Kentucky Freshman Alex Poythress Continues to Struggle Without Nerlens Noel

By Jared Mintz
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Naturally, when Kentucky freshman phenom Nerlens Noel tore his ACL against No. 11 Florida last month, everyone wondered how the injury would effect Noel’s draft status. After displaying incredible athleticism and an even more impressive motor to match his great size, Noel seemed like the consensus number one overall pick for this June’s draft prior to getting injured.

Noel’s injury didn’t just lead to the demise of the Wildcats season – although at 20 wins, 11 of which came in SEC play, I wouldn’t rule them out of the NCAA Tournament just yet – but his fellow freshman forward Alex Poythress has suffered as well without his partner in crime.

Including the Florida game, Poythress has had single-digit scoring outputs in five of the Wildcats last seven games. Heading into that infamous game averaging 12.3 points and 6.2 rebounds, the Clarksville, Tennesse native has averaged just 9.4 points and 4.7 rebounds since, as his team has gone 3-4.

Sure, guys (also freshman) like Willie Cauley-Stein and Archie Goodwin have stepped up immensely in Noel’s absence – Poythress absence as well – but the 6-foot-7 almost 240 pound prospect (think young Ron Artest body-wise) showed great promise earlier in the season, and has shrunken out of the limelight as of late.

Poythress went for four-straight 20-plus point games after debuting with an 8-point, 7-rebound effort in a gritty win against Maryland, and shooting 59-percent on the season, the kid has shown just how capable he is of putting up big numbers.

I would’ve thought that without Noel, Poythress would have stepped up and welcomed the task of being the go to guy in the post for John Calipari’s offense, but he hasn’t. Maybe Poythress really needs a guy like Noel to take the attention off of him in order for his efficient approach on the offensive end to work best, but whether he hit the rookie wall or whatever reason, we’ve seen a major slip in his production.

We know we shouldn’t expect to see Noel back in Lexington next Fall, but after the past few weeks, should we count on Poythress needing to come back in order to get ready for the next NBA draft?

If his recent play has been noticed by scouts, I’d say yes.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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