After two years of showing flashes of brilliance, Alex Poythress is trying to put it all together in his junior year as a Kentucky Wildcat.
He took an early step in that direction on Sunday as Kentucky toppled the Puerto Rican National Team reserves, 74-49.
“He was terrific,” head coach John Calipari said of Poythress’ performance after the game. “That’s as good as he’s played.”
Poythress logged a total of 22 minutes and finished with 10 points on 50 percent shooting (including a few thunderous dunks), six rebounds and one uber-athletic blocked shot. He was extremely active around the rim and looked as explosive as ever.
The one question that was left unanswered on Sunday is whether or not he will be able to fill the small forward role effectively. Because of how the rosters were split on Sunday, it made more sense for Poythress to play power forward — which he did quite effectively. When Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles return, however, he will need to adapt his skill-set to play more on the perimeter in order to earn consistent minutes.
Calipari explained that he inserted Poythress at power forward on Sunday simply in order to balance his rotations.
“I played Alex in a four-spot only because I didn’t have him with Derek [Willis], where I could have Derek Willis at the four.”
As a result, Poythress spent very little time on the perimeter on Sunday and missed his only shot attempt from beyond the arc.
Calipari explained that he was not worried about Poythress making the transition over to small forward, however, as he believes that he can play in much the same way as he did on Sunday.
“That’s what Michael Kidd[-Gilchrist] was,” said Calipari on Poythress’ playing style. “Michael Kidd was exactly the same thing.”
Calipari did mention that Poythress needs to become a more consistent shooter, but that did not temper the praise for his aggressiveness.
“He just does things that normal players can’t do,” explained Calipari. “To be honest, the stuff he does, I can’t teach you. That and toughness. He’s got a toughness to him.”
Poythress was also unconcerned with what position he was playing on the court, explaining that it wouldn’t really change his style of play.
“At the three and the four, you can play the same way pretty much. At the three, you can still go get rebounds. At the four, you can still shoot jumpers. I’m just trying to do whatever I can out there.”
Regardless of what position he ends up playing, it’s clear that Poythress has taken another step forward in his development by translating his freakish athletic ability to the court, meaning he will be a key component to the Cats’ rotation moving forward. Calipari echoed this sentiment after the game.
“Where he is physically right now, where he is mentally right now, the toughness he’s shown, you’re starting to see it in games.”