplicating the success of recent rookie classes, especially last year’s group that earned the Wildcats’ eighth national title. Some NBA scouting blogs even projected the 6-foot-7, 239-pound Poythress as a potential first-round draft pick because of his strength and ability to play both forward spots.
Poythress, averaging 13.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game this season, has shown that potential in spots. overs and poor shooting to take a 31-29 lead at the half.
The second halfway was a much different story as the Cougar defense forced turnovers that were converted into easy baskets, allowing LCCHS to outscore Central 23-8 down the stretch.
The Cougars enjoyed balanced scoring with four players scoring in double figures led by junior forward Josh Owens’s game-high 18 points. Cody Gregory chipped in with 14 points while Zane Blair and Sam Robinson finished with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Chippy Frazier wound up with nine and Austin Bolling with three. Dylan Kincer and Max Hall finished with two points each and Hunter Hall added one point.
Daniel Boone (Tenn.) 82
Letcher Central 71
Despite four players scoring in double figures, the LCCHS Cougars came up short in their second round game in the Alpha Classic in Wise, Va., December 28 against Daniel Boone. The Cougars stayed within striking distance in the first half, but struggled in the third quarter and allowed Daniel Boone to stretch its margin to 14 points entering the final quarter.
LCCHS trailed 18-14 after the first quarter, 38-31 at the half and 57-43 after three quarters. The Cougars reduced their margin to single digits a couple of times down the stretch but could not catch up.
Cody Gregory’s 20 points led 8-4 LCCHS. Sam Robinson added 17 points and Josh Owens 14. Chippy Frazier chipped in with 10 points. Zane Blair wound up with seven points and Dylan Kincer finished with three.
Letcher Central 60
Union (Va.) 55
The Cougars led for most of the first half but had to rally down the stretch for the victory in the opening round of the three-day Alpha Classic.
Led by the perimeter scoring of senior Cody Gregory and junior Chippy Frazier and Sam Robinson, the Cougars took a commanding 19-8 lead after the first quarter before Union rallied against the cold shooting Cougars to close within 27- 21 at the break.
With the Cougars’ shooting woes continuing after the intermission, Union moved in front 36-35 to start the final quarter, but the Cougars rallied and took the lead midway of the fourth quarter and held on down the stretch.
Cody Gregory and Chippy Frazier led the 8-3 Cougars with 14 points each. Sam Robinson chipped in with 11. Dylan Kincer scored seven points, and Zane Blair and Josh Owens finished with six points each. Max Hall added two points.