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Step-Up Award Goes To…


As we look back on the year that could have been, there were a lot of folks on the team who underperformed.  It’s not okay to pick on and antagonize them individually, especially after they’ve probably been so hard on themselves this week, but there’s no question that a few guys had, erm… disappointing seasons.

Calipari says that Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood aren’t two of those guys.

With all the struggles and disappointment of a freshman-dominated team, a pair of veteran Kentucky natives shined brightly throughout the year, especially during UK’s darkest and final moment of the 2012-13 season.

“There’s a certain way that we played that our fans became accustomed to: hard-nosed, fast, unselfish, defensively, all those kinds of things,” John Calipari said. “Well, we were none of that this year.”

Polson and Hood were two of the exceptions.

The two Kentucky natives didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere, since they’ve been on the team for several years, but their emergence was maybe the only positively surprising thing about this year’s team (particularly Polson’s).  Point guard play was a struggle all year, and from the very first game against Maryland, Polson showed more than anyone else on the team that he wasn’t afraid of the bright lights or big city.

Which is probably why he played 31 minutes on Tuesday.  Not to say that Moon Township, PA is a big city, but bright lights were certainly on the Kentucky Wildcats when people from around the country tuned in to watch, morbidly curious, how far the defending national champion had fallen.  In the most pressure-filled game of the season, Polson was one of the only guys willing to step up, throwing up 10 points, hitting 80% of his shots, and providing a +13 margin when he was on the floor, according to

Jon Hood also saw his role increased, though maybe not in such a dramatic way.  He seemingly fought mono and lake hair all season, to averaging over 11 minutes a game the last few times Kentucky played.  What started for fans as “What is Jon Hood doing in the game?!” became “Let’s see what Jon Hood can do for us right now.”  It may not sound like a huge improvement, but it is.  Jon showed that he’s willing to work hard and hustle, which might be more than some other players showed from time to time.

With the recent Randle commitment, and an impending date with destiny whenever Wiggins decides to announce, next season’s roster is looking more and more in flux.  How does see the future shaking out?

Hood, as a fourth-year junior, is on schedule to graduate this spring, as is Polson, who will do it in just three years. Neither have decided what they want to do next season with school completed and a year of athletic eligibility left, but judging by this season’s lack of veteran leaders, next year’s top-ranked recruiting class could use a few guys like Polson and Hood to show them what it means and what it takes to put on the Kentucky jersey.

“There are some guys that say, ‘You’ve got to understand my game, you’ve got to let me do my thing, this is who I am,’ ” Calipari said.

Their names aren’t Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood.

These two guys stepped up in different ways when Kentucky needed them most.  There was significant improvement, and demonstrated leadership.  Will we have that veteran leadership next year?  Only time will tell.

Article written by Corey Nichols

47 Comments for Step-Up Award Goes To…

    9:06 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Veteran leadership will be vital to next years team reaching its potential. I’d like to see both of them back

    9:06 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Kyle too

  3. Thomas Callihan, Sr.
    9:10 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Designating these two as “leaders” is like placing two miatas in front of an oncoming coal train. The newcomers will lead.. Not a couple of scrubs that shouldn’t see the court for Kentucky Weslyan. The harrison twins and Julius Randle are the leaders.. The players from last year’s team have as much credibility as they have NCAA tournament starts.

  4. HackRichards
    9:12 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    3 – Bull Hockey

  5. Bballjoker
    9:12 am March 22, 2013 Permalink


  6. UKKathy
    9:13 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    I hope they stay also. Hopefully, two Kentucky guys can instill into the new guys just what all the love of basketball and UK mean to the entire state. Who cares what the rest of the nation thinks, in this state, UK basketball is NOT just a game. Cliché that it may be, it truly is a way of life. They will be part of our family for a lifetime and will always be welcome forever. Surely, if they understand this concept, they will truly fight like “wildcats” for their family! GO CATS!

  7. Catlogic15
    9:14 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Polson always looks like he’s intently watching an episode of Sponge Bob.

  8. ksu
    9:16 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    hey tom tom, #3, the scrub is you. if jarrod play at ky weslyan he would be a d2 all american. i know alot of good players that would probably kick your a$$ that played at weslyan. jarrod should have played and started all year. he is actually holding back out there. dont worry, harrow, AP,AG,the real scrubs will be gone. you idiot.

