So we’ve all seen those “where are they now” pieces that get fans and readers all warm and fuzzy inside reminiscing about some of their favorite players of the past. Well, this is not one of those pieces. In this entry, I wanted to focus on two guys that are still currently on rosters and are both well known in the Bluegrass state but have been missing from the headlines as of late.
Starting with the No.11 Louisville Cardinals, Wayne Blackshear is a guy that started out so strong and has had flashes of sheer brilliance but recently, and more often than not, has not been very productive. Coming out of high school, Blackshear averaged 32.6 points, 14.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 3.7 steals as a senior leading Morgan Park to a 20-7 record and the 3-A sectional finals. In 2011 he was selected as a McDonald’s and Parade Magazine All-American and rated as high as No.16 nationally by Scout recruiting.
Dealing with a shoulder injury early in his freshman season, Wayne did not see game action until the Cards’ 25th game of the season at West Virginia. He did not disappoint and lived up to his billing, totaling 13 points, four rebounds, one steal and even blocked a shot. His 13 points tied for the eighth-highest scoring output in a UofL freshman debut. The Chicago native contributed nine points, four rebounds and a pair of dunks in 14 minutes off the bench in the national semifinals against Kentucky and had Card Nation salivating over the possibilities of the types of games he could produce.
He had a good season last year, scoring 298 points scored in 39 games. He showed he can play against top competition when he scored 17 points at Villanova, matching his fourth-highest scoring total. He also showed his shooting range when he hit a career-high 5-of-8 3-pointers and collected a career-best four steals. He showed how quickly he can score recording a season-high 19 points at Rutgers in just 14 minutes of play.
Inconsistency has been the bugaboo for Wayne this season. He started off playing well and led the team in scoring in the third game of the season against Cornell with 20. He also had a nice week from January 16 to January 22, when he led the team in scoring twice with 23 vs. Houston and 16 vs.USF. Lately however, he’s been absent from almost any offensive production and his defense has been suspect at best.
In the last five games, he has scored two points on 0-1 shooting vs Memphis, one point on 0-4 shooting against Temple, zero points on 0-3 versus Uconn, seven points on 3-7 shooting against USF, and 10 points with 3-5 shooting versus Rutgers. It seems that Rick Pitino might want to shine the “Wayne Signal” into the Louisville skyline in hopes that Blackshear shows up to help the Cardinals make a tournament run.
Alex Poythress, in much the same fashion as Blackshear, was highly touted out of high school, came on strong early, has shown times of domination and has been bitten by the inconsistency bug. The Georgia born Poythress was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Tennessee and was also named Gatorade State Player of the Year as well as earning Parade and McDonalds All-America honors. He was tabbed as the seventh best player overall and the third best small forward in his recruiting class.
In his collegiate debut against Maryland, the skilled forward posted eight points and seven rebounds. He kept up his solid play and was named SEC Freshman of the Week on November 19, 2012. In just his second game, against Duke, he posted career-highs in points (20), minutes played (37) and rebounds (8), showing Big Blue Nation that he was the real deal. In the 61-57 win over Florida on March 9, 2013, Poythress set a new career-high in rebounds with 12.
For the season, the freshman finished second on the team behind Archie Goodwin with 371 total points (11.2 ppg). He hit 58% of his field goal attempts and led the team in 3-point percentage, nailing 14-33 for 42% . Poythress also finished second on the team with a solid 199 total rebounds (6 rbg.) and had paved the road for a stellar sophomore season if indeed he passed up the NBA draft.
Alex did return for his sophomore season, one that is proving as a possible mistake. His scoring is down to 6.1 ppg which ranks him sixth on the team. His field goal (67-143, 46%) and 3-point (6-23, 26%) percentage is much lower and his rebounds have dipped, although near as drastically, to 5.1 per outing. One reason for the drop in numbers is due to the lack of playing time which is down to 18.6 minutes per game, down from the 25.8 mpg last season.
I for one thought Poythress was the second best NBS prospect behind Nerlens Noel last season and was shocked that he came back. Before the season started I had the feeling that Poythress would be a candidate for Player of the Year in not only the SEC but nationally.
In UK’s last five games, Alex has been mediocre at best putting up three points and three rebounds vs. Alabama, two points and seven boards in the loss at South Carolina, one point and six rebounds against Arkansas, six points with one rebound in the LSU win and five points and three rebounds in the win at Ole Miss. Not exactly good numbers against mostly poor competition.
Coach John Calipari may want to send out a search committee to find the Alex Poythress that was a once dominating freshman and national attention grabber. The way the Cats have been playing lately it can’t hurt to play him more minutes and give him some confidence heading into SEC Tournament play.
Players slump all of the time and some break out of them at the best times and I personally think that for either fan base to be cheering very deep into March or early April, Wayne Blackshear and Alex Poythress need to come back to the their respective teams. Both of these guys have star potential and are capable of being the types of players to spur their squads to a national championship.