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There are not many candidates for most improved Wildcat this season, since only four scholarship players who were eligible to play during the 2012 championship season returned to school.
Still, it might have taken a few guesses to pick junior guard Jarrod Polson as that player, but that’s exactly who UK head coach John Calipari singled out in a preseason roundtable interview with local media.
“Jarrod has probably improved as much as anybody that I saw in the workouts that we’ve done,” he said.
Polson has played in 28 games in two seasons at UK, averaging 2.2 minutes per game played. He has scored seven points in his career.
Ten of the 31 minutes of action he logged last season came against Penn State in UK’s third game of the season.
Calipari has described Polson as “the most-talented walk-on I had ever coached” and the Nicholasville native worked his way into a scholarship, but that’s not enough for him.
“I think my confidence has gone up,” he said in a preseason interview with KyForward. “I’ve been in the system two years now and have played with some of the best players in the nation. (It brings) a lot of confidence.”
Polson’s improvement may prove valuable this season, as Calipari said his team will need contributions from at least one of the upperclassmen trio of Polson, junior guard Jon Hood and senior guard Twany Beckham.
That group is competing to be the second guard to come off the bench with senior Julius Mays.
Regardless of how much they play, the upperclassmen trio can help UK this season, Polson said.
“We’ve been here,” he said. “We know what it’s like, especially once real practice starts. We can tell the new guys how it’s going to be and stuff like that, get them more comfortable in the system.”
As a Kentucky native and one-time walk-on, Polson has long been a fan favorite.
His status as fan favorite was further cemented with the series of YouTube videos produced by him and sophomore Kyle Wiltjer. The series, which was original branded as the “White Boy Academy,” documents the off-the-court shenanigans of Polson, Wiltjer and some of their teammates.
“I think it was last summer we were just bored and in the gym one day, I think with a few of our friends shooting around,” Polson said. “Got a camera out and got our iPhones out and just started videoing it. Kyle knows how to edit video, so he was like, ‘Alright, whatever.’ Then people started liking them, so we were like we might as well make some more.”
The White Boy Academy’s tribute to the 2012 national championship, has been viewed more than 94,000 times on YouTube.
“Everyone asks me about it,” Wiltjer said. “It’s pretty amazing to me that anyone cares. That’s just what we do on our off-time. It’s pretty amazing.”
Polson said there are more YouTube videos coming for fans to see, but he also has expectations for what they can expect from him on the court this year.
“Hopefully just more playing time than I got last year,” he said. “Just try to produce as much as I can if I get on the court, when I get on the court.”
Polson has already played with 10 NBA players in two seasons at UK. With two Final Four appearances under his belt, he knows little but success as a Wildcat.
He expects more of the same this season.
“They say to shy away from comparisons, but all I know is this group is probably just as good as either one of the other groups,” he said. “It’s going to be fun to watch.”
In the two weeks before Big Blue Madness, KyForward sports editor Jon Hale will be previewing the 2012-13 UK men’s basketball series with a profile of each of the 12 Wildcats as well as other features to get you ready for the team’s attempt to repeat as National Champions. Previous profiles in the series have focused on Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin, Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Ryan Harrow, Brian Long, Sam Malone, Kyle Wiltjer and Jon Hood. On the KyForward UK Sports Tumblr you can read more from the one-on-one interview with Jarrod Polson. Tomorrow’s profile looks at Twany Beckham.