It wasn’t but a few short weeks ago that Archie Goodwin looked like he had no shot at playing point guard.
During the second episode of ESPN’s “All Access Kentucky,” John Calipari visibly laid into Goodwin for how he ran the point, even telling him that the experiment wasn’t going to work out for him. Fast forward nearly four weeks later and it not only looks like Goodwin will see some time at the lead-guard position, he will be needed there Tuesday when Kentucky takes on Duke.
Coach Cal announced Monday morning that sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow “probably” would not make the trip to Atlanta for the Champions Classic if he did not practice Monday afternoon. Harrow had the flu last week and “doesn’t have any energy,” Calipari said.
Assuming Harrow doesn’t play Tuesday, that leaves Kentucky with a major hole to fill against the nation’s ninth-ranked team on the road.
While sophomore Jarrod Polson played brilliantly in the season opener and Calipari has “all the confidence in the world” in him, chances are Polson won’t be counted on primarily to run the show again. The same can be said for Twany Beckham, who Calipari said Monday morning could see some minutes at the point.
Instead, look for Goodwin, a freshman, to play a significant role at the one position if Harrow can’t play Tuesday. Goodwin, who scored 16 points and dished out two assists against Maryland, is ready for the opportunity.
“I feel very comfortable with it,” Goodwin said. “Coach Cal has confidence in me, and with him having confidence in me, that’s all I need. I have confidence in myself and my teammates do as well, so as long as we have an understanding and bond with each other, we should be fine.”
What: No. 3/3 UK (1-0) vs. No. 9/9 Duke (1-0)
When: Tuesday, 9:30 p.m. ET
Where: Atlanta, Georgia Dome (30,000)
Game notes: UK | Duke
Video interviews: Cal, Cauley-Stein, Goodwin and Polson
News: Wiltjer wins SEC Player of the Week
News: Harrow could miss Duke game; Mays questionable
Record: 27-7 last year
Head coach: Mike Krzyzewski (855-232 at Duke)
Nickname: Blue Devils
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Player to watch: Mason Plumlee (19 points, 14 rebounds in first game)
Series history: UK leads 11-8
Last meeting: Duke won 95-92 in overtime the 2002 NCAA Tournament
Goodwin played the point on Friday when Polson wasn’t logging his career-high 22 minutes. The Arkansas native committed three turnovers, a pretty low total given his minutes (37) and the fact that UK had never worked on a zone or press offense.
Calipari likes Goodwin’s at point guard because of his ability to get to the rack. He shot 11 free throws Friday, in part because he continually drove past his defender.
“That’s what we had with Tyreke (Evans),” Coach Cal said. “It all started with the ball. You can do all that kind of stuff you want, but the guy with the ball can go score anytime he wants. It makes it a little different.”
When Calipari moved Evans to the point during the 2008-09 season at Memphis, the Tigers reeled off 27 straight wins. Only one game into the season, Calipari doesn’t seem to be ready to make such a drastic move yet given that Harrow could still play and Polson showed he’s more than capable of handling significant minutes.
Goodwin is fine with playing either position so long as it translates to wins.
“They’re a little different because as the two guard, it’s more of a scoring role than at the point guard,” Goodwin said. “I’ve played two guard my whole life, and that’s something that I’m getting accustomed to. It shouldn’t be too much of a change because at the end of the day I’m a basketball player. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things that you normally don’t sacrifice, which is fine with me. As long as we win, that’s all I’m concerned with. If that means I’m sacrificing a couple points to get the other guys going, that’s perfectly fine with me.”
If Goodwin plays extended minutes at the point, Calipari wants him to understand there’s a balance between his ability to drive and his responsibility to set up his teammates.
“He’s got to do what he does, yet as he’s attacking as a point guard and they all come in, you must pass,” Coach Cal said. “But you’ve got to keep attacking. Don’t take away from what you are. Then you shouldn’t be the point guard. I want him to do what he does, but he’s just got to recognize that when they crowd that lane you can’t (just throw it up). He threw some shots (Friday) that I couldn’t believe – spinning, behind-his-head throw — and the guys are open. But that’s his learning.”
‘Sixth-grade’ rebounding drills
Not that it should come as a surprise to anyone after UK gave up the most offensive boards it ever has during Calipari’s time in Lexington, but practice this weekend was focused specifically on rebounding.
Freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein, who said they got “outmuscled” by Maryland, said Calipari put in three new rebounding drills this weekend.
“That’s all we’ve talked about,” Cauley-Stein said. “It’s a big part of our game. Like, we have to rebound if we want to win, so there was a big emphasis on rebounding.”
