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Calipari was thirty minutes late to his press conference today. Why? He was working with Alex Poythress, the second private workout in two days for the struggling freshman. Cal said that he worked with Alex for 38 minutes yesterday and 27 today, and that while Alex was “way better” this morning, “he’s still not ready to play a game.”
What do these workouts entail? Cal said that they’re working on stuff that’s all relevant to Alex, including staying low, getting back on defense and “how about this novel idea: sprint the floor!“. In between drills, Alex has to shoot free throws and if he misses one, he has to run a 31-second suicide. Cal said that because Alex “hates to run,” he made every free throw this morning.
That’s a far cry from the player that almost airballed several shots against Louisville, which is more proof that Alex’s issues are mental, not physical. Sound familiar? Calipari’s workouts with Alex are similar to those he did with Ryan Harrow after he returned to the team, and the ones he does with Archie Goodwin. We’ve seen the impact those workouts had on Ryan Harrow, so when will we see a difference in Poythress? “Two weeks,” Cal told reporters. “When you see him in two weeks, you’ll say you’re slowly seeing the change.” That’s only if Alex commits to changing his habits, as Ryan Harrow did. Harrow told reporters he is watching game film on his own for the first time this season, something which helped him out against Louisville.
Before the press conference, Willie Cauley-Stein said he thinks Poythress is struggling because he has more pressure on him than any other player on the team. Calipari shot that notion down, telling reporters that every player on this team has pressure on them. He used Willie as an example, saying that because of his atrocious performance at the free throw line Saturday, Willie was in the gym at that exact moment, shooting free throws. In order for Willie to improve, Cal told him he has to shoot 100 to 200 free throws a day.
Other quick notes:
— It wouldn’t be New Year’s Eve without a little bit of reflection. Cal said that 2012 may have been the most rewarding for him as a coach, but it could be rivaled by 2011 and maybe even 2013. “Where we are right now and where we could be at the end of this season…this could end up being my most rewarding year.” I’ll take that.
— Jon Hood was not at the team’s lift this morning, which means he’s still suffering from that “upper respiratory infection.” Cal said that another player on the team (he couldn’t remember who) was “hacking” this morning and had to be sent home. Cal told the staff that if anyone coughs more than twice, to get them out. #TeamNoGerms
— Another player who will start having individual workouts with Cal: Kyle Wiltjer. Cal said they have to work on Kyle’s toughness: “Kyle has got to accept that he’s got to get rougher and tougher. He’s got to do it.”
— Cal ended with an interesting perspective on Alex’s struggles, saying they’re specific to a one-and-done player. Although he didn’t use that term directly, he said that if Alex was a “normal freshman” here for four years, this wouldn’t be an issue because fans would accept that he has time to develop. But, not at Kentucky. “This is on steroids. This is a process you have to accept coming in.”