North Carolina’s James Michael McAdoo and Kentucky’s Alex Poythress both possess talent that highlighted their one-and-done potential as high school recruits. Back then, it wouldn’t have been hard to envision their individual matchup as a key to winning Saturday’s game between the Tar Heels and Wildcats.
The reality is that it would be surprising if either was the deciding factor, as both have struggled to find their way this season.
Poythress, a sophomore forward, started 31 of 33 games last season for the Wildcats. He has yet to crack the starting lineup this season, and barring injury, there’s little reason to expect him to.
He’s playing his way into becoming an afterthought. He played a season-low six minutes against Baylor. UK coach John Calipari told reporters Tuesday that sometimes “you get into the heat of the game, and you forget. … There are times I forget guys are on the bench.”
Poythress wasn’t the only reserve that Calipari “forgot” about in the loss to the Bears, but it’s quite a fall for a player the Wildcats depended on last season.
As a freshman, he averaged 11.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, which ranked second and third on the team, respectively.
Tuesday’s game against Boise State marked Poythress’ second straight scoreless outing. He is still averaging 5.9 rebounds per game this season, but his scoring has dropped to 4.3 points per game.
In games against Louisville and Michigan State, McAdoo had identical shooting performances, going 3-of-11 from the field in both games. He had nine points and two rebounds against the Cardinals and eight points and four rebounds against the Spartans.
Carolina’s win over UNC-Greensboro marked the first time in five games McAdoo reached double figures in scoring. Although his 13.0 scoring average isn’t far off last season’s 14.4 points, his shooting percentage has dropped from 44.5 percent as a sophomore to 40.4 percent as a junior.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige said he hasn’t noticed McAdoo pressing the issue, even in practice.
“I’m sure he would like to be shooting a little better,” Paige said. “But at the same time, he’s a competitor and probably like the perfect teammate you could ask for. He’s going to do whatever it takes to win and doesn’t really care about his stat line.”
McAdoo is more comfortable and effective playing power forward, and his troubles this season have been largely due to spending more time at small forward. Carolina’s big lineup with J.P. Tokoto at shooting guard and McAdoo at the 3 could see long stretches against the Wildcats.
McAdoo said the Kentucky matchup could actually be more favorable for him because it plays a traditional frontcourt. He won’t have to worry about floating to the perimeter as much as he did against Belmont and teams with smaller lineups. That’s why he’s still confident he can make the necessary adjustment to small forward while the absence of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald leaves the Tar Heels thin at wing.
“I think it’ll come in time. We’ve only played, what, [eight] games?” McAdoo said. “The season is just beginning. We still got a long way to go.”