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December 16, 2011When Twany Beckham decided to transfer from Mississippi State to Kentucky almost a year ago, the 6-foot-5 guard started a countdown on his phone to keep track of the days until he'd be able to play.
On Saturday, that countdown will finally reach zero. It's been a long and winding journey for the junior, who graduated from Ballard High School in Louisville in 2007 but enrolled in a prep school before landing at Mississippi State in 2008.
After his lengthy wait, Beckham will be eligible to play against Chattanooga at Rupp Arena. He hasn't played in a game since Dec. 29, 2010, when he was still a Bulldog.
"Tomorrow, I'm going to be super nervous," he said. "This is a dream come true for me. I've always wanted to play at Kentucky. It's been kind of an emotional week for me. I've been trying not to show it, but tomorrow is going to be crazy."
It still remains to be seen how much Beckham will play, but he's confident he'll find a role. Beckham is one of the oldest players on the roster and won the 2009 Southeastern Tournament Championship with the Bulldogs.
He's played in SEC games and had a full year to learn the nuances of the dribble-drive offense, which should serve him well as he tries to find a niche. Beckham said he thinks he's shown enough in practice to merit time on the court.
"I think I have," Beckham said. "But with Coach Cal you never know."
One thing is certain, though, according to Kentucky head coach John Calipari. Beckham won't be the backup to freshman point guard Marquis Teague.
"He doesn't understand (point guard) the way we need it played," Calipari said. "But he's a good athlete. He's got some good size. He can defend and be tough. I just don't know right now. I'll be honest with you, Jarrod (Polson) understanding how we play and what we do is probably ahead of Twany."
That leaves Beckham's likely role as an energy player off the bench. He arrived at Kentucky as a walk-on before working his way to a scholarship. That's when the waiting began.
Beckham has had to get used to time on the bench since arriving in college. He missed all of the 2009-10 season after bone spurs removed in both hips, then played in just 14 games last year before transferring and finding himself on the sidelines again.
On a team already crowded with defensive stalwarts, he'll likely have to carve a role out as a disruptive presence on defense.
"I can be another stopper," Beckham said. "Especially on the perimeter. I feel like I'm long, quick, aggressive. Hopefully I can help this team out."
To get ready for that, he's found himself practicing at point guard, shooting guard and small forward. Even if he won't find minutes running the offense, he'll still have the chance to see the floor thanks to his wingspan and athleticism.
"He'll probably be playing one of those other positions and he's got to go guard," Calipari said. "Get out there and defend, make easy plays and things so you can stay on the floor."
If he can do that, Beckham's long journey back from the bench might finally be over. From there, he'll try to work his way to a bigger role on offense.
"I feel like my experience is going to be key to this team," Beckham said. "But tomorrow is my first day on the court with this team, so it's going to be a slow process. I think once I get my feet wet, I can help this team a lot."