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February 11, 2013

Polson relishing role as Kentucky's energy guy

When Jarrod Polson arrived at Kentucky as a walk-on, playing time was a desired but unrealistic expectation.

Now, midway through his junior season, Polson isn't the team's best scorer, best defender or three-point specialist, but what he does bring fuels the Cats.

"He's just energy," John Calipari said. "All I need is energy."

If that's what Calipari needs, it might explain why Polson is seeing a spike in playing time.

Polson's 20 minutes of action against Auburn on Saturday was the most he's recorded in his career in Southeastern Conference play. In UK's season-high five-game winning streak, Polson has averaged 14.6 minutes per game.

When Polson's in the game, he's not going to light up the stat sheet. Even against the Tigers, Polson's numbers were less than impressive. He finished with just three points on 1-of-3 shooting, three rebounds, two assists and one steal.

But what Polson does best doesn't involve numbers; it impacts the entire team. The 6-foot-2 guard's energy is contagious.

"Jarrod is like an x-factor for this team," forward Nerlens Noel said. "He brings a lot of energy to the guard play and makes those hustle plays we really need off the bench. He's a great asset to this team."

Polson and Willie Cauley-Stein received a push from the new and improved Kyle Wiltjer, whose improvements have been praised by Calipari, but Polson and Cauley-Stein try to bring a different dynamic.

Coming off the bench, they can provide the starters with an extra spark, helping the Cats push past lulls.

"When you're on the bench it's like that," Cauley-Stein said. "Jarrod and I will be sitting there talking to each other like, 'When we get in this game, we have to be the hype man, we have to get in there and give everybody energy and pump people up."

Polson admitted he wasn't necessarily a "hype" guy in high school, but when Calipari talks, he listens.

"He has been telling me to bring energy to the games," Polson said. "I have been trying to guard Ryan Harrow with that energy in practice and that has helped me out. I really just try to bring energy.

"That's what (Calipari) wanted from me."

Calipari asked and he's received.

Polson's increased role makes UK's short bench a bit deeper. The Cats have a true eight-man rotation and for just the second time this season Harrow played more minutes than Archie Goodwin.

Polson cited the Maryland game as the time he realized he was going to have a bigger role this season than he expected, but each game Polson becomes more confident.

"I feel more comfortable with the more minutes I get," Polson said. "I don't really have any pressure, I just have to go out there and defend and just bring as much energy as I can.

"It's pretty fun."

While Polson is having fun, the Cats continue to win. And heading into Gainesville Tuesday UK will rely on a former walk-on to energize the team.


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