  9. TheBurghCat
    9:16 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Hey, don’t be dissing Moon Township PA. I love right next door to that. However, I’m getting ready to move back to Kentucky soon.

  10. Cat84
    9:17 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Hood and Polson both deserved to be at UK because they BUSTED their tales. Stop with all that Kentucky Weslyan hate on our UK players. That is ridiculous.

  11. 2 guys in a car
    9:23 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Is that a Sonic coke?

  12. BlueRedNeck
    9:23 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    comments by “oldschool” in 3, 2, 1…

  13. Bob Sugar
    9:25 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Hood and Polson are no more veterans than Muhammed Ali.. Polson is a serviceable backup for spot minutes but C’mon he’s not ready to lead a team to the title

  14. JWILL
    9:26 am March 22, 2013 Permalink


  15. BobKYCats
    9:26 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Hate to break it to you, #3, but Kentucky Wesleyan could’ve given us a run for our money this year, if not beat us outright, so I don’t think your insult is going to be quite as sting-worthy as you were hoping it would.

  16. ThatsAShame
    9:33 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    JWill: 2 things.
    1. Caps lock is not your friend. You can find it next to the A.
    2. We do not see what is happening in practice thus making calls as to who is better in game situations is tough. Hood, at even at time Polson, looked tentative out there. Don’t know why but that’s what I say.

    As far as freshmen leading I would cite Wall or Knight, MKD, as effective team leaders in ones who could establish an degree of pride and toughness when needed.

  17. SMH
    9:33 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Thomas Callihan, Sr., so you think only the most athletically gifted players can be leaders?

    I’m glad I don’t work with you, geez

  18. Musehobo
    9:36 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Agreed that Polson and Hood gave great effort this year. Again, Polson is the huge surprise. He at least managed to create shots for his teammates AND get some decent point numbers. Also loved the effort of Noel and WCS…always hustling.

  19. Ksu
    9:38 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    #13, another idiot! Jarrod & Jon would float like a butterfly & sting like a bee all over you punk.

  20. Dc cat
    9:45 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Great that Cal acknowledged them. To bad though that some on hear have to use it as an excuse to turn it into a pissing match.

  21. nassau65
    9:46 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    It’s amazing to me the comments against the young kids on here. Hopefully most of the negativity is from trolls. It’s like the comments are meant to hurt the kids, like they don’t feel bad enough already. It doesn’t serve any constructive purpose for anyone to come on here and dog the players, most of them being teenagers. If it makes you feel good to do that, then YOU have issues. Jeez people, they are just kids-and it doesn’t matter that they play for UK, they are still just kids, and you know some of them to come here and read sometimes.

  22. Dee W.
    9:46 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    This is what many of us have been saying about Hood and Polson all along – they had heart to play and didn’t act they were intimidated and scared like the big men did – that was especially evidence during the game with Robert Morris. If the other players had even shown a fraction of their boldness the game would not have been close.

    As for “Thomas Callihan” (#3) and “Bob Sugar” (#13) commenting above – you don’t seem to understand the basic concept of what leadership even is.

  23. Rockfield, KY
    9:50 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Bob Sugar complains about having to breath in order to live. I wish he wold stop…..breathing.

  24. dave
    9:51 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    and the comments cesspool continues………

  25. niaps
    9:52 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    A BIG congrats to Jared and John as they are WILDCATS thru and thru.

  26. Bob Mo
    9:55 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    ROBERT MORRIS!!!!!!!!!!!!! ahahahahahah

  27. WWMKGD?
    10:01 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Hood still needs to apply for his extra year (Medical Redshirt for last year), correct? Haven’t seen anything about that. Remember when we thought Jared Carter was going to do that, and it just never happened? 🙂

  28. JoshB
    10:05 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Polson and Hood should be back next year withou a doubt and calipari has to know that if he does ask them to walk on or not come back at all I believe that he would lose a lot of respect from TRUE UK fans bc these boys have busted there asses this year and they have the most heart on the whole team but I will say this if Harrow gets a scholarship over polson that’s a slap in the face to Jarrod bc he outplayed and outhussled him all year IMO

  29. Adam
    10:15 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    If Jo was plus 13, was harrow -15 in 9 minutes? Ouch!

  30. Adam
    10:15 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Rather j p

  31. Durrrr
    10:19 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    As much of a ball busting as Hood has taken over the years its really impressive he still give all.

