Alex Poythress

Can Alex Poythress improve on the perimeter for Kentucky?

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Kentucky junior forward Alex Poythress is going to be one of the more important players this college basketball season.

As an elder statesman on another loaded Wildcat team with national title aspirations, the 6-foot-8 forward might hold the key to Kentucky’s fate this season. While John Calipari recruited another crop of McDonald’s All-Americans to bolster the front line and add a point guard in Tyler Ulis and a wing in Devin Booker, Booker is probably not ready to play crunch-time minutes from a mental or physical standpoint this season.

Enter Poythress, who struggled from the perimeter last season and will be asked to play more on the wing this season. According to a story from Larry Vaught of Central Kentucky News, Poythress is already working on his perimeter skills.

“I feel like I am getting more comfortable each and every day playing out there. Cal told me great job playing out there. Letting me play out there and try to prove myself,” Poythress said to Vaught.

Poythress also told Vaught that he’s been working on getting shots up this offseason. The three-point percentage for Poythress dipped from 42 percent to 24 percent last season, but he attempted the same amount of threes in both seasons and only made six more as a freshman (14-for-33 as a freshman, 8-for-33 as a sophomore).

“I feel like yeah I have (improved). I have been working on it a lot lately and with the coaches at night just trying to get better,” Poythress said to Vaught of his shooting. “A lot of us are in there a lot all the time whenever we can. We are all a bunch of gym rats really.”

After two seasons, it’ll have to be a wait-and-see approach with Poythress after his regression last season. Maybe a more confident and experienced Poythress can play more on the wing and let Kentucky have a good front court rotation with the incoming freshmen.

Either way, the Wildcats have to figure out someone to close out games on the wing and Poythress gives them the most experience, athleticism and rebounding ability if he can improve his shooting and aggressiveness. Poythress will be a player to watch for Kentucky during the team’s exhibition trip to the Bahamas beginning tomorrow.

As good as they’ve been, No. 3 Michigan State has yet to play their best

Bryn Forbes, Ryan Fazekas
Associated Press
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Sunday night’s Wooden Legacy title game matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence was billed as a matchup of the nation’s two best players, and rightfully so. Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine (17 points, six rebounds, five assists), who already has two triple-doubles to his credit this season, and Providence redshirt junior Kris Dunn (21 points, five rebounds, seven assists) have more than lived up to the preseason expectations and more of the same was expected in Anaheim.

And while both had their moments, it was Michigan State’s supporting cast that made the difference in their 77-64 victory. The scary thing for future opponents on Michigan State’s schedule is that Tom Izzo’s team is nowhere near being a finished product.

With Valentine dealing with first-half foul trouble Bryn Forbes stepped up, scoring 13 of his 18 points to help the Spartans take a two-point lead into the half. As for the 11-0 run that Michigan State produced to take control of the game late, a host of players stepped forward in regards to scoring, rebounding and defending.

Freshmen Deyonta Davis and Matt McQuaid combined to score nine points over the final 5:32, with transfer guard Eron Harris adding six of his 12 points during that stretch. The Spartans outscored the Friars, who aren’t as deep, 22-7 during that stretch to close out the game, hunting for quality shots and hitting the offensive glass while making things difficult for Providence on the other end of the floor.

The end result was a final margin that does not indicate just how close the game was. While Providence seemed to run out of steam Michigan State received contributions from multiple players, which is undoubtedly a good sign for this group moving forward.

The Spartans will return the currently injured Gavin Schilling later this season, giving them another big man alongside Davis, Matt Costello and Colby Wollenman. He was a player they missed Sunday night, as he can defend opposing big men both in the post and on the perimeter. His absence was a main reason Michigan State didn’t have an answer for Providence’s Ben Bentil (20 points, seven rebounds) defensively.

The key for this group is going to end up being role definition, which is especially true in the case of Harris. A transfer from West Virginia, Harris came to East Lansing with the reputation of being a big time scorer. He’s struggled through the first two weeks of the season, but he got on a roll on Sunday night, finishing with 12 points, three boards and three assists. He showed he’s capable of doing a variety of things on the perimeter, and fitting into a “Swiss army knife” kind of role would make Michigan State that much more dangerous.

There’s no denying that Michigan State has been one of the nation’s best teams thus far.

But there’s also no denying that the Spartans have yet to hit their ceiling, which is definitely a positive moving forward.

Wichita State’s Anton Grady returns home with team

AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.
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Wichita State forward Anton Grady was released from a hospital in Orlando on Sunday afternoon in time to return home with his Shocker teammates.

Grady suffered a spinal corn concussion on Friday when he collided head-first with an Alabama defender, snapping his head sharply to the side. He lay on the court motionless for 10 minutes after the injury and was taken off the floor on a stretcher.

[RELATED: Can WSU still make tourney?]

“I want to send out a big thank you to Shocker Nation and all of my friends and family for of the love and encouragement that I have received the past few days,” Grady said in a statement on Sunday morning. “I’ve been reading your tweets and posts and appreciate every last one of them. I have a lot of work to do to get back on the court, but with the help of such a great support system, I’m ready for the challenge.”

By Friday night, Grady had feeling in all of his extremities, but he has a long road of rehab ahead of him.