Kentucky coach John Calipari says the staff is preparing walk-on Jarrod Polson for the possibility of significant minutes in Friday’s season opener against Maryland in the event Julius Mays is limited or unable to go against the Terrapins.
Mays suffered a strained leg in Monday’s exhibition game against Transylvania when he came down awkwardly after a 3-point attempt. The UK medical staff doesn’t believe he suffered any major damage, but the senior shooting guard was held out of Wednesday’s practice along with sophomore point guard Ryan Harrow, who was experiencing flu-like symptoms.
“Julius took the day (off). We are just trying to make sure his leg is fine,” Calipari said. “There was nothing structurally or anything wrong, but he didn’t practice.
“Jarrod looked pretty good, and I think Jarrod will be fine if we had to play him. The other guys worked pretty hard. We are what we are right now.”
Polson, a 6-foot-2 junior from Nicholasville, Ky., has played in 28 games during his UK career, but has never earned a starting assignment. He’s not a typical walk-on, however, passing up a handful of other Division I scholarship offers coming out of West Jessamine High School in order to play for the Wildcats.
“We are all comfortable as a staff if he has got to go in and play minutes or significant minutes,” Calipari said. “He is not going to be like the guy trying to get 30 points, but he has some size with him, he has some toughness with him, he will make open shots. I think he is dying for an opportunity, which is what you want from a player.”
Polson's career-high in playing time was a 10-minute appearance as a freshman against Penn State. Since that time, however, he has not played in more than four minutes in any contest.
Freshman Archie Goodwin, recruited as one of the nation’s top shooting guards coming out of the high school ranks in Arkansas, may be asked to handle more of the point guard duties. The staff has been preparing him for that possibility even prior to the Mays injury.
Calipari may also call on Jon Hood, back from a knee injury that kept him out all of last season, for more minutes. The junior wing from Madisonville had two rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot in 14 minutes of action against Transylvania.
“Watching the tapes, Jon Hood did really well last game,” Calipari said. “Jon Hood is trying to just play within himself. There were a couple plays where I wished he would have shot the ball, but it’s OK that he didn’t. I am not going to get mad at him for not shooting the ball right now. I just want him to get comfortable playing and not being delusional. ‘This is who I am. Here’s how I play. I’m going to go do this.’ He is listening to himself and now, all of a sudden, you are comfortable putting him in the game. He can help us.”
Maryland could provide a strong test for the defending national champions in the opener at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“They are a team that tries to post the ball. They run a lot of screens. They play great position defense. They don’t give you a whole lot, and they don’t turn it over a whole lot,” Calipari said. “They try to take good shots every time down. They are not going to beat themselves. We will see if we are ready to beat a basketball team. I am just not sure, they are going to have to show me.”