This is one time George Polson was almost relieved that he was not in the stands watching his son, Jarrod, play.
That may sound a little surprising since Jarrod Polson, a backup junior point guard, went from unknown to trending nationally on Twitter Friday night with his 10-point performance in Kentucky’s season-opening win over Maryland in Brooklyn. Polson was 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 at the foul line when UK¿coach John Calipari called an inbounds play for him to get the ball with 7.7 seconds left to seal the win. He also had three assists and two rebounds in 22 minutes.
But for Kentucky fans who did not see Polson, who turned down scholarship offers to walk on at UK, lead West Jessamine to consecutive 12th Region Tournament titles and have not been able to see UK¿practice the last two years, this was the first chance to see what he could really do.
“Just getting an opportunity is what he wanted. We knew what he could do,” George Polson said.
Instead of making the trip to Brooklyn, George Polson and his wife, Chrisi, decided to stay in Wilmore to watch the game. They have had reservations to see UK¿play Duke in Atlanta tonight, but decided not to make the New York trip.
“Since we are at most games, we don’t see and hear the TV commentary,” George Polson said. “I looked at Chrisi at the half when (ESPN¿analysts) Dick (Vitale) and Digger (Phelps) were talking about Jarrod specifically and what a difference he had made. I told her, ‘Can you believe they are talking about our son?’ I¿never thought I would see this day. It was nice to be home and hear all that.”
However, the Polsons also knew their son’s success came in part because starter Ryan Harrow had been battling the flu and also got in early foul trouble. Harrow was 0-for-4 from the field and played just 10 minutes.
“Our heart went out to Ryan Harrow and his parents because we know people are going to be dogging him,” George Polson said. “As a parent, you know what people might say and we were just hoping people sitting around his parents were not saying stuff. We really like his parents and felt for them. If we had been at the game, we would have been more reserved in our cheering to not rub salt in any wounds.”
They got to go to dinner with him Saturday night and he told them he was nervous, but not any more so than in a high school game.
“He’s always been calm and cool on the court,” Polson’s father said. “Obviously, that showed and helped the other night. When there is chaos around you and you are calm, others see that and it carries over. He was very comfortable and said he felt very much in control and very confident of what he was doing.”
The UK¿junior told his parents he had no idea he was going to play, much less play 22 minutes.
“He mentioned to my wife that once he gets on the court, he doesn’t pay attention to anything except what is going on. He blocks out everything and focuses on the game,” George Polson said. “He said he never realized how much he had played. He gets so focused and zeroed in that he is not thinking, ‘I am playing X amount of minutes.’¿He was just happy to be out there and contributing. He had no idea how much he played.”
Others did, especially those in Jessamine County.
George Polson warned co-workers Saturday morning that he likely was going to get a lot of calls — and he did.
“It is like everybody is treating me like I¿am the father of a Hollywood star. It is unbelievable,” George Polson said. “I got call after call at work Saturday. I¿had text messages, people wanting to chat, people bringing me newspapers. One customer came in just to shake hands and congratulate me.
“When people see a local kid do well, they are so jacked up and happy. Back home in Harlan County, Facebook just exploded. People feel a kinship and source of pride with the local boy.”
George Polson believes his son felt a sense of relief, too. He had scored seven points in 62 minutes of play in 28 previous games the last two years. He had gone against future NBA first-round draft picks in practice and been on a national championship team, but he had never been in a game when it truly mattered and longed for that opportunity.
“I could tell looking at Jarrod Saturday night that it was almost like a caged up animal had been set free. It was like, ‘I was finally able to show what I can do.’¿He was always confident in what he could do, and so were we,” Polson’s father said. “It was just a great game for all of us, but now he’s ready to keep doing what he can to tell the team in any way he can.”
Polson liked text message from Cameron Mills
Jarrod Polson said he got about 100 text messages after the Maryland game, but his favorite one came from former Wildcat Cameron Mills.
“Cameron Mills texted me, which was pretty cool because I looked up to him when I was younger. He said how he was proud of me and how he knows what I have been through, so he can relate to it,” said Polson.
Now he gets to play against Duke tonight.
“Obviously, the one Duke game (in 1992) where we didn’t have much success is always in the back of people’s minds so we want a little bit of revenge for that. Just playing against them is really cool,” Polson said. “I don’t remember that rivalry as much as other rivalries, but in the minds of a lot of Kentucky fans this is a rivalry. So, I think it will be fun for them to watch.”