11:57 AM EST, February 27, 2013
LEXINGTON — It has been two weeks since Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee when he crashed into the basket support at Florida, and coach John Calipari said Tuesday that Noel’s surgery is now scheduled.
“It’ll be done. He’ll have a couple weeks of intensive stuff. (Rajon) Rondo’s going through it. Rondo said it: ‘The toughest and the most painful thing I’ve ever been through in my life.’ You’re tough enough to go through it. Those guys that do end up coming back, in most cases, stronger than they were,” Calipari said. “But there’s no slacking off, there’s no, ‘Well, I’m not going to go hard today.’ No. You got five months of work, and I’ve told him that.
“And I think he’s up for it, but it’s not something ... just because a lot of these surgeries happen, the ones that don’t work out are because the guy, the rehab didn’t work. That means the guy didn’t put in the time and the sacrifice and the sweat equity that you got to put in to make that work. I think he will, though.”
Noel was Kentucky’s leading shot-blocker and rebounder and was leading the nation in blocked shots when he was injured. He was projected as a top-five NBA draft pick and even a potential No. 1 pick in some mock drafts.
Calipari says he has not tried to get Rondo, a former UK point guard now with the Boston Celtics, or Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose, who played for Calipari at Memphis, to talk to Noel about their surgeries and recovery process.
“I haven’t at this point. He hadn’t had the surgery, hadn’t started on the rehab yet. But I will at some point,” Calipari said. “But (former UK star) Derek Anderson talked (to him), knows what he went though. But (Noel’s) in a good frame of mind. Mom was here this weekend. She was great. They know we’ve really dotted I’s and crossed T’s and made sure one way or another he was in good shape, and she appreciated it.”
Mays backer: Senior guard Julius Mays has become Kentucky’s go-to scorer in clutch situations, especially with the 35-second shot clock about to expire, as well as the team leader.
“He’s a wonderful young man. He made a statement to his teammates, what makes you and drives you? What is it for you? He came back and said, ‘I’m my mother’s only son and I refuse to fail,’” Calipari said. “These guys kind of (went) like, ‘What?’ What he’s done here now because he’s playing so well, but not only that because of what type of person he is, he has taken on that role of holding people accountable.
“He’s seeing the faces I see and the excuses I hear, he’s hearing the same stuff, but it’s coming from him now, holding guys responsible. It’s been fun to see him try to develop over this, and thank goodness he’s on this team because we didn’t … holding it together has been a job that he’s done.”
No 3-point woes: Ryan Harrow and Archie Goodwin are a combined 11 for 58 from 3-point range — 18.9 percent — in 14 Southeastern Conference games. For the season, they are a combined 28 for 104 — a 26.7 percent mark.
Calipari doesn’t see any major difference in the way the two have shot in conference games.
“I haven’t seen it. I don’t know what the numbers say. Obviously they’re not the two that we’re relying on (for 3-pointers), so I’m good with it,” he said. “That’s not what’s going to define their game.
“Ryan had eight rebounds and six assists last game (against Missouri). We’ve got to get 10, 12, 14 points from him. We can’t have games like Tennessee and Florida where he doesn’t want to get into plays and doesn’t shoot balls. When he plays the other way, we’re pretty good, and he’s pretty good. He can go 0 for 5 from the 3 and still play a great game, and the same with Archie.
“Now, if they make those and the other guys are making them, then we win by 25. They’re not going to be evaluated on 3-point shooting. It’s all the other parts of their game.”
Goodwin is 3 for 24 from 3-point range in conference play, and Harrow was 8 for 34. By comparison, Julius Mays is 35 for 77 (45.5 percent) and Kyle Wiltjer 19 for 52 (36.5 percent). Alex Poythress is hitting the same percentage as Mays, but has taken only 11 3s and made five.
As a team, Kentucky is 74 for 208 (35.6 percent) from 3-point range in conference play, while opponents are 76 for 234 (32.5 percent) going into tonight’s game against Mississippi State.
Igniting Poythress: Calipari admitted he wasn’t sure what inspired freshman Alex Poythress in his 21-point, seven-rebound performance against Missouri on Saturday, when he showed more offensive diversity than he has all season.
“The last game, his (heart) monitor showed that he was in the max range for like 15 minutes, which is 13 minutes longer than any other time, 13 minutes longer in the max zone,” Calipari said. “I guess this game it's even higher. We're trying to figure out if he's switching monitors with somebody, but we don't think he is.”
Guard Jarrod Polson says all the freshmen seem to be improving in a variety of ways daily.
“I mean, everyone is changing in their own way. A lot of them are more mature,” Polson said. “Archie’s taking better shots. As you can see right now he’s always in the gym, first one out. Alex had a great game Saturday. He is really going now. All of them are changing in their own way, but they are all just becoming more mature.”
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