LOUISVILLE, KY. (WDRB) -- I don't want to go overboard with this. No one should get carried away. But after checking with several sources, I'm pretty sure Jarrod Polson could be elected state commissioner of agriculture right now.
His performance for the University of Kentucky in its 72-69 season-opening win over Maryland is only one game, but already there are whispers that he could run for the U.S. Senate.
There are, in this business, words you know you're never going to have to type, or Tweet.
-- "Dick Vitale offers subdued assessment."
-- "Digger Phelps makes cogent argument."
-- "Bob Knight credits John Calipari for good coaching job."
But here's one that is going to have to be retired from that list:
-- "Jarrod Polson gets a put-back of a Nerlens Noel miss to put UK up 64-63 late."
The question for Polson coming out of West Jessamine High School, with a scholarship offer from Liberty University or a chance to fulfill a dream by walking on at Kentucky was this: Give me Liberty or give Kentucky depth?
You know how that turned out. Coming into this season Polson had played a total of 62 career minutes and scored a total of seven career points.
Number of times a UK fan in Rupp Arena has yelled "shoot!" in the 28 career games Polson had played over two seasons: Roughly 1.9 million. Number of times Polson had actually shot? Nine.
Regardless, Polson came into this season with some rather significant things: A scholarship, an NCAA championship ring and two years of experience practicing against NBA talent. (Also, he got to be grand marshal in the Jessamine County Jamboree parade, which is no small thing.)
So when Ryan Harrow, slowed by an illness, couldn't get up to speed in Friday night's season opener in the new billion-dollar Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, Polson entered the game and played like he belonged.
With Jay-Z on the sideline, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon turned to his assistants and said, "What's Justin Bieber doing out there?"
Nah. He's not Bieber. But he is a YouTube sensation.
Turgeon expected to have to deal with UK's typical NBA talent. But he had no answer when Calipari countered with the WBA.
What's WBA? Surely you've seen the "White Boy Academy" YouTube video by Polson and Kyle Wiltjer.
At halftime, the two had a combined 15 points and Polson had a team-best three assists. For the game, Polson wound up with 10 points, three assists, a steal and two rebounds, including the aforementioned pivotal putback.
But that's not all. With 7.7 seconds remaining and UK leading by a single point, Polson stepped to the free-throw line and buried a pair to provide the winning margin.
"He was the whole key to the game," Turgeon said afterward. ". . . He was the difference."
Said Calipari: "I'm proud of Jarrod. Jarrod is one of those guys that comes every day, plays within who he is, does the things he can do, doesn't try to do more, and he just performs. He was outstanding."
Nobody's saying Polson is the next Josh Harrellson. But the fact is, this isn't exactly coming out of the blue. In UK's Blue-White game, the team of expected starters could not win, no matter how Calipari stacked the lineup, against a team largely led by Polson. He managed the game, didn't turn the ball over, made a shot when he got one.
And he did all that against better competition than he faced against Maryland Friday night. So why not do it on a national stage with Dickie V on the sideline?
"Obviously I've been going against some of the best players in the nation every year in practice," Polson said. "Just working hard against them every day, that got me to where I am today."
And this has been a Calipari phenomenon at UK. It' s not just the 5-star guys who improve their stock.
While drawing long-term conclusions from the opener probably isn't wise, it's not a stretch to think that Polson could contribute more.
Questions are going to remain about point guard Ryan Harrow. Playing point for Calipari is no easy thing. You're getting in line behind some big names, and no player wants to break the chain. But here's a fact. No UK starting point guard the past three seasons (John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague) ever played fewer than 23 minutes in any game. Friday night, Harrow played 10.
Regardless, there's something to be said for a Kentucky high school kid responding in a big situation. Locker room accounts after the game say Polson was getting hugs from everybody -- Harrow included. Former players were scrambling for his cell number to hit him up via text. The Calipari charge at UK has been driven by the best talent in the country. But every once in a while, a Kentucky kid still manages to deliver a touch of the unforgettable.
In Polson's case, it was a nice touch, whatever happens to come of it down the road.
Copyright 2012 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved. Quotes courtesy of the University of Kentucky and University of Maryland.
Wednesday, March 5 2014 8:53 AM EST2014-03-05 13:53:25 GMT
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