By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomore center Nick Richards had 19 rebounds in Kentucky’s win over Southern Illinois in game two this season.
That’s the kind of dominating performance UK coach John Calipari had hoped to see from his 7-foot center this year, especially after he played so well in the Bahamas in four August exhibition games. He also had eight points that game.
However, he’s been a no-show in UK’s other five games, including Friday night when he had two points and one rebound in a win over Tennessee State.
Richards has eight rebounds and 20 points in UK’s five games other than Southern Illinois. That’s the kind of production that basically delegated Richards to the bench most of the second half of last season and what will keep him there this year if he doesn’t start producing soon.
So what does Calipari think is going on with Richards? What can change his play?
“Demonstrated performance. You got to go in the game and perform,” Calipari said. “And what I’ve been telling these guys, they got to play like they have nothing to lose like every team we play. They got to take it off themselves.
“And they got to, this is how coach is asking me to play, then you don’t have to worry about the clutter of how you’re playing. I’m playing the way he wants me to play. Take it off you. Play like you have nothing to lose and go play”
It’s not just Richards that is frustrating Calipari. All his players are on defense.
“But I’m telling you, if you’re getting broken down on defense, I’ve done this again 35 years, guys, you’re not going to have confidence offensively. Do you remember I’ve said that a few times here? You cannot have confidence offensively if you cannot guard,” Calipari said.
“You just — you don’t. So until we build that and become that team, we become the aggressor, we become the team that anticipates and rotates and trusts and all that and it just takes time. We’ve got a bunch of freshmen still. We got a new team thrown together.”