By LARRY VAUGHT
Before the season started former UK All-American Mike Pratt said he thought sophomore center Nick Richards could be the biggest difference-maker for the Cats going from a good season to a special season this year.
So far, other than one game against Southern Illinois where he had 19 rebounds, Richards has been far from dominating. Yet Kentucky coach John Calipari and others continue to believe in Richards’ worth to this team and the coach has been encouraged with what Richards has done the last five games.
The 7-0 Richards has averaged 10.4 minutes, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 points per game over the last five games, including wins over North Carolina and Louisville. He’s 4-for-7 from the field and 2-for-3 at the foul line. More importantly, he’s blocked six shots.
“What about the difference Nick made,” Calipari said after Saturday night’s win over Vanderbilt. “Big-time. It was only about 10 minutes because he got hurt.”
Now here’s the most interesting part.
“NBA scout came in and watched him (at practice) and said, ‘Coach, everybody in our league is looking for a guy like that. Why is he not doing more?'” Calipari said.
“I told Nick you should go to bed with a smile on your face. If you just come out (for the NBA) as a 7-footer and they see that you can move, run and block, life is going to be good. I was so proud of him and how he played. Now we have to get more minutes out of him.”
Calipari said there’s no doubt what Richards’ shot blocking ability can do for Kentucky.
“Blocking shots. I mean, again, if he’s that guy and he keeps playing that way, we’re going to be all right. We need him to play a little more than he played, probably another five, seven, eight minutes but he played good again today,” Calipari said.