My, how a year changes everything. Last summer, Alex Poythress seemed primed to be one of Kentucky’s breakout freshman stars, with visions of beast mode dancing in fans’ heads heading into the season. Unfortunately, things never really seemed to click for Alex, who puttered around in passivity for most of the season but continued to play because of Kentucky’s depth problems. Poythress recognized his problems late in the season, admitting he hadn’t tried hard enough his freshman year, and vowed to rectify those mistakes the second time around. So far, so good. Reports from the summer workouts suggest that Julius Randle has lit a fire under Poythress, who is rising to the challenge in practice. Poythress also turned some heads at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy this past weekend. According to DMVElite.com’s Josh Stirn, Poythress was “by far the most impressive player from a physical and athletic standpoint” at the camp, which included Jabari Parker, TJ Warren, Laquinton Ross, Glenn Robinson III, Gary Harris and Damyean Dotson.
As ESPN’s Eammon Brennan put it, last season, Poythress’ issues were never about talent. That’s why Brennan lists Poythress as one of his five under-the-radar prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft. An excerpt:
But Poythress’ issues last season were never about his talent. Even with all the agony, Poythress finished the season shooting 60.7 percent from 2 and 42.4 percent from 3 (which he attempted just 33 times, but still). He also rebounded well on both ends of the floor.
No, the biggest issues were mental: Despite the constant pleading (and then some) of John Calipari, Poythress checked out of entire games, unwilling to be aggressive, happy to be a bystander. He also turned the ball over way too much for a guy with a 61.1 percent effective field goal percentage. If he cuts down on the turnovers and becomes a more engaged, lively guy on the court, not only does he have a big role for Kentucky, he’ll remind NBA folks why he was such a big deal in the first place.
Here’s hoping that some competition is what Alex needs so we can see more of this his sophomore season: