There is no player more important in college basketball this year than University of Kentucky freshman forward Alex Poythress.
That’s an odd statement considering Poythress is averaging the fourth-most minutes played on an unranked 4-3 team. Also, there are names like Cody Zeller, Seth Curry, Peyton Siva and Doug McDermott still in college basketball.
Despite being the No. 13 recruit in the 2012 class, Poythress is easy to forget about; teammates Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin were both ranked higher. But when it comes down to it, Poythress is needed by the Wildcats more than either Noel or Goodwin.
The reason is simple.
There is no back-up for Poythress. He can play both inside and outside at 6’7" and 239 pounds. He has the ability to guard three or possibly even four positions on the defensive end. In fact, UK head coach John Calipari called Poythress “a beast” earlier this season.
So far this season, the Clarksville, Tennessee, native is averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of action. However, it’s when he is off the court that his value is seen. The Wildcats are forced to use either an extremely big or extremely small lineup without Poythress as there is not another true wing player on the roster.
Starting alongside Poythress, Noel and Goodwin for the Cats is senior guard Julius Mays and sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer. There is an obvious mismatch when Poythress is out of the game. Guard Ryan Harrow and center Willie Cauley-Stein are the two main reserves, and Wiltjer has been unable to guard nearly anyone so far in his career.
So with all due respect to those who will make All-American teams and will be talked about across the country year-round, this year belongs to Alex Poythress.
As does Kentucky’s run to Atlanta for the Final Four.