By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fans have been hoping that both Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery would be vastly better players for the Wildcats this season.
Now they really have to hope that is true after five-star center N’Faly Dante picked Oregon over UK today after reclassifying to the 2019 class as he had been widely expected to do.
John Calipari had N’Faly on campus for an official visit in June and it was no secret the UK staff was doing everything possible to get him to bolster this season’s team. Many close to the UK staff felt N’Faly was going to pick the Cats even though most national recruiting analysts had favored Oregon to get the 7-footer for quite some time.
It was another miss for Calipari for the 2019-20 season when it comes to big. It started when perhaps the No. 1 player in the class, James Wiseman, picked Memphis over Kentucky. Isaiah Stewart opted for Washington over Kentucky even though high school teammate Keion Brooks Jr. picked UK. Virginia Tech transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. , the nation’s top grad transfer, flirted with Kentucky but opted for SEC rival Florida over the Cats.
Kentucky did get Bucknell grad transfer Nate Sestina to join the program but that still leaves Calipari with one less big than he wanted and could help push him to where he plays a smaller, more versatile lineup next season with the abundance of perimeter players he has.
But there’s no need for panic. Montgomery was a McDonald’s All-American and top 15 player nationally in his recruiting class. Many thought he would have been a high second-round draft if he had kept his name in the NBA draft. Look for dramatic improvement in his production with no PJ Washington and Reid Travis to play behind this year.
Richards is another McDonald’s All-Americans. He’s yet to meet the lofty expectations that Calipari continues to want from him. Don’t forget he did start 37 games his freshman year and now he will be playing his third year at Kentucky. Numerous schools would love to have him.