The curious case and timing of the news that Wildcat shooting guard Stacey Poole Jr. may be transferring from the University of Kentucky has had me thinking over the last two days. Thinking, and pondering, and thinking some more. Thinking about how to write this post without offending either Poole, Stacey Sr. or Stacey Jr. (as everyone knows by now, Poole Sr. has been very outspoken about his desire to see his son transfer from Kentucky), while at the same time offering thoughts that might run contrary to Poole Sr.'s way of thinking. In the end, though, I recognize and appreciate the decision being a family matter.
But, I think I've finally come up with a solution, and it's not begrudging Poole Sr. his right to raise his son the best way he sees fit, rather, I think the way to approach commentary on the subject is to offer my thoughts on what I would do if Poole Jr. were my son (I don't have a son in real life, but I do have three daughters, plus, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night). And what would I tell my talented son who was struggling to earn game minutes at Kentucky? Find out after the jump.
It all begins and ends here -- Poole Sr.'s money quotes in Kyle Tucker's article regarding the potential Poole Jr. transfer:
Poole Sr. said his son is "in love with UK basketball, but at the end of the day, you need to be on the floor. You're not part of UK basketball if you never step on the floor."
"Cal said, 'It just doesn't seem like he's as focused as he should be.'"
"Cal said, 'It'll be all right, that he just has to keep fighting.'"
I can hear it now, my voice shaking with disappointment and maybe a little anger as I relate to my son my conversation with Calipari, "Coach Cal says you're not focusing enough. How in the world can you be in the position you're in and not be totally focused at practice? You are NOT Allen Iverson! But, you have an unbelievable opportunity very few players ever have the chance to take advantage of, and you're throwing it away."
Instead of encouraging a transfer because of a lack of playing time, I would encourage my son to do whatever is necessary to refocus all of his efforts -- from the classroom to the practice floor -- because we all know Cal is NOT GOING TO GIVE MINUTES TO A PLAYER IF THE PLAYER CAN'T OR WON'T EXECUTE HIS DIRECTION IN PRACTICE (repeat if necessary).
I would tell my son that he's in a position to be a very large part of a potentially very special basketball team. With Jon Hood out with a knee injury, Doron Lamb is the only other "2" guard on the team, leaving the door wide open for someone like him to step in and claim those minutes. But, it won't be given to him. He has to want it with all of his heart. He has to prove those minutes are his. He has to leave Calipari with no choice but to play him, because he's busted his butt every day in practice, because he's listened and executed what it is his coach wants. "Son," I would say, "you have the ability, you simply must be focused and 'coachable,' do that, and the chance to earn minutes is right here, right now.
"Leaving? What, are you kidding with that?" I would tell my son, "do you think going to another school is going to magically make your lack of focus disappear? What, you'll suddenly be as focused as MJ if you go to Central Florida? Let's treat the disease (a lack of focus) instead of the symptom (no playing time)," is what I would tell my son if the word "transfer" crossed his lips (the latest intel suggests Poole Jr. is not desirous of a transfer, I'm just trying to make a subtle point to a few, select people).
Furthermore, I would tell my son, "John Calipari is looking for warriors and fighters, he's not looking for players who want to be handed minutes. Look at Josh Harrellson," I would say. "He changed his mindset, he changed his workout habits, he changed his body, and he's now an adored figure in UK basketball lore because he became a beast. He was far from beastly when he arrived, but he became fierce. And son, Harrellson doesn't have in his whole body the basketball ability you have in your pinkie. Don't short-change yourself or your talent, you'll regret it the rest of your life."
I would continue, because I want to bury, deep, into my son's brain this truth -- "Everyone, or everyone worth working with or for, is going to expect and demand your very best effort. Whether the performance evaluator be a basketball coach, or one's workplace superior, half-effort and half-focus will not result in glowing reviews. It will, though, result in disappointing paychecks, or in this case, disappointing minutes." The lesson learned, I would tell my son: "if you run now, you'll be running your entire life."
As I ended my talk with my son, I can see myself leaning closer to him and asking with great anticipation, and quite possibly a very slight, inquisitive smirk, "You're at the University of Kentucky. Did you think it was going to be easy?
"Easy for you is the Atlantic Sun, not Kentucky. At Kentucky, you have to want it with all your heart, it has to be a burning, consuming desire and passion. And with that desire comes focus, which will lead you to your boyhood daydreams, daydreams you can believe in ... as long as you don't get sideways along the way."
I"m sure my pretend son would then laugh at me and say, "Dad, you're so full-of-it sometimes." But later, when he's older, he'll realize I'm right.
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!