Harrison's shot proves Cats' growth

In the team's early practices, the Wildcats were all so brash and out of sync that they couldn't throw a simple alley-oop to one another. Too many emcees, not enough mics.

"We couldn't throw a lob to save our life at the beginning of practice," Poythress said.

They clearly had the talent to justify their preseason No. 1 ranking, but those early sessions together offered a snapshot of how difficult it would be to reach that potential when the basics were so arduous.

"You see the shot clock on the top of the rim? [Our lobs] were over there," Marcus Lee said. "On the other side of the court. We had rough times getting that down. If I had tape of it, I would laugh at it."

Losses to South Carolina and Arkansas weren't humorous. Even then, the Wildcats realized that they could do what they've done in the past three weeks. But they also recognized that they were far from that bar.

For the past month, Calipari has touted a mysterious tweak that changed the program. But a players-only meeting helped, too. Maybe it mattered more than the tweak.

Prior to the SEC tourney, the Wildcats met alone. They talked about the drama they'd experienced thus far. They discussed how important it would be to ignore the chatter about their failures entering the postseason. And they also conversed about egos.

Any remnant of the "get mine" attitude that affects many athletes had to be dismissed. Now.

"I feel like when we had the players-only meetings, I feel like everybody just spoke their mind, spoke what was on their heart to what was troubling them," Poythress said. "I feel like we came together as a team."

Added Jarrod Polson: "We've put all of our egos to the side, especially as of late."

The Kumbaya turn, however, had to involve more than grand goals. The Wildcats had to get real about their specific roles.

And then, they had to embrace them.

Aaron's role now? The guy who gets the rock when the game is on the line -- and in the final minutes, it's always on the line, it seems, with this reborn Kentucky team. (These Wildcats are the first team ever to win four consecutive games by five points or fewer in a single NCAA tournament.)

He's surrounded by a crew of players who've suppressed their inner protagonists to encourage one of their own to step forward and play a solo that's turned a raggedy band into a symphony.

Aaron can take the last shot. And everyone in that Kentucky locker room approves of that.

That mentality had to cover the roster before Saturday night's win, and the program's second national title game appearance in three years, could materialize.

"We really didn't know who was going to be the big guy to take the shot [earlier this season]," Hawkins said. "We know now because you see Aaron, he's hitting all these big shots, though. In the beginning of the season, we really were going through our bumps and all that crazy stuff because we didn't know who to give the ball to. We were still trying to figure it out. And now we're figuring it out, and that's why we're in the national championship."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 23211375.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...