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October 26, 2012

UK guards have ups and downs in first scrimmage

Archie Goodwin flew down the court, blazing past defenders.

The Kentucky freshman picked up his dribble, took two lengthy steps and flushed down a dunk that brought the Rupp Arena crowd to its feet.

John Calipari was on his feet, too. Not to applaud Goodwin, but to scold him.

"He passed up Julius Mays," Calipari said after Wednesday's Blue-White scrimmage. "Julius was out ahead of him, and he drove it by him and shot it (instead of passing ahead), and that's unacceptable here. I wasn't really happy, but that's not my deal. I let him know."

Rumor has it that guard is the toughest position to play for Calipari. After Wednesday's scrimmage, that rumor seems to be true.

The spectacular dunk was part of a big night for Goodwin, who scored a game-high 32 points but couldn't escape Calipari's criticism.

It was that kind of night for Goodwin, Mays and Ryan Harrow, the three UK guards projected to get the most playing time this season. They did a lot of good on Wednesday, but they didn't live up to their coach's standards.

Goodwin was a major target for that second-half play. The dunk was one of a game-high 22 shot attempts for Goodwin, who had three assists and after the game got a talking-to from Calipari about the need to make passing a bigger part of his game.

"After the game I told him he took 22 shots, more than anybody on the team," Calipari said. "I said you don't ever pass anyone up if you're going to get shots, you don't ever. I said the reason is because I'm making people throw it to you when you're ahead, so you better give it to them when they're ahead. He understood."

As did Mays, who said he told Goodwin not to worry about the play.

"As far as a dunk, it was not about that," Goodwin said. "It was about trying to create a team atmosphere, and passing the ball ahead because (Calipari) would want the same thing for me."

But Calipari did see some good out of his guards in the Blue team's 89-88 win. He praised the play of the lone senior, Mays. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting and five assists.

Mays' three-point shooting helped the underdog Blue squad to a 46-38 halftime lead, and the White team that featured Nerlens Noel, Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and Ryan Harrow trailed by 17 in the first half.

"Julius is one of the best shooters I've ever seen," Jon Hood said. "(Of players) that I've played with, he and Kyle, it's hard to think of another good shooter like that."

Mays reminds Calipari of a former UK great. Calipari hopes Mays brings the same veteran leadership the Cats lost when Darius Miller graduated in May.

"He'll make an open shot, he's better with the ball," Calipari said. "He'll push it really hard, he's really strong and really heady. It's just Darius was bigger, but (Mays) brings the same kind of stuff."

Being loud has been a problem Calipari has stressed with his team. He even brought in a communications coach to help solve the problem.

And although Mays isn't a heralded five-star point guard that Calipari is used to, he put it upon himself to be the vocal leader on the court.

"There were times out there where I knew I had to be vocal," Mays said. "Guys were getting a little out of whack and sloppy with things and turning it into a pick-up game. I had to step up and calm everyone down and play like we did at the beginning of the game."

But the biggest problem from the guards on Wednesday night wasn't the lack of leadership or distributing the ball, it was the inconsistent play of presumed starter Harrow.

Harrow's first half - four points, one assist - was forgettable. Calipari even went as far as saying Jarrod Polson outplayed the North Carolina State transfer.

"I thought Jarrod Polson played the best point guard in the first half," Calipari said. "I mean, we're still trying to figure out who we are, so we don't really have starters."

Harrow was able to click in the second half, finishing with 20 points and six assists.

"He was probably better (in the second half)," Calipari said. "I'll watch the tape. I think he's a better player than that and he needs to be. But he is. He's played better in practice."

Hood has been around a plethora of guards since he's been at UK, most that are now in the NBA. He said he can't compare this group of guards to years past, but believes between Goodwin, Mays and Harrow, UK's backcourt won't have any issues this season, even if they have a long way to go.

"The guards played well, Julius knocked down shots," Hood said. "We played well and the guards were a big part of it. They get the ball up the court, control the pressure and everything."



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