Alex Poythress sees the rat-race in a new way. - USA TODAY Sports
Earlier this year, Alex Poythress was struggling to make an impact after a fast start. Has Calipari's individual work with him paid off?
You'll recall my earlier post entitled The Alex Poythress Project, a riff on the moniker of the 1970s and 80s band The Alan Parsons Project. APP was famous for such numbers as "The Raven," "Eye In The Sky," and" I Wouldn't Want To Be Like You" among other progressive rock songs of the time. The Project was an old favorite of mine -- still is, really.
There is one song, though, from the APP, that seems to fit Poythress the best, and it's cryptically named "(The System Of) Dr. Tarr And Professor Fether":
These lyrics were ever so true of Poythress, and to some extent, Kentucky coach John Calipari as well. They were both at the end of their proverbial rope, and nothing Poythress could do seemed to work. He charged into everyone trying to be aggressive, but not understanding how. He turned the ball over with bad passes and worse decision-making. He picked up fouls by the bucketful reaching and grabbing. Many Kentucky fans figured him for pretty much a bust, at least this year.
Then Calipari instituted the Alex Poythress Project after Poythress all but disappeared from the Louisville game, garnering 7 points in 15 minutes and 4 rebounds. He couldn't guard, couldn't shoot (2-6) and made as many turnovers as field goals.
At first, we saw almost nothing change. Poythress had a good game against Eastern Michigan, but then promptly went back into his old habits. It wasn't that he didn't help the team, he mostly did, at least on offense. But defensively, he was the third biggest liability on the team next to Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays, and his playing time hung in the low 20 minutes. He would play well against weak teams who had no size, but against strong teams like Alabama, it was back to earlier form.
Along came LSU, a small but very quick team. Poythress had a superior game, scoring his first double-double as a Wildcat and showing signs he was "getting it" defensively. But it seemed, at the time, that he was still just overpowering weaker foes.
Then, despite being hampered by early fouls against Ole Miss that limited his minutes, Poythress racked up solid numbers with 15 points and 7 rebounds in only 20 minutes against a ranked team on the road with a big, strong front line. Poythress displayed his improvement on defense, and the wild bull-rushes to the hoop were now elegant, charge-avoiding layups. When the time did come for a dunk, it was a dunk to remember.
Which brings us to now. Has the Alex Poythress Project finally paid off? As a bit of self-promotion, I correctly divined the turn-around of Wiltjer, who has now become Kentucky's primary offensive option, so I'm ready to crawl out on that limb again and pronounce Poythress ready for prime time.
Just what we need to make us feel better.