I wake up this morning with depressing news, and I’m very sorry to have to start off your day this way. Junior forward Alex Poythress has torn his ACL during practice yesterday. Let that sink in for a minute, take a breath, and we’ll continue.
At this particular moment, I could care less about the basketball season; Poythress was a guy I desperately wanted to have a great year, and now that hope is smashed into tiny little pieces at my feet. It was a nasty way to wake up. Unfortunately, injures are a part of athletics, and it isn’t as if he has a life-threatening disease or something. It’s just one of those things that happens and he will certainly fully recover, although full recovery from this injury takes, as we know, a long time.
WKYT broke the news here, and coach John Calipari has a regularly scheduled press conference today at 2:00 p.m. where he will no doubt address questions about this unfortunate news. I was praying we could somehow get through this year without a major injury, but sadly, that prayer came back with a "No, sorry" attached this morning.
The loss is significant, and make no mistake, it hurts Kentucky’s chances at a title run this season. Poythress’ stats may have been pedestrian, but he was a major factor in why Kentucky has the #1 defense in college basketball this season. He was, believe it or not, 52nd in the nation in block percentage, and he is perhaps Kentucky’s second-best on-ball defender.
There is no minimizing this loss. What it will mean for the two platoon system Calipari has been playing is uncertain, but it seems likely that Derek Willis is the "next man up" when it comes to that. I’m sure we’ll find out more today, and certainly we’ll know tomorrow around noon.
We have been fortunate to see relatively few injuries in John Calipari’s tenure, but when they do come along, they have had a tendency to be major injuries — Nerlens Noel’s knee, Willie Cauley-Stein’s ankle that eventually required surgery, and now Alex Poythress’ knee. To be honest, I don’t expect this setback to derail Kentucky’s bid for its ninth NCAA Tournament title — the Wildcats are so deep and so talented that it would take at least one more significant hit to do that.
Still, this is a setback that the team is going to have to find a work-around for. You don’t replace an Alex Poythress any more than you replace a lost hand or foot. What you do is find the best possible prosthetic and work around the loss, and that’s what Kentucky will have to do.
What it means for Poythress’ professional future is also uncertain. Alex has been a power forward in a small forward’s body from an NBA standpoint, and has never really developed the ballhandling or shooting ability to play his natural position. This injury will put him further behind the curve in some aspects, but who knows, it may give him an opportunity to shore up weaknesses in his game. Only time will tell. The other good news is that Poythress is a fine student who now looks very likely to graduate from UK before beginning his efforts in professional ball. That’s cold comfort, but comfort nonetheless — a college degree is never a bad thing, and that’s why most people attend universities to begin with.
Get well soon, Alex, you’ll be in our prayers.