BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Kentucky sophomore Alex Poythress looked natty in a gray suit and gray and purple tie. Of a lack of blue in his outfit for the Southeastern Conference Media Day session Wednesday, he noted his mother, Regina.
"My mom helped me pick the tie," he said. "She was digging the purple."
Of course, seemingly everyone's mother, father, sister and brother is digging Kentucky as a national championship contender this coming season. With seven McDonald's All-Americans, an abundance that includes six freshmen and Poythress, the Cats spark talk of historic achievement.
"We're just ready to show the world what we've got," Poythress said.
Ditto for Poythress, whose uneven freshman season mirrored Kentucky's.
"I'm just counting the days down," he said.
In talking with reporters, Poythress reminded reporters even the most accomplished prospects are human. They're susceptible to the same anxieties as everyone else.
Poythress teased UK fans with what he was capable of against Duke last season. More than once, he rose above the players loitering in the lane and slammed home take-that one-handed rebound dunks.
"I showed I'm capable of anything," he said when asked about that performance. "I just have to put my mind to it. The sky's the limit. I just have to be more confident in myself."
UK Coach John Calipari put Poythress' lack of confidence in the context of the shortened roster last season. Few alternatives meant the coach could not alleviate the player's anxieties by resting him or allowing him much of a breather on the bench.
"He got rattled," Calipari said. That led to an exchange he described as the coach saying, "You're OK, Alex" and the player replying, "No, I'm not."
Calipari likened the situation to a baseball manager wanting to bring in a relief pitcher, but having to stick with the faltering starter.
"Great lesson to me," Calipari said. "Why you need a full complement of kids."
With a roster like UK's this season, a player should get more mileage out of a performance like Poythress displayed against Duke. The tip-dunks were personally thrilling.
"It's up there," Poythress said earlier this pre-season. "You have to time the ball where it's coming off the rim. You've got to find it. Then you've got to dunk it.
"You get a little excited. You get hyped afterward. It's a nice little energy boost right there."
Such plays are not as easy as they might look, he said.
"It's real hard because you've got to time the ball when it's coming off the rim," he said. "Because it's not going to come off at the right spot sometimes. You have to go up and get it or reach around somebody to get it."
When asked to elaborate on dealing with a loss of confidence, Poythress cautioned reporters not to draw the conclusion that he had a problem with believing in his abilities.
"It comes with maturity," he said. "You've got to look in the mirror."
Poythress welcomed the shift to small forward this pre-season. He said he's spending most of practices at that position. Last season he played more power forward, which is being manned by freshman Julius Randle this pre-season.
"I like the 'three' more," Poythress said. "I like slashing to the rim. It's my natural position at the next level."
His NBA position figures to be small forward.
"I love playing from the wing," he said. "I feel that's the position I'll play. I feel more comfortable at the three-spot."
Kentucky has become synonymous with producing NBA players, usually after one college season. Poythress balked at the notion that he was behind schedule as a sophomore for UK.
"People don't come to college to be one-and-done," he said despite all evidence to the contrary. "People come to get an education. That's what most people do."A wiser Poythress sounded ready for his sophomore season. When asked about the possibility of the coaches deciding to bring him off the bench as a sixth man, he said, "Whatever they do, I'll be fine with it."
Poythress shrugged at the pressure that might accompany the expectations for himself and UK.
"There's always pressure at Kentucky every year," he said. "It just comes with being at the University of Kentucky."
Important upcoming dates for UK basketball
All events in Rupp Arena
Friday: Big Blue Madness, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 29: Blue-White Scrimmage, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1, 4: Exhibition games vs. Transylvania and Montevallo, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8: Regular-season opener vs. UNC Asheville, 7 p.m.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com