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ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz on EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards

Nick Richards (UK Athletics Photo)


As coach John Calipari continues to try and add another player to his 2019-20 roster, he also still doesn’t know what might happen to two of his current players.

Freshman EJ Montgomery and sophomore Nick Richards have both put their name into the NBA draft and have until May 29th to remove their name if they want to return to Kentucky for another season.

ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz was part of the coverage crew at last week’s NBA Combine and closely evaluates prospects and their draft chances. He was even at the McDonald’s All-American Game this year to begin evaluating future draft prospects.

During a recent national teleconference, he shared his thoughts about each player?

“For E.J., it’s kind of finding his identity. He can do a lot of different things,” Schmitz said. “He’s unique because he’s 6-10 and he can step out a little bit on the perimeter.

“Obviously, he’s still 19 years old. So, getting tougher, finding his identity, and just kind of figuring out how he fits into all this because he doesn’t really have an elite skill right now.”

What about Richards, who is a year older but has yet to hit the potential that Calipari continues to insist he has?

“I think, for Nick, it’s always been about playing with a consistent motor. He has the tools, and he has the physical gifts, but being able to hang his hat on being an athletic shot blocker, lob catcher, staying out of foul trouble, thinking the game at a higher level. I think those things are all important for him,” Schmitz said.

Neither UK player is listed as a first-round pick and only one mock draft I’ve seen has Montgomery even listed in the second round. However, one or both could still opt to take his chances and start pursuing a professional career but I just don’t see it.


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  1. IMHO, they both can improve their draft status tremendously for next year’s draft by returning. This coming year gives both players a golden chance to show case their talents…to leave now, would be a terrible decision.

  2. Nick’s biggest problem is an under developed basketball IQ. He has to think about what’s going on instead of reacting to it. That’s why he is almost always a step behind which leads to missed scoring opps, turnovers, and fouls. Nick needs his two additional years at UK and should take a graduate year somewhere. Even with that , he can expect at least a year in the G league, but will have a solid 10 year career after that.

    EJ has a different issue…he is soft and adverse to physical play. He should take a year to bulk up and get used to getting hit, pushed, and grabbed and then take a second year to develop a couple of go to moves on the perimeter as well as the post. I also see a year in the G league to round him out.

    My gut tells me that one will stay in the draft, the other will come back for at least one year, but I am not sure who will be who. The pressure to move on to the NBA combined with the reality that returning players fall out of favor quickly if you are not one of Cal’s golden boys, (PJ) make it hard to come back to UK.

    1. In today’s world, you never know. Heard today that both believe they are “ready” to play professionally

      1. Who is telling these kids this? All they have to do is watch the tape of their limited play here. For every “pro ready” play they have made there are a hundred that showed why they were not consistent starters for us. Sports agents are doing both of these kids an injustice.

        1. @Cat:
          Believe it or not…
          We’re in agreement 🙂

          1. Hornet, the only real thing we disagree about is Calipari.

  3. I’m assuming that both kids and their families need money ‘now’.
    If that’s the case, they are probably thinking a little money ‘now’ is better than nothing.
    Frankly, I don’t think either one of them will ever be NBA first rounders.
    I wish them well and hope things work out for the best, no matter what they choose to do.

    1. You are probably right, but the G league doesn’t pay that much.

  4. I am ok if neither come back. Think they both came in highly over rated, under skilled, and unmotivated. Announced last night that McDaniels not coming either….what a shocker. I think with all 3 it might be addition by subtraction. Now it is Cal’s job to find replacement. Will Dante also fall victim to another “other than Cal” recruiter?

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