Jarrod Polson emerged from Kentucky's season-opening win over Maryland as a national storyline for his play at point guard off the Wildcats' bench, but it sounds like John Calipari is determined to groom freshman Archie Goodwin as UK's long-term answer at that spot.
During Monday's press conference previewing the Wildcats' matchup against Duke in the Champions Classic, Calipari compared Goodwin to one of his former standouts.
"That's why I like him at point guard," Calipari said when asked about Goodwin's ability to make plays off the dribble. "That's what we had with Tyreke (Evans at Memphis). It all started with the ball… the guy with the ball can go score any time he wants. Makes it a little different."
Transfer Ryan Harrow was expected to be UK's starting point guard this season, and may still wind up in that role, but he struggled in the opener with no points, two assists and one turnover in 10 minutes of action. An unknown illness played a part in that, Calipari conceded, but those who had an opportunity to watch ESPN's "All-Access Kentucky" know the UK boss has not seen the vocal leadership or toughness required to hand Harrow the reins of the most important position in the program.
Enter Goodwin, who, much like Evans out of the high school ranks, came to UK as more of a "combo guard" than a pure point. They had similar builds (6-5, 200) at the same age and the potential to thrive in the dribble-drive system.
With that, however, comes some growing pains. Goodwin had 16 points in the Cats' 72-69 win over Maryland, but experienced some shaky moments as the Terrapins erased a 15-point deficit and almost snatched the victory from UK's grasp.
"We needed to see what Archie would do in that situation," Calipari said. "We learned. He got a little out of whack. We talked to him about it. You can't break off plays when there's a minute to go and go do your own thing, which he did twice. One was a charge, the other was a throw."
But, Calipari added, he doesn't want to take away Goodwin's natural aggressiveness.
"You don't want to take away (what he does best)," he said. "… He's got to do what he does, yet as he's attacking as a point guard and they all come at you, you must pass. But you gotta 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… he threw some shots I just couldn't believe – spinning, behind his head, throw – and guys were open. But that's his learning (process). Now he watched it on tape, he saw it."
"It's an adjustment," Goodwin said of playing the point for Calipari. "I still have a lot to learn, but I'm just trying to listen to him and do the things he's looking for."
Using Goodwin at the point also allows Calipari to get senior guard Julius Mays on the court at the same time while not sacrificing size in the frontcourt. Lineups featuring a different point guard that also include Goodwin and Mays would require the UK staff to make a choice between Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress, Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein for two spots, and the Cats are coming off a game in which they were outrebounded 54-38.
"I like Julius at the 2 because he's so steady, he makes shots, he makes the right plays, he's never in a hurry, he gets us calmed down," Calipari said.
Calipari grooming Goodwin at the point
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