UK gave up a staggering 28 offensive rebounds to the Terps and were minus-16 overall on the boards.
The drills were basic this weekend, Calipari said. They were tailored to break the Cats’ habit of following the flight of the ball, which he said is “sixth grade” or “seventh grade” stuff.
“You don’t follow the flight of the ball,” Coach Cal said. “You see the flight and then you go find somebody (to block out) and then go get the ball. But again, if we haven’t worked on it, I can’t be upset. And we hadn’t. I just thought we’re 7-foot, 6-11, 6-10, 6-9; we’ll rebound. No. When your guards are taking off and they’re wedging you under and you’re looking at the ball and you’re next to the cheerleader, you’re probably not going to get the ball.”
Both Calipari and his players admitted that they hadn’t worked much on rebounding before the Maryland game. There are only so many practices to work on so many things.
“There’s only one way to break habits, and that’s do it over and over and over and over and over and over, but you can’t do 55 things a day over and over and over,” Calipari said.
But after getting “exposed” Friday, Calipari said Saturday and Sunday were rebound-focused with little preparation for Duke.
“I can’t give my guys 30 things today to think about,” Coach Cal said. “We’re going to do what we do and there’s two or three things that we do.”
The memory still burns in the souls of Kentucky fans, but a current Wildcat, Cauley-Stein, doesn’t bat an eye when talks of Christian Laettner’s shot in the 1992 NCAA Tournament come up.
It’s probably because he doesn’t even know who Laettner is. Asked Monday for his thoughts on the infamous shot, Cauley-Stein said he’s never seen it.
“I don’t keep up with that,” he said.
To his credit, Cauley-Stein wasn’t born until 1993, a year after Laettner tore out the hearts of Big Blue fans everywhere. But teammate Goodwin, who was also born after that game, wasn’t surprised at all to hear Cauley-Stein’s lack of basketball history.
“Willie’s a different dude,” Goodwin said.
Cauley-Stein’s basketball knowledge, or lack thereof, is more a reflection of today’s generation, Calipari said. These days, kids know the last few years’ players and that’s it, Calipari said.
“You can say George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (and they won’t know),” Coach Cal said. “Magic Johnson was the big guy that came to the game. That’s it. They know three years. Three years ago they were 14, 13.”
Calipari, of course, hasn’t forgotten the shot, but not for the reasons you may think. Coach Cal’s Massachusetts team came pretty close to beating that UK team the round before.
“If Lenny Wirtz didn’t call the technical on me, that game never happens,” Calipari said. “We beat Kentucky. Lenny Wirtz called a ridiculous call from 55 feet away. He doesn’t make that call, we win that game. Then there is no Christian Laettner.”
Polson blocking out sudden stardom
Polson, the hero of Friday’s season-opening game, said it may take a long time for his out-of-nowhere performance to sink in, but that hasn’t stopped everybody else – family members, friends and former UK players – from letting him know that he made an all-time UK memory.
The former walk-on said he got nearly 100 text messages.
“Cameron Mills texted me, which was pretty cool because I looked up to him when I was younger,” Polson said. “That was probably my favorite. He said how he was proud of me and how he knows what I have been through, so he can relate.”
Knowing that he could play an important role again Tuesday, Polson said he’s just trying to stay focused on doing his job.
“For me it’s just doing the things that I know I can do,” Polson said. “I know I’m not going to go out and score 50 points. Just trying to bring energy. I think that energy carries on from me to my teammates, so I’m just trying to get that Energizer bunny when I’m on the floor.”
Coach Cal reminded reporters Friday night that Cauley-Stein was playing football less than a year ago. To be in a situation like he was in New York was an eye-opening experience for him.
Two key free throws late in the game illustrated the other side of the Kentucky Effect.
“I could feel the crowd’s vibration, like how loud it was,” Cauley-Stein said. “That being your first time in a big college game like that and all the people and playing in the new center and the fact that those free throws were clutch, it was one of the factors of winning the game. You have that on your mind and then the pressure of you don’t want to lose. You don’t want to lose it for your team. It was just really overwhelming.”
Maryland center Alex Len had his way inside against Kentucky’s defense. That could be troubling news for the Cats with Duke forward Mason Plumlee up next.
“Plumlee may be the best big guy that we see all year,” Calipari said. “He may be it. And Len was pretty good, but Plumlee clearly is better. Like, clearly is better.”
Plumlee notched a double-double in the first game of the year with 19 points and 14 rebounds.