When a Kentucky player has a standout game it is very unlikely that it will go unnoticed. But what we don’t see a lot of is a look back at their beginnings and the people who helped get them to that moment. Each week I’ll be covering Kentucky’s athletes as they make their way to the front of the pack and get some perspective from the folks who knew them before they rocked Kentucky blue…their high school coaches.
Tonight on the menu…Alex Poythress.
Player: Alex Poythress, Senior
High School: Northeast High School (Clarksville, TN)
Coach: Al Cooper
Breakout Game: Kentucky vs. Alabama 2016 (W)
Roaring for 22 is not something fans or players are unfamiliar with, but how about when Alex Poythress is the one doing the roaring? We’ve seen flashes from Poythress this season like his 21 point and 13 rebound game against EKU or his 14 point six rebound performance against Louisville. But fans wanted more than anything for Alex Poythress to have that dominant breakout performance. There might not be a player on the team that fans root for more than Poythress seeing what he went through last year with the knee injury. Well, fans got their wish when he went for a career high 25 points and also had seven rebounds in Kentucky’s game vs. Alabama.
Coming off the lackluster performance against LSU, Poythress proved against Alabama that he could be that consistent low post presence Kentucky badly needed. The play of Poythress and front court teammate Marcus Lee are an integral part of this team’s success. We saw the type of performance this team needs against Alabama. We are all hoping their performance sticks around.
Alex’s former high school basketball coach, Al Cooper who has known him since 5th grade, isn’t a stranger to the manly plays of Poythress saying, “There were many times in high school Alex took control of the game, and without stats in front of me, I can tell you he averaged a double-double almost every game in high school.”
I would love to see a Poythress with a double-double at Kentucky, but even his dominating plays can be enough as we saw against Alabama. And if he can pull out his inner high school instincts that Coach Cooper knows, he could be dominating each game.
“Alex isn’t selfish, he looks out for the betterment of his team, not just points for himself. He’s not afraid of a challenge or of doing the job at hand,” Cooper said. “Alex is one of the most intelligent players I’ve ever coached. He’s ball smart, book smart, and street smart.”
Things weren’t always this good for our 22 though. He was cut from his 6th grade team but proceeded to grow a foot by 7th grade and things went up, literally, from there (Alex sat in his Economics teachers desk because he was too big for student seating). “He did nothing but put in more time in the gym, getting in over 300 shots before school some days, and would even come in on Sundays to work on his dribbling and shooting,” Cooper said.
And with the all of the changes Alex saw in high school with switches in point guards and seniors graduating, it’s no surprise Poythress has adjusted well to all of the changes on Kentucky’s teams over the years. “Alex’s senior year, he was able and willing to play in all 5 positions, from bringing the ball up the court, to shooting the 3 ball when needed, to posting up under the basket,” Cooper said.
After Alex’s standout performance against Alabama, perhaps he’s tapping into the 22 we all roared for last season when Kentucky needed him most. This time, Alex, it’s your turn to roar.