Point guard play has been one of the primary struggles for this season’s Kentucky Wildcats. Turnovers have consistently plagued the back court, and the offense has looked uncertain at times when running through the freshman Andrew Harrison. The answer to these early struggles might be with a player who saw significant playing time last year: Jarrod Polson.
This Saturday against Belmont, the former walk-on played his first quality minutes of the season and made the most of them. While Jarrod was on the court, the Wildcats outscored Belmont by 12 points, including a 9 point margin in the first half. The other point guards, Andrew Harrison and Dominique Hawkins, had less of an impact. UK outscored Belmont by 10 points while Harrison was on the floor, but were outscored by 2 points in the first half. Kentucky beat Belmont by a margin of 3 points while Hawkins was on the court.
While you can’t draw any conclusions from a single game, the impact of Polson’s play was certainly promising. But is it really surprising? In Jarrod’s time at UK, he has practiced with 12 current NBA players and several likely ones from this year’s team. He played significant minutes last season and scored double figures in 3 separate games. While Polson lacks the raw talent that Calipari is accustomed to, he certainly has the experience that Kentucky has lacked.
In fact, Jarrod’s biggest advantage might lie in this area that can’t be quantified. At times this season, it has seemed Kentucky’s only offensive strategy is to blindly drive toward the goal in hopes that someone will score. This Saturday, it felt like Polson brought an almost calming presence to the uncertain offense. Darius Miller, while not filling up the stat sheet every night, was said to bring a similar presence to the 2011 and 2012 teams. This “calming” influence might be a result of an inherent confidence that comes with experience. Polson, while not as talented as Miller, may be able to play a similar role on this year’s team.
Of course, more playing time for Jarrod will mean less playing time for the other guards. Who will those minutes come from? The team will certainly be better if Andrew Harrison plays to his potential, and Dominique Hawkins has brought needed energy in his playing time. Defensive play is another issue, as Jarrod struggled to keep up with quicker guards in his minutes last year. That said, Jarrod’s experience could benefit this team greatly in the next few months, especially in UK’s upcoming road games.
(stats courtesy of statsheet.com)