LEXINGTON, Ky. --- This is not the same Alex Poythress that didn't score a point in only six minutes of play after the loss against Baylor at AT&T Stadium. This is not the same Alex Poythress that followed that game with another goose egg in the box score in 17 minutes against Boise State. Since then, a light has come on for John Calipari's first option off the bench.
Just look at his stats:
Last 6 games: 8 Pts/G, 65% FG, 5.3 Reb/G in 22.7 Min/G
Previous 7 games: 2.4 Pts/G, 32% FG, 3.8 Reb/G in 14.7 Min/G
Those recent numbers may not blow you away, but for a reserve player, it's making the most of his minutes. This is not the same Alex Poythress.
"Alex was great again (at Arkansas)," said John Calipari Friday before practice. "He's growing leaps and bounds. He was unbelievable. Again, he's doing things that no one else on our team can do right now."
"I just realized what I can do, just realized it starts at practice," said Poythress, before Calipari addressed the media Friday. "If you do it at practice, it's going to have to translate to games. Go hard everyday."
"But it started with that base foundation. Get in shape. Mentally, get yourself right," explained Calipari. "You can't get mentally right until you can physically push through comfort levels, and get yourself to where you've never been. That's what he did."
The change in Poythress has very much been about maximum effort, like in the closing seconds of overtime Tuesday at Arkansas.
It was Poythress who hustled from the corner to the paint and skied for a critical offensive rebound with 18 seconds left, kicking it out to Andrew Harrison as he fell to the floor, before Harrison gave James Young another shot to tie the game. Young buried a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go. That made it 85-85, before the Razorbacks' game-winning put-back slam with 0.2 seconds left.
That hustle play by Poythress wasn't forgotten by Calipari Friday, before Kentucky's next game at home against Tennessee Saturday at Rupp Arena.
"Unbelievable. I don't know of another player in the country that could make that play, and I know nobody on our team could have made it," said Calipari. "He would have never gone after the ball (last year). He would have never attempted...that's what he was then. But now, he can be alert because he's in great shape."
And the Wildcats are in great shape moving forward if they can count on productive minutes from Poythress coming off the bench.