My first time seeing Alex Poythress was at the McDonald’s All-American practice in late March. When I walked into Attack Athletics, gym of legendary trainer Tim Grover, my primary instinct was to look for Shabazz Muhammad. At that point, Muhammad had not yet committed to UCLA and was considered by most as the prize of the 2012 class. As I’m making my way through the gym I ran into a guy covered in Kentucky gear and naturally I had to speak to him. He turned out to be Alex Poythress’ dad and one of the nicest guys I had ever met. He told me how much he and his family loved the city of Lexington and how excited Alex was to arrive in a couple of months. Not wanting to rudely admit that I was searching for Muhammad and not his son, I decided to take in the East practice with Mr. Poythress. Drooling over Muhammad could wait a while, I figured I needed to get a closer look at a player I knew was going to be in a Kentucky uniform next season. I was not disappointed.
The first thing I noticed about him was his physique. He had the body and athleticism of a veteran NBA small forward as a senior in high school. Poythress effortlessly turned the layup line into a slam dunk contest. Word around the gym was that NBA scouts were in awe and that he played his way up some draft boards that afternoon. As the practice went on Poythress put his entire arsenal on display. His tremendous passing, shooting, and defensive ability had other players struggling to guard or score on him. He was undoubtedly was the best player on the East team and made everyone who was watching him a believer in his talents.
It would’ve been a treat for Muhammad and Poythress to be on the same team during the event simply for the head-to-head practice sessions. Muhammad expressed his admiration for Poythress’ game after the East vs. West game calling him “the toughest person to score on.” There’s no doubt that Poythress could be the best perimeter defender in all of college basketball next season. His combination of basketball intelligence and length are going to put him in the Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and DeAndre Liggins class of recent Kentucky perimeter defenders.
While everyone expects Nerlens Noel will be the best player on next year’s team, I’m not so sold. I think that Poythress is a better player right now and will be the best overall (offensive and defensive) player on the Wildcats next season. Sure, Noel has a higher ceiling, will project better as a professional, and maybe even have a better NBA career than Poythress. But, from what I’ve seen, this kid is about to take the college basketball world by storm.