Kentucky Basketball: Is Alex Poythress Underachieving?

Matt OveringContributor IIIDecember 18, 2012

Nov 23, 2012; Lexington , KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Alex Poythress (22) at the end of the game against the LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated LIU Brooklyn 104-75. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Poythress is the second-best scorer on the Kentucky basketball team. He's the second-best rebounder. He is 14th in the country in shooting percentage. And he might be underachieving. 

Granted, we've seen the Kentucky Wildcats play 10 games. Poythress has scored in double figures in eight of those games, and has shot over 50 percent in every game but two.

ESPN's Jay Bilas and Chad Ford both include Poythress in their list of the top ten NBA prospects in college basketball. 

He's enjoyed a fine start to the season. 

But Kentucky is 7-3. Poythress has struggled at maintaining a high level of intensity on the court. Conditioning has been an issue as well. He averages 28.8 minutes per game, fourth most on the team.

Poythress' 2.9 turnovers per game are alarming, considering he is not a primary ball-handler. 

He also fouls at a high rate—just over two per game. The number may seem small, but in his two worst performances of the year (against Maryland and Notre Dame), Poythress was in foul trouble for most of the game.

His troubles run deeper than numbers, though. Poythress is polarizing when he plays—sometimes we see thunderous dunks like this, and other times he'll turn the ball over in erratic fashion. 

Poythress is drawing comparisons to Terrence Jones—for reasons on both sides of the spectrum.

Both are insanely talented forwards that can play small forward or power forward. Poythress may be the more talented of the two—which makes his (occasionally) lackadaisical play all the more frustrating.

That is a comparison that Poythress would like to avoid. Jones, as talented as he was, had games where he simply was not there mentally (his game at Indiana is a prime example).

Poythress is known to be quiet off of the floor, but on the court, Kentucky needs him to play with passion.

When he does, he's arguably the best player on the floor. 

Will we see Poythress evolve his game into a more consistent "beast?" 

Poythress and the Wildcats have one final tune-up against Marshall on Dec. 22 before their showdown with Louisville on Dec. 29.


All statistics via ESPN.