  32. Ksu
    10:20 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    #28, excellent comment.

  33. MemphisCat
    10:30 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    When we had Darius returning he was a high recruit that was a senior that had been in the trenches. Will the new recruits accept a previous walk-on and seldom used player as the leaders of the team next year? Granted these two players live and die with UK basketball, but last years recruits didn’t respect them and accept them as leaders, why would next year be any different? They both deserve to come back and attempt to help the team, but neither will paly very much, and if they do we are having more internal problems.

  34. BBNinClearwaterFL
    10:38 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Sports venues + Alcohol = (Obnoxious rude drunk fans)

  35. Dogwaller
    10:40 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Being a great basketball player/athlete does not make you a great leader otherwise Michael Jordan might be President which may or may not be an improvement.

  36. jwill
    10:42 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    #16 im sorry but those guys became good players over the course of the season.they played hard. i would not classify them as leaders. knight had his share of struggles and only 3/4 thru the season did he start to really be effective. mkg i guess you are refering to was quiet and was not a floor general,but he did play hard. ad and nn was the total pkg. that is very very rare to get or even expect that from do not know how any of these guys will act when they get on the biggest stage in college bb. superstar highschool players got us to the nit this year and we got beat.who ever comes back will have some great experience under them and it will be needed to make a deep run in the ncaa tourney.

  37. Katdaddy
    10:44 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    I love these guys but if these two guys are on the floor alot you know you are headed to the NIT.

  38. Kentuckian
    10:50 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Hope Cal realizes after this season he needs some Kentucky kids. If Polson had the talent that Poythress has, he would be incredible. But Polson has something Poythress can only read about…..heart.
    Hope Cal realizes he needs more Polsons and Darius Millers on the team. Kids who appreciate the jersey and the opportunity. Recruit Hawkins, a kid who will be around in 2017!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  39. er
    10:58 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

  40. JoshB
    11:00 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    37- it’s not about being on the floor a lot it’s about doing what you need to do when your called on to do it no matter the circumstances in a hostile environment how many freshmen get frazzled????? So you throw in a veteran until there nerves a calmed down who cares if they weren’t a 5star recruit outta hs These boys grew up UK fans they know what the jersey is about I think your shooting yourself in the foot if you ask either of them to leave or walkon bc what’s it gonna say to future 4year recruits “o well I’ve got another guy who wants to take a couple classes here and play basketball for a year until he goes top 10 in the NBA draft but thanks for your time here’s you walking papers” I’d say let wiggins go to FSU he won’t be a threat to us bc he’s all they have and offer D.Hawkins so u have another multiyear player but that’s my opinion.

  41. JoshB
    11:08 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    38 couldn’t have said it better myself..

  42. Codeman
    11:14 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    These guys are very important to these teams. They obviously are no where near as talented as most of the other guys but they serve a purpose. These guys give 110% every game and practice. Coaches love that. That is a motivator for the other guys. If a guy isn’t gonna give it his all then this kid will. So to be a leader it doesn’t mean you have to be the most vocal or most talented. These guys lead by example in their effort and passion. That’s one of the big things that the kids coming in don’t have.

  43. Fancoulo
    11:15 am March 22, 2013 Permalink

    I hope both come back as well as KW.

  44. STEVE!
    12:30 pm March 22, 2013 Permalink

    Cal said next year the players will have to be tough, so I expect him to be extremely tough on the players. We will need a couple of guys that have been with Cal for 3-4 years to lead OFF THE COURT, help explain what Cal expects, and to put an arm around their shoulder when they get down and start to hang their heads after an a$$-chewing.

  45. Wildcatsteeler
    5:53 pm March 22, 2013 Permalink

    I think Polson will stay and will be the backup PG. Hood will transfer and most likely so will Wiltjer. Wiltjer could actually benefit from not playing a season and hitting the weights. He needs a lot more strength. Harrow should transfer to a Division 2 school where he can play immediately and where he’ll be a star and enjoy his final season. Poythress, Goodwyn and Cauley will all test the NBA waters. I think Cauley will eventually declare for the draft.

  46. J Jones
    12:13 am March 23, 2013 Permalink

    I hope they both come back. It would be ashame not to get to go thru senior night ceremonies for 2 of our native players. They both showed they are capable of contributing to the team. Look what happen with big jorts when he worked hard over the summer. Hope these 2 work hard during the summer and come back next year in good shape.

  47. kyhank
    9:50 am March 23, 2013 Permalink

    these guys knew what being a cat was long before they had the uniform love them