UK basketball notes: Cats want Towns to focus on inside game

jtipton@herald-leader.comAugust 11, 2014 

NASSAU, Bahamas — Freshman big man Karl-Anthony Towns' 19 points and 10 rebounds Monday showed how productive he can be for Kentucky.

"Still, we're not satisfied because he has so much more (to give)," assistant coach Kenny Payne said after Kentucky beat a professional team from France in an exhibition game here. "He's very talented. A very energetic player with a whole bunch of skill."

It's how Towns uses that skill, or perhaps more precisely, in what order he uses his skill, that intrigues Kentucky's coaches.

"He has to learn that we play this game from the inside-out," Payne said. "Not outside-in. But what he brings to this team is super because what we need is a big, long, energetic, skilled guy who can dictate what we're trying to do."

In practices back home in preparation for the exhibitions in the Bahamas, Towns showed a soft shooting touch beyond the three-point line.

"He has a tendency to want to be a perimeter 'big,'" Payne said. "But in order for him to be the best player in the country, if that's his goal (and) if that's his dream, in order for him to be a professional, in order for him to dominate in college basketball, it has to start from the inside-out."

Towns agreed with a reporter's assertion that being 6-foot-11 and 250 pounds can cause opponents to pigeonhole him as a power player.

"I think my size sometimes deceives people," he said. "But, at the end of the day, I have to do what's best for the team. Today, the best thing I could do for the team was give them an inside presence.

"I don't think people give me enough credit for the perimeter."

Of course, to have the option of contributing outside and inside suggests a player of promise. Teammate Andrew Harrison endorsed that view.

"He's a great player," he said of Towns. "Very emotional and stuff. He has a bright future. It'll be fun playing with him."

Something to prove

For Alex Poythress, 16 points and eight rebounds on Monday served an able encore for Sunday's 10 points and six rebounds.

"He came back to school to prove to the world 'I'm one of the best forwards in the country,'" Payne said of Poythress. "You see his athleticism. ... one of the most athletic forwards in the country.

"Now, mentally, he has to put together the fight, the determination to go out and prove to people how good is he? Because some people still question it because they see the inconsistencies."

Payne is not one of the questioners.

"I think he's going to have a phenomenal year," Payne said. "That's why he's here. That's why he came back."

'No garbage time'

Three-pointers by Derek Willis and Dominique Hawkins fueled a first-half run that put Kentucky in charge.

"That's a big part of what everybody's role is on this team," Payne said. "One through 12 or 13 or whatever, when you step on the floor, there's no garbage time. So when you're on that floor, you are to play with confidence and you are to play well.

"If you make mistakes, you're making them with confidence. That's the key."

Inspiration

Andrew Harrison suggested that UK veterans take inspiration from the loss to Connecticut in the 2014 national championship game.

"Each individual player got better from last year in every aspect of the game," he said.

Know-how

Harrison said that the experience of last season helped explain why Kentucky appears especially cohesive for early August.

"This year we have a lot more, like, experience," he said. "Now we know how to play together."

Self-criticism

Towns lamented missing two of seven free-throw attempts.

"In my book, that's unacceptable," he said.

Andrew Harrison, who sat one chair from Towns, laughed out loud as Towns added, "I have to go back and fix that."

Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.

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