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April 23, 2013

Poythress looks for consistent sophomore season

Sophomores are a relative rarity for John Calipari.

The Kentucky coach has built a system of taking the nation's best high school players, helping develop them into lottery picks and sending them on to the NBA Draft after a matter of months.

But not everyone has followed the Calipari blueprint, and after the way the 2012-2013 season ended, it wasn't just that Alex Poythress wasn't ready for the draft.

For Poythress, it was about making things right.

"I didn't want to leave with a bad taste in my mouth," Poythress said. "(Robert Morris in the NIT) was a tough loss for us. You didn't want to end your college career like that."

So Poythress won't.

He'll return for a sophomore season that has everyone around UK excited.

Poythress was rated the No. 8 player in the Rivals150 in the high school class of 2012. All but one of the seven players ranked in front of him will be heading to the NBA Draft, with Baylor's Isaiah Austin still undecided.

But there were plenty of reasons for Poythress to come back.

He will get another chance at a national championship after his first season came up well short; he can improve his game and play against the best.

At the end of the day, though, Poythress just thought, why not?

"You can always use another year of college," Poythress said. "Another year of college always helps in the long run. Just tighten yourself mentally, physically, just everything. It shores yourself up."

When Poythress decided to come back, Calipari said he was eager to spend another year with the 6-foot-7 forward, who was wildly inconsistent.

"Alex is a great kid with a lot of potential and I'm excited to be able to work with him next year," Calipari said in a release. "I believe we have only scratched the surface with Alex, and another season in college will get him closer to reaching his dreams."

But Poythress wants everyone to slow down on that "p" word. In his sophomore season, he wants to be more than just that.

"(I want to ) just prove that I belong too, prove that I'm not just potential, that I can do whatever I need to do to help my team win," Poythress said.

In his first season, Poythress averaged 11.2 points and six rebounds per game and shot 42.4 percent from three-point range, on 33 attempts.

When Poythress was good, the Cats were good. When he scored more than 13 points last season, UK was 10-1, with the lone loss coming to Duke in the second game of the season.

But the bad news for the Cats was Poythress' inconsistency, and the way he finished the season.

Kentucky lost four of its last five, and over that stretch Poythress averaged 6.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 24. 8 minutes per game, about a minute less than his season average.

Poythress said he would let a bad play turn into a bad game last season, but he doesn't see that happening next year.

"You've just got to grow up," Poythress said. "We can't be kids forever. It's just time to grow up and just become adults. You've got to start doing stuff for yourself. You just got to work on that."

The Clarkesville, Tenn., native will head home after school lets out next week, but just because he'll be away from UK doesn't mean he won't have basketball on his mind.

"I'm going to get with (trainer) Rock (Oliver) on the weights, hit the weights hard and I'll be on the treadmill and work in the pool," Poythress said. " Just trying to stay fit and everything and just prepare for the season."

That's emblematic of a work ethic Poythress said will change this season.

In a freshman year, Poythress learned nothing is given.

"I've been through a year and know what's expected," Poythress said. "I'm not a freshman no more, I'm a sophomore, so I know what to expect and how hard it is to get there."


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