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The Battle Raging on the Practice Courts


A good number of the UK basketball players are now on campus (with the Twins and James Young to arrive soon) and workouts have already begun. You may have read Dominique Hawkins talking this weekend about the amazing battles and “crazy talent” that Kentucky has accumulated this summer. As is often the case, the players use the summer to get acquainted with each other and to workout, but it is also a chance to see some of the legendary “behind the scenes” matchups that make Kentucky basketball so great. Back in the days before the Craft Center, the pickup action was usually at Memorial Coliseum and if you were crafty (or lucky), you could often sneak and watch the guys play against each other. A tradition during the summer months was the fan “pickup game” report, often posted on message boards, that allowed people unable to see the guys play, to get a sense of who was doing what. In college (before many were on the internet for UK coverage), I used to sneak into Memorial and watch Prince, Allison, Camara and others play, leading me at one point to dub Jules Camara the “pickup Hakeem”, due to his tendency to look like a star in these outings. Pickup summer games were fun and gave us all something to blab about over the summer.

However nowadays such luxuries are very rare. The Joe Craft Center has moved these games away from the public and the fans rarely get to see these matchups at any point. However that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening and the story this summer has been the epic battles between Julius Randle and Alex Poythress. A couple of folks familiar with the games (and as Hawkins noted to the Courier Journal) have told me that the battle between Poythress and Randle in practices and games has been special indeed. As one source told me, “these guys are bringing out the best in each other. Alex has stepped his game up so much, I think because he knows he has to in order to stay with Julius. And when Alex wants to, he can guard anyone and it is making Julius work as well. Both are really bringing it.”

The hope all along has been that with Randle and all the other stars coming in, the collective competition would help raise the bar for all the players. Hawkins mentioned that Dakari Johnson and Willie Cauley-Stein are having battles and I am sure more will occur as the whole team gets here. But what we are hearing initially is what we all hoped we would see last season…Alex Poythress rising to the challenge…in this case at least, a challenge brought by a teammate.

Article written by Matt Jones

17 Comments for The Battle Raging on the Practice Courts

  1. I Want to Know
    8:06 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    How is it looking between Long and Malone?

  2. MemphisCat
    8:08 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    Now, can Alex carry it to the games? That is where we really need him to step up, ALL YEAR, not just 5-10 games. Hopefully, this is his breakout year.

  3. cope
    8:11 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    can anyone tell me exactly y the twins and young are not on campus yet?

  4. @@@
    8:25 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    @ 3 I think they just graduated High School or they will arrived in the 2nd session.

  5. marco
    8:27 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    @3 – I think they’re finishing up with school. They should be joining soon.

  6. UK
    8:45 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    This is what we heard about MKG and Darius Miller before the 2011-2012 season. And that ended fairly well.

  7. Duke Sucks
    9:30 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    UK is the only team in America that has 2 top 25 teams on the court at every practice and it will show up on game day!!!

  8. BlueDeuce
    9:43 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    I’ll wait to see how Alex transfers his practice time to game time. He was suppose to be a “beast” last year and well, that didn’t exactly translate to performing on the court. I want to see him make the leap but after watching last year, I’ll wait and see.

    We’ve also seen these summer reports not exactly pan out to regular season performance.

    I want to see these guys (last years players) bring it this year as much as anyone but after watching them
    Ast year…well, like I said, I’ll wait and see.

  9. Larry
    9:58 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    Summer games mean squat. Like NBA preseason

  10. mudcreekmark
    9:59 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    Saw a pick up game this weekend but it was too much like an all star game. No defense what so ever and just running up and down the court lobbing the ball for dunks or attempted dunks. Randal didn’t play because he tweaked his ankle. Dakari Johnson was trying to guard Poythress while Lee was matched up against WCS. Lee did go up and block a dunk attempt by Poythress which was pretty awesome.However, there was a point guard playing that looked really good, real athletic. I don’t know who it was but I suppose it was the kid that just announced he was walking on. Anyone know his name? The kid is a jumping jack.

  11. UKfanatUSc
    10:07 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    Think about it… If Julius can get Alex pumped up for a pickup game then it should be pretty easy when we’re playing the targirls or loserville. Alex showed glimpses off greatness last season (small glimpses but they were still there.) If Julius can get him to funnel that intensity we are going to be unstoppable. I mean honestly where is this team’s weakness if Alex and Julius turn into the bash bros? I just don’t see it. I am just super pumped for next year and hearing Alex is becoming the aggressive beast I know he can be makes me even more excited. I want #9!!!

  12. Duke sucks
    10:28 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    11) Randle won’t be the one to get Alex in gear, the bench will! Because if it isn’t going all out that exactly where he will be! Last year no one was pushing him hard. This year there will be 3 or 4 5* players wanting those minutes.
    I expect Alex to shine with the added compition plus the fact that most kids do the most improving in between year 1 and 2. Last year he looked like a normal freshman thinking more then playing. This year things should slow down for him. We have been spoiled with freshman who came in above the curve. Last year we had a group who looked like freshman.

  13. Ned Tugent
    10:55 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    Just for fun, against Robert Morris. Wouldn’t starting Polson, Hood, Poythress, Wiltjer and WCS be a cool thing to see?

  14. Han
    11:22 pm June 16, 2013 Permalink

    9) Playing pickup and watching the Cat pros, the Dominican pros, Rondo, the Thunder, and others over the summer didn’t hurt our title team, did it?

  15. Mc
    1:02 am June 17, 2013 Permalink

    I remember getting to play some pickup games at the Seaton Center with Prince, Jules, and a few others. It was cool for them to come out and do that. Heshimu Evans came back to play a little too. Good times.

  16. dougm68
    7:42 am June 17, 2013 Permalink

    Practice is one thing. Bringing it to the game is a different story. Many guys play great during practice. For some reason, Alex tends to get lazy during games. If he has a huge dunk or timely 3 pointer go in, don’t expect to see him again for a long while(bad motor or just too nice, wants to share the ball?). I hope he can turn this around because he has all the skills to be a stone cold killer on the court. Alex will definitely be stronger this year for having to butt heads with Randel.

  17. Jeff#9
    2:54 pm June 17, 2013 Permalink

    I remember back in the day when I lived in Lexington Richard MASTERBLASTER Madison and Kenny SKYWALKERhad epic battles on the Playground’s on campus, it never translated to the games for Madison, I held my own with Rodger Hardin lol