UK Men's Basketball

Meet the Cats: Poythress now veteran in great expectations

Alex Poythress (22) will benefit from battles with Julius Randle, Coach John Calipari said.
Alex Poythress (22) will benefit from battles with Julius Randle, Coach John Calipari said. Herald-Leader

Alex Poythress has a message for Kentucky basketball fans: Happy New Year!

Of leaving a less-than-optimal 2012-13 behind and approaching this upcoming season, he said, "I feel good. Different year. A new year. Ready to do big things. Just ready for the season to get here."

Last season displayed Poythress as a promising freshman . . . if he played anywhere but Kentucky. UK's often-touted exceptionalism worked to his disadvantage. Good is not good enough. At Kentucky, the ups and downs of a typical first-year player prompt the impulse to reach for the re-start button with a new high school All-American.

"Everybody makes mistakes," said Poythress, who late last season felt compelled to express regret for his play. "You just have to live with it. Everybody's not perfect. . . . You're just magnified here at Kentucky. Everybody's got their eyes on you. Everybody's always watching you. You just learn how to cope with it."

"Now I'm real prepared for it," he added. "I've been through it already, so I should be fine."

Talking to reporters early last month, Poythress seemed more relaxed and less wary than this time a year ago.

"I was quite a bit more tense coming in," he said. "You're a freshman. You don't know what to expect. It's different from high school. It's college. You haven't played a game yet.

"But this year is different. I know what to expect. I know what's needed of me. So this should be a different year."

Poythress all but described himself as the calm before the storm of standout performances.

"Laid back," he said. "Chilled."

Chilled sounds good for a glass of Pinot Grigio. But a UK player? A reporter noted that UK coaches and fans prefer determined and ill-tempered. Poythress chuckled.

"I can do that on the court," he said in a tone that suggested all in good time. "But right now, we're just doing interviews. We're just talking. I don't need to be fired up."

UK Coach John Calipari speaks of Poythress benefiting from practicing against Julius Randle, a freshman with the reputation for unrelenting competitiveness.

"It's real intense battles, me and him going at it," Poythress said. "We don't back down from each other. . . . Competition brings the best out in both of us."

A smiling Calipari suggested that a Poythress request for time at small forward represented a surrender.

Poythress bristled when a reporter suggested that Randle was Batman, leaving the role of Robin to the sophomore from Clarksville, Tenn.

"Oh, competition is equal," Poythress said as a momentary chill came over the conversation. "There's no Batman. There's no Robin. We're both going hard at each other. I don't know where you heard that from."

The request for time at small forward? That's the position he sees as his best NBA option, he said.

"I want to be on the wing more," he said. "I want to slash more."

Uniform number: 22

Height, weight: 6-8, 239

Position: Forward

Class: Sophomore

Hometown: Clarksville, Tenn.

High school: Northeast

Twitter: @AlexTheGreat22

Online: Watch a video interview with Alex Poythress.

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