We are all familiar with the Sporting News basketball player rankings for the upcoming year.
Wildcat players were well represented as we all expected. Mike Decourcy is the author of the rankings and he was on KSTV last night and was asked about ranking Alex Poythress as the sixth overall small forward in the country despite the fact that Poythress had what many would consider a sub-par year.
Decourcy was quick to point out that Alex's sub-par year included averaging 11.2 points and six rebounds a game, numbers that just about any college player would be envious of. But Decourcy also acknowledged that there were games in which Poythress just did not show up. He personally attended the game at Notre Dame and was shocked at the Kentucky forward's lack of production. This became a theme throughout the season. There were certain games in which he looked completely dominant (Duke, Missouri) and other games in which he looked absent both physically and mentally (ND, at Tennessee).
But the ranking was given due to the facts that Poythress showed that he can dominate and that he has all of the physical gifts of an NBA lottery pick.
I agree with Decourcy's synopsis and I think that Alex will be a different player when this season starts. Here are a couple of reasons why:
1. The Battles With Julius Randle- Word out of Lexington is that both Alex Poythress and Julius Randle are participating in epic battles during practice. Alex didn't really have his position challenged last season. He knew he was going to play and so did John Calipari; the team had no other options due to the short-handed roster. Now that starting is not a given, Poythress is being pushed like he hasn't been before. Randle brings in a killer mentality and plays like a big boy on every possession. Alex has no other option than to fight for playing time and for his manhood.
2. Position Switch- Poythress played most of the season at the power forward position, a position that I contend is not natural for him. I don't think he is a natural post player and I think that small forward is a better fit. We saw that Alex can nail it from deep and has a nice mid-range jumper. He can drive to the basket and finish off with a lay up or a thunderous dunk. He also has a nice base-line game that translate better at the three position. He has the body of a power forward but his style fits more along the lines of a small forward. I believe Alex will be a nightmare match up for just about any other small forward in college basketball much like Darius Miller was in 2011-2012. He doesn't have the outside stroke that Miller had but he is much bigger and maybe even more athletic.
I may be wrong because you never know what's in a kid's heart, but I think Alex Poythress will break out this season and will give John Calipari an "X-Factor position" that he did not have last season.