By LARRY VAUGHT
What kind of feedback did Kentucky sophomore EJ Montgomery get from NBA personnel before he decided to take his name out of the NBA draft and return to UK?
“They just said I did good. I shot it well. I can stretch the floor and things like that,” said Montgomery Friday.
Montgomery admitted what UK teammate PJ Washington did last season when he returned to UK for a second year rather than stay in the draft had an impact on him. After his freshman year, Washington likely would have been a second-round draft pick. Now he’s likely to be a top 20 choice.
“It did once I heard where I would land in the draft and if I came back I would work hard every day just like he did and try to improve my stock,” Montgomery, who told his current teammates in a group text about his decision to return to UK, said.
On his reasons to come back and if one of them was building his strength … “Yeah, that was probably one of the main reasons, just my physical part, my body. I went out there (for the workouts) and showed I can do a lot of things, but they just want to see that I can go out there and play with the physical guys.”
Playing behind Washington and Reid Travis last season resulted in limited minutes for Montgomery, something that doesn’t figure to be a problem this year. He said a “great support system” helped him deal with not playing as much as he hoped last year.
“They always kept my head up and things like that. If I had a bad day, we always just kept each other up. Working in the gym every day, that’s the way I got through it,” Montgomery said.
He knows UK has junior Nick Richards returning and graduate transfer Nate Sestina added to the roster but that his athleticism, size and skills should make him a much more needed player for John Calipari this season.
“I have to work for everything. It’s not going to be given to me, so I’m just going to stay in the gym,” Montgomery said.
What if Calipari added more players to the roster?
“Whatever coach Cal thinks we need. If he thinks we need more people or if we don’t, we got to go out there and compete,” Montgomery said.
The sophomore will also find himself as one of UK’s “older” players and leaders next season.
“It’s definitely weird but you have to learn fast here. It’s different,” Montgomery said. “You just have to take that role.”