On each of his teams, John Calipari is generally hardest on one player. There’s not a higher compliment he can pay.

The likes of Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose have had that distinction in the recent past and gone on to college and NBA stardom. This year, it’s Tyrese Maxey.

Throughout a standout freshman season, Maxey has shown why.

Maxey averaged 14.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists in the regular season for a Kentucky team that won its 49th SEC regular-season title and, more importantly, is in the national championship conversation. So important is Maxey to Kentucky’s success that he played a team-high 34.5 minutes per game in the regular season.

The latest five-star guard to come to Kentucky, Maxey has lived up to the hype by three times earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors. He was also named NCAA March Madness National Player of the Week and USBWA Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of Week for the week of Dec. 30.

You might expect a freshman to need some time to adjust to playing on college basketball’s biggest stages, but Kentucky doesn’t have a typical freshman in Maxey.

Maxey exploded on the scene in his very first college game, pouring in 26 points as the Wildcats bested top-ranked Michigan State in Madison Square Garden. And when it came time to take the game’s biggest shot, Maxey calmly drilled a deep 3-pointer with just over a minute left to seal the win.

He topped his career high the next month in another marquee matchup, as UK welcomed Louisville to Rupp Arena for the annual rivalry matchup between the two teams. He scored 27 points – the most ever by a freshman in a UK-UofL game – as the Cats scored an overtime victory over the Cardinals.

In UK’s six games against ranked opponents this season, Maxey has been outstanding. He is averaging a team-best 19.0 points and shooting 37.0% from 3 to go with 5.3 rebounds in those games.

Coach Cal demands a great deal from those he knows can handle it. In turn, Maxey is delivering.