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Poole playing role of good teammate

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4629288.jpegHOUSTON -- On the eve of the Final Four, a pack of at least 100 media members stormed Kentucky's locker room for a 30-minute free-for-all with the players, rushing a room in the underbelly of the Reliant Stadium like there was a free giveaway on Black Friday.

They engulfed Brandon Knight, pushed and shoved for Josh Harrellson, and squeezed in every inch of space in Terrence Jones' corner locker.

Just a few feet away from Jones sat a lonely Stacey Poole. Two reporters walked by to briefly talk to Poole, but for most of the 30 minutes he sat by himself. Suffice to say, the road to the Final Four has been a little different for Poole than the rest of his freshman teammates.

While Brandon Knight has basked in game-winning shots, Terrence Jones has dominated the paint and Doron Lamb has flourished from the perimeter, Poole has been relegated to the bench. The freshman guard from Jacksonville, Fla., has played just 45 minutes this year and hasn't seen more than a minute of play since the LSU game on Jan. 15.

"It didn't go as planned, but everybody goes through a little adversity," Poole said. "It's no big deal. I'm going to keep working hard and keep my head up."

To his credit, Poole has been more than a good sport; he's been UK's biggest cheerleader. In a role where other plays may mope and sulk, Poole stands up and cheers.

The freshman is usually the first one off the bench during timeouts and the loudest player on the sideline. During last week's East Region championship, it was Poole who led the parade of dancing and celebrating.

"I'm going to keep cheering the guys on," Poole said. "I'm not going to pout or sit over there and complain. I'm not that kind of guy. I'm happy for my guys and I'm going to root them on until the end."

And though he hasn't had a direct impact on UK's first Final Four since 1998, he believes all that hooting and hollering on the sideline has an effect.

"They need to loosen up and have fun," Poole said. "That's what it's about. When you have fun on the court, it makes it a whole lot easier. Being out there, being into the game, getting them hyped before the game and just talking to them when they come off the court or while they're on the court, I think that helps."

Poole admitted he hasn't played as much as he would have liked or expected, but that hasn't taken away his genuine happiness for his teammates or the thrill of going to the Final Four.

"It's been amazing," Poole said. "I'm enjoying every bit of it. I'm enjoying the guys. They're playing their butts off. I think we're just coming together as a team and trusting each other."

Poole's playing time hasn't reflected the accolades that come along with being the No. 33 prospect in the country last year (according to Rivals.com), but that hasn't discouraged him from coming back to UK next year. He said he has no plans of transferring to another school.

"I'm planning on coming back," Poole said. "I'm not saying that I'm not coming back. This is a good basketball program and I enjoy the guys and the coaching staff."

Questions have arose as to why Poole can't get on the court, but Poole said it's entirely on him.

"It's all about my work ethic," Poole said, "and it's going to get better. I've just learned that everything is not easy. You always have to keep working and everything will be alright."

The chances of Poole playing in this week's Final Four are pretty slim, but Kentucky's short bench means a brief appearance isn't impossible. Should he get the call this weekend for a couple of minutes, Poole said he'll be ready.

"I need to make sure when I step on the court that I'm competing and I'm showing coach that I deserve to play," Poole said.

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3 Comments

What a great story. Obviously this is a great kid who's not all about the 'me, me, me' attitude of a lot of athletes. I think he's going to work hard & be a valuable impact on our court one day soon.

hang in there stacey just look at josh and see that you are capable of the same and you be fine good luck and god bless

took Josh quite a few years to get properly motivated (both external forces and internal) and turn himself into a player...Stacey will keep on working hard...practicing against great players daily will bring him along as well...plus, after this year, I think Coach Cal has shed the "recruiter only" label...Stacey listen to coach and we can see you and JHood slashing and shooting threes...scary how good this team is (and will be next year...and the year after)...really, can anyone have thought that losing Enes at the beginning of the year been a blessing in disguise...ya just never know...keep working Stacey

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