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With Nick Richards, EJ Montgomery back UK has a team John Calipari should really like

Nick Richards (UK Athletics Photo)


Amazing how a few months can make such a difference in a player’s importance to a team — or players’ importance to the team.

When Kentucky was trying to make a Final Four run in March, Nick Richards barely played the final two games and EJ Montgomery really didn’t not make a significant contribution despite playing more than Richards.

Both opted to put their name into the NBA draft — something Richards had not done in 2018 after his freshman season. When they did, most assumed they would both be back. After all, PJ Washington had a far better season as a freshman in 2017-18 than either Richards or Montgomery had this year. He came back for a sophomore season and played himself into a likely lottery pick.

Then rumors started swirling that Richards might be ready to turn pro and just take his chances. Next came word Montgomery’s family was not happy with his lack of playing time and even former UK star Tony Delk, his advisor during the draft evaluation, said he thought Montgomery might stay in the draft.

That left panic for UK fans because with Washington and Reid Travis gone, if Richards and Montgomery didn’t come back the only power forward/center on next year’s roster would be Bucknell transfer Nate Sestina.

But Tuesday Richards said he was coming back for year three — his girlfriend, UK volleyball star Leah Edmond, joked on social media that he was only staying at UK because of her. Then Wednesday about six hours before the deadline to pull his name out of the draft and keep his eligibility, Montgomery did the same.

EJ Montgomery (Vicky Graff Photo)

Now UK has a grad transfer, junior and sophomore in the front line to go with Keion Brooks. It has sophomore guards Ashton Hagans and Immanuel Quickley back to go with freshmen Tyrese Maxey, Kahlil Whitney, Johnny Juzang and Dontaie Allen.

“Anybody who doesn’t think Kentucky is going to be really good with that roster just doesn’t know basketball,” said one Division I coach I know. “This is the kind of team that Cal will really love coaching and will give him a lot of options.”



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  1. This is great news. I do believe this is the year for those two. UK is ready to do some damage in the SEC and nationally.

  2. Yawn

  3. I agree Pup,

  4. I’m with you Larry Pup, no reason not to be excited about the talent on this team. Add one more quality big for “Higgin’s Proofing” and I really feel the sky is the limit, provided the injury bug doesn’t bite us-Go Cats.

  5. I am so pleased that Richards and Montgomery made the decision to return for another season. I am pleased for the program, next year’s team, and for each of them.

    I hear rumblings that UK is still in the hunt for Mr. Blackshear’s services next season, which if it happens, would be a very huge addition to an already strong roster.

  6. Blackshear or Dante could very definitely make us Elite.

  7. Florida, Auburn, or A&M are more realistic landing spots for Blackshear. Nick is a decent free throw shooter, will he develop the confidence to make that a 2 point weapon as well? Will he master the 6 ft. over the shoulder jump hook? Will he commit to being a 10+ rebounder? He could easily average 4 blocks a game if he can stay away from all of the silly touch fouls he made last year. My gut says his stat line will be 8 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 2 assists, and 4 fouls per game. If he does, he will be gone after the season. Too bad, a senior season could have him being a double double machine and a solid first round pick.
    As for EJ, will he become a man this year and not play like a scared kid? I have no idea of what to expect from him. He, Sestina, Allen, and Hagans will be the wild cards for this team. If they overachieve, a Final 4 could be a possibility.

  8. Catmandoo, Nick is a junior and yes I agree with you I hope he shows up this season. As far EJ I think he can be as dominate in the middle he show flashes of it.

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