By LARRY VAUGHT
Nick Richards has 77 rebounds in 26 games for Kentucky this season. However, 19 came in one game so that means in the other 25 games he is averaging only 2.3 rebounds per game.
Now he’s going to be asked to help replace 6.9 rebounds per game in 27 minutes of play that Reid Travis was providing before he sprained his knee in the win at Missouri Tuesday and now could be out up to two weeks.
Richards likely will get the start Saturday afternoon when UK hosts Auburn. Coach John Calipari could turn to freshman EJ Montgomery, but based on the way Calipari continually praises Richards I have to think he’s going to give his sophomore a chance to show what he can do first.
“I think Nick has to keep finding (playing) time,” Calipari said before a recent game. “He’s a shot blocker, he’s a difference maker. ”
Richards has a team-high 34 blocks despite averaging just 10.7 minutes per game. Montgomery has 25 blocks. Travis had 20, so playing Richards and Montgomery more could lead to more blocked shots even though Auburn is a perimeter oriented team.
“I keep telling him (Richards), I really appreciate him because he has a great attitude even if I’m not playing him as much maybe as I should be,” Calipari said a week ago.
“You keep telling guys that you want them to think that they are being evaluated by their offense, but 99 percent of these kids are not; they’re being evaluated by other stuff. Nick has been good and EJ has been good.”
Travis was averaging 11.3 points per game and shooting 51.6 percent from the field. Richards is averaging just 3.5 points per game and has taken only 56 shots. He’s made 34, a 60 percent mark. Montgomery is a 47.4 percent shooter.
Calipari has said for months that Richards can be the “difference” in UK becoming a great team. Starting Saturday, he gets his chance.