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 CoachCal.com.
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 CoachCal.com 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.