After Kentucky beat Auburn Tuesday night, a sheepish freshman Stacey Poole confessed. He was the player UK Coach John Calipari mentioned as having thrown up 15 minutes into a pre-practice workout.
"I had been feeling sick for the past couple days," Poole said. "I think I was choking on my own spit."
Then Poole suggested he made himself sick trying so hard to impress.
"I was trying to push myself so hard because I want to play," he said.
During his post-game news conference, Calipari wondered aloud how players sickened by a coach-directed workout could handle big-game pressure. "If you can't take me, how are you going to go on a high-level game that's on national television and make a tough play?"
But Calipari later added that the team's infrequently used reserves would be contributors this season. Whether this was a Jedi mind trick or an expression of sincere expectation, the coach's words played nicely on Poole's ears.
"That's what I want," he said. "I've just been working hard. I've been dedicated. I just want to be on the court. I'll do anything and everything that I need to do to play."
Poole impressed the coaches when he contributed in Kentucky's victory over Notre Dame. That earned him a promotion to second perimeter substitute. Then he quick-shot three jumpers in seven frenetic minutes against Indiana and disappeared again.
"It wasn't trigger-happy," Poole said. "It was just excited from playing. Normally, I'm used to playing. I'm having a little adversity."
The coaches want him to mimic DeAndre Liggins by defending, rebounding, getting loose balls and finishing around the basket.
"Don't make the hard play," he said. "Make the easy play."
A Catch-22 seems at work. Calipari insists that "demonstrated performance" is the only way for a player to gain confidence. Yet how can Poole and reserves such as Jon Hood, Eloy Vargas and Jarrod Polson gain confidence if they don't play?
"There's another game behind the scenes," Poole said. "Which is staying in the gym and working hard. Going to the gym. Working with Coach Cal. That's what I'm doing."
Following his father's advice, Poole said, he tries to shoot 400 shots in a workout.
"Even though I probably won't play or get very few minutes," he said, "you know, I make up that time by working hard."
Calipari said Josh Harrrellson "reverted to a year ago" by trying to grab rebounds with one hand. Harrellson, who had emerged as the SEC's leading rebounder, did not get a single rebound in the first half against Auburn and finished with four.
Harrellson objected to the term "revert" to describe his performance.
"Nah," he said. "I worked too hard these last three months to revert back to where I was two years ago. I'm not falling nowhere."
Terrence Jones set a UK freshman scoring record with 35 points against Auburn on Tuesday. It's an achievement he said he did not expect to stay in the record books for long.
"We've got guys who can do that," Jones said after the game. "Brandon (Knight) is going to have one of those nights, too."
Fellow freshman Doron Lamb set the previous record by scoring 32 points against Winthrop on Dec. 22.
Jones and Lamb exchanged words when Jones left the game against Auburn.
"I told him, I'm sorry," Jones said.