Twany Beckham, left, celebrates with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after NCAA regional win in March. (Photo by Jon Hale)
When Twany Beckham walks on the Rupp Arena floor in March for senior night festivities, it will be the culmination of the wild ride that has been his college career.
Beckham will go through senior night festivities with just one and one-half seasons of basketball as a Wildcat, but the Louisville native has already gained a new appreciation for the UK program.
“I grew up a Kentucky fan, so I kind of already knew how crazy the fans were and just the expectations at this program year in and year out,” he said in a preseason interview with KyForward. “When I got here, I kind of knew what to expect in that sense, but there is nothing like putting that jersey on, walking out onto the floor of Rupp Arena and seeing those fans. It’s an incredible feeling.”
Beckham took anything but a straight path from Ballard High School to Rupp Arena.
After four years at Ballard, he spent a fifth year of high school at the New Hampton School in New Hampshire. The year of prep school was enough for him to earn a scholarship to Mississippi State, where he averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 assists in 33 games as a freshman.
Beckham then sat out the 2009-10 season as a redshirt while recovering from surgery to remove bone spurs in both hips.
He returned to action in 2010 to average 2.9 points and 2.1 assists in 14 games before deciding to transfer to UK at the semester break.
Beckham watched from the sideline at UK for a year before becoming eligible for the second semester last season. In 16 games, he attempted just one field goal and did not score a point.
Playing at UK was an adjustment on and off the court for Beckham. One of the biggest adjustments came in getting used to John Calipari’s coaching style.
“I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into,” he said. “Coach Cal is very intense. A year of him coaching me like that is under my belt, so I feel like I’m a lot more comfortable.”
Beckham acknowledges that he didn’t always respond to to Calipari’s vocal coaching style in the best way and that may have affected his ability to get on the court.
“I think what hurt me was I didn’t know how to take the coaching,” he said. “I sat there and listened and watched all of last year, and I feel like I’m more comfortable with how he coaches.”
Beckham isn’t alone in having to adjust to Calipari’s coaching style.
“I just never had any coach talk to me like that for a long time,” said sophomore guard Ryan Harrow, who transferred to UK from NC State. “I’ve had a coach that talked crazy to us to get the best out of us, but it had been a long time since I had that. I had to get accustomed to having someone yell at you but taking it in and going on.”
The key to not letting the criticism affect you is to realize Calipari only wants the best for his team, Beckham said.
“He’s only helping,” Beckham said. “He’s only here to help us out.”
Now Beckham is doing his best to let some of the newest Wildcats know what to expect from Calipari in practice so they don’t make the same mistakes he did.
While those players got a glimpse of Calipari in action during the new summer workouts, Beckham thinks the have not “really seen Coach Cal yet.”
“Me and Kyle (Wiltjer) and Jon (Hood) have been trying to give them a heads up on what Coach Cal is going to be like once October comes,” he said. “They understand it. They’ve been on visits and seen him coach, watched games and seen him coach.”
After a year of adjusting to Calipari and UK, Beckham feels like he can carve out his own role for the team this season.
In a preseason roundtable interview with local media, Calipari said this team needs contributions from at least one of Beckham, Hood and junior guard Jarrod Polson to reach it’s full potential.
“Really in practice, they’ve got to perform at a high level so we’re going at each other,” he said. “You think about it — if those (upperclassmen) can play against the other guys, then shoot, you should be able to play against any of these guys.”
Beckham’s teammates are quick to note his defensive prowess. That’s one area where Beckham thinks he can contribute when called upon.
“I specialize in defense,” he said. “I feel like I can guard a lot of people. Getting in better shape can only help with that.”
That unselfish attitude could help Beckham see more playing time.
“It’s like, ‘OK, what do I do to help the team win?’ not, ‘How do I want to play?’ Calipari said. “It’s not how you want to play. ‘What do I do to help this team win, and what’s going to be my job?’ Those are the things.”
And if Beckham gets the call before his senior night in March, he wants to be ready.
“I’ve just got to work on everything I’ve got to work on, so If I get the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to go in there and compete and make plays, so I can keep the opportunity.”
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, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson. On the KyForward UK Sports Tumblr you can read more from the one-on-one interview with Twany Beckham. Tomorrow’s profile looks at Julius Mays.