From the silver lining playbook: Kentucky's loss at Robert Morris to end last season contained a personal triumph.
"Obviously, for me, it gave me a lot of confidence," Jarrod Polson said. "(UK Coach John Calipari) went to me, and I was able to play well.
"I couldn't get too excited because we lost, but it was definitely a confidence booster for me and it showed the coaches I can play."
Polson came off the bench at Robert Morris to, first, steady Kentucky's point guard play and then spark a rally. He played a career-high 31 minutes and committed only one turnover against "tough guys from Pittsburgh," as Calipari termed the savvy Robert Morris players. His 10 points made him one of only two double-figure scorers for the Cats in a finale otherwise filled with blue-tinged regret.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Perhaps most importantly, Polson competed. The modest setting (attendance 3,444) and inconsequential stakes (National Invitation Tournament first round) made no difference.
His performance at Robert Morris served as a fitting bookend to a season that saw Polson as opening-night hero (10 points in 22 minutes against Maryland). After that opener, Maryland Coach Mark Turgeon acknowledged not knowing who Polson was.
When asked if he surprised Calipari with his contributions last season, Polson said, "I definitely think I surprised him a lot, I think he finally got comfortable with putting me in the game. I wasn't where he's worrying the whole time I'm out there. I think it was, 'If I put him in there, he may help us.'
"And I think that was just the biggest thing I wanted to prove to him and the rest of the coaches."
Heretofore a fan favorite/novelty act expected to fill time in the final minutes of victories already secured, Polson showed he could be ... a player. Logic suggests that could serve as a springboard to an expanded role as a senior this season. But with the influx of six McDonald's All-Americans, plus freshman point guard Dominique Hawkins, Polson acknowledged that the playing time hill is steeper than ever.
"It's definitely steeper than last year because we have two or three guys who can possibly start at each position," he said. "... Every position is definitely going to be a dogfight."
Might Polson's agreeable demeanor work against him? Might a player who keeps his ego in check and a smile on his face be easier to sit for an extended period than a player who might brood about a non-starting role?
"I hope it's not like that," Polson said. "I don't think it is. I think they will really look at what you do and how hard you work and how good you are and what you do in practice."
However Calipari doles out the point guard minutes, Polson would be expected to accept the decision. A six-day stay in Ethiopia this past summer brought new perspective to a person seemingly already well grounded. The relief trip set up by UK Athletics enabled Polson to see so-called third-world conditions.
"I understand the third-world phrase now," he said. "... But the thing is those people seemed like some of the happiest people I know.
"It makes me never want to complain the rest of my life."
Uniform number: 3
Height, weight: 6-2, 182
Hometown: Nicholasville, Ky.
High school: West Jessamine