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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

After carving out bench role, Jarrod Polson returns to UK for chance at second title

Senior guard Jarrod Polson has been a fan favorite since he stepped on campus as a walk-on from West Jessamine High School.

 

But Polson’s status among the Big Blue Nation added a new dimension in the 2012-13 season opener versus Maryland when he posted a then career-high 10 points on four-of-five shooting in 22 minutes off the bench.

 

As a junior, Polson played in every UK game for the first time in his career. He averaged 3.1 points and 1.1 assists per game.

 

Jarrod Polson scored 101 points as a junior after totaling just seven points in his first two seasons. (File photo by Jon Hale)

Jarrod Polson scored 101 points as a junior after totaling just seven points in his first two seasons. (File photo by Jon Hale)

“The biggest thing is it’s just given me a lot more confidence, confidence in myself but also just that Coach Cal is confident putting me in the game,” Polson said in a one-on-one interview with KyForward in September. “He’s not fretting at the end of the games if he can put me in or not. He expects me to play well. That’s the biggest thing: just having the coaches go with confidence in me.”

 

Polson graduated in May and had the chance to use the NCAA graduate school transfer rule to transfer and play immediately at another school.

 

That option likely would have presented Polson with more playing time, but he chose to return to UK for his final year of eligibility knowing playing time could be hard to come by with eight scholarship freshmen, including six All-Americans, joining the program.

 

“For me, I’m just going to have to take it like I’ve taken every year: don’t back down from anyone, even if they’re ranked higher than me or anything like that,” he said. “Don’t back down and go my hardest and work my hardest. That’s my goal. That’s been my goal, and hopefully that will work out for me.”

 

Polson played at least 20 minutes eight times as a junior, including a 31-minute performance in the NIT loss to Robert Morris. He topped the 10-minute mark in 25 games.

 

The Nicholasville native made his first career start at Tennessee on Feb. 16. He scored 11 points and dished out four assists in that game. Polson scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting in the season finale.

 

“I feel like people are still sleeping on Jarrod,” said sophomore forward Alex Poythress. “He had a great year last year. He can still relieve some minutes at the point guard. He doesn’t play scared or anything like that. He’s been through it all.”

 

Regardless of how many minutes he plays this season, Polson can provide a valuable leadership role for the young Wildcats.

 

UK head coach John Calipari noted in a roundtable interview with local media in September that both Polson and senior guard Jon Hood will have the opportunity to earn minutes this season but he also outlined their off-the-court roles, noting they can provide first-hand knowledge to the freshmen about what to expect.

 

After a season in which he was a regular contributor, Polson feels more prepared for a leadership role.

 

“People say if you’re older, you’re a leader, but until last year I hadn’t played,” he said. “I had been here, but I hadn’t contributed. You can’t really call that a leader. But I definitely think people know that I played last year and I’ve been in the mix. I think that’s definitely going to help.”

 

As a Kentucky native, Polson has already had the chance to live the dreams of many Bluegrass State children by wearing a UK jersey.

 

He even won a national championship along the way.

 

What’s left for Polson to accomplish as a Wildcat?

 

“Not a lot of people have two rings from the University of Kentucky,” he said. “Especially just growing up here, I’ve always been a UK fan. That would mean a lot to me and my family.”

 

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In the weeks leading up to the 2013 UK men’s basketball media day KyForward is previewing the season with a series of stories about the Cats resulting from interviews with players and head coach John Calipari from September. You can see all the stories in the series here.

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