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January 7, 2013

Notes: Harrow up, SEC down, Poythress makes progress

His day could be considered done after working out individually with coach John Calipari for 20-25 minutes before practice, then practicing with the team.

But Ryan Harrow sticks around.

He'll stay in the gym to watch other players work out with Calipari after practice. He'll cheer them on, talk to them, encourage them.

"He's become that guy we've needed him to be," Calipari said on Monday's Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference.

Harrow has morphed into a leader as he regained the trust of his teammates since returning from a mystery illness and family issues in the opening weeks of the season.

He's done it by making his presence felt.

"Leading is not just walking on the court and barking orders," Calipari said. "Leading is about service. And the only way you can serve others is to be around them. I'm really proud about how far he's come."

He's just as proud of how far he's come as a player. Harrow's averaging 15 points per game with 23 assists and seven turnovers in his past five games.

"My thing with him is this is where we - as in I - thought you would be at the beginning of the year," Calipari said. "Now we got to build on this."

How much can Harrow build on his recent play?

"Why not try to be the best point guard in the country?" Calipari said. "Why not? Why would you not chase that?"

Calipari expects another 'war' with Vandy
The teams from last season's SEC Tournament championship game have changed dramatically.

The type of game played between Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the SEC season opener on Thursday might look pretty similar.

"They were wars," Calipari said of last year's three games against the Commodores. "I expect nothing less than that (Thursday)."

Both teams had significant roster turnover, but both coaches noted commonalities between versions.

"I would kind of consider them a typical Kentucky team: long, athletic, fast," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.

Poythress' production not enough
The standard is higher at Kentucky, Calipari said, which raises the bar for his players.

Alex Poythress is averaging 14 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and nobody's satisfied.

"Here he is as a freshman and practically getting a double-double, and it's not good enough," Calipari said. "Well, to be honest, it's not. Because it's not his best. But he's come a long way."

Calipari said the key is for Poythress to develop a habit of playing all-out and then substituting himself if he needs it.

"Right now, what he's doing in the individual workouts and what we're trying to get him to the point of, is more exertion," Calipari said. "More effort. Pushing through comfort levels. That's what it is."

Stallings said he hasn't watched enough film of the Wildcats yet to comment on Poythress' play.

He has seen NBA Draft projections, however, that have the Clarksville, Tenn., native labeled as a lottery pick.

"So he must be playing pretty well," Stallings said.

SEC perception low
The SEC struggled in non-conference play, with an overall 118-58 record.
Combined, SEC teams have beaten two ranked opponents (Missouri beat No. 11 Illinois and Tennessee beat No. 23 Wichita State).

Other notable wins? Florida beat Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State. Kentucky beat Maryland. Arkansas beat Oklahoma.

Then there are the losses - to Middle Tennessee and Indiana State (Ole Miss), Mercer (Alabama), Southern (Texas A&M), Youngstown State, Southern Mississiippi, and Iona (Georgia), Marist and Middle Tennessee (Vanderbilt), Winthrop and Rhode Island (Auburn), Loyola Chicago, Alabama A&M and Troy (Mississippi State), and Elon (South Carolina).

The conference is rated No. 9 by RealTimeRPI.com, behind every major conference and the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley leagues.

Calipari said he didn't know what a reporter meant by asking about the SEC struggles "because I'm not watching everybody's scores, I'm only watching ours."

Calipari did say, however, that numerous teams - he listed Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Ole Miss and LSU - either were playing really well or have started to play better.

"You can say, 'well, you don't have this or you don't have that,'" Calipari said. "Well, we're getting into league play, and it will all shake out, who's who."

Cauley-Stein honored
Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein on Monday was named the SEC Freshman of the Week after an 11-point, 11-rebound performance in last Wednesday's win against Eastern Michigan.

Cauley-Stein joined Poythress and Archie Goodwin in winning the SEC weekly freshman award this season.

The Olathe, Kan., native added two blocked shots and two steals and shot 5-for-6 from the floor in UK's only game of the week. He became the first Wildcat this season to record a second double-double.


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