By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — EJ Montgomery made a last-minute decision to return to Kentucky and is now embracing the expectations going into his second season with the Wildcats.
Montgomery is going to be counted on to provide a physical presence in the past and Kentucky coach John Calipari said Montgomery has made strides in the post.
“What EJ has done has become more consistent offensively,” Calipari said. “We’re going to ask a lot of him.”
The main point of emphasis for Montgomery during the off-season has been to get stronger and make a stronger push to reach the next level on the court.
“Last year, that was the main thing I was focused on. But this year, I’ve been in the weight room a lot with (strength coach) Robert (Harris), and that’s been my main focus, just getting more physical and staying consistent and stuff like that. But this year, I’m definitely going to be ready.”
Calipari has noticed a difference in Montgomery’s physical stature and said the sophomore forward is becoming more consistent.
“He’s physically stronger, he’s doing better, he’s more consistent with his skills,” Calipari said.
Calipari wants Montgomery to follow the same path former Kentucky standout PJ Washington took en route to becoming a lottery pick in the NBA Draft last summer. Calipari has already talked to Montgomery about following in Washington’s footsteps, especially in the post.
“One of the things, I sat him down and we talked about was, understand that P.J. did all these things, but he changed his approach to this,” Calipari said. “P.J. finished first in every conditioning (drill). P.J. pushed himself physically. P.J. was a better leader. He wasn’t looking to what’s the least amount I can do, what’s the most I can do, can I do more, can I stay after, what can I do? A lot of this becomes changing your approach to this.”
Calipari said Montgomery currently is “walking through that.”
“But, at the end of the day what he does and how he plays, like, I was on him about free throws,” the Kentucky coach said. “We’re going to put the ball in your hands, you got to make free throws. And so there are things that’s got to be more consistent with, but he is a talent. Long, active, we saw him last year, we’re all saying how does E.J. get more time? What do we do to get E.J. more time? Well, guess what? He’s going to get more time.”
Montgomery watched Washington’s transition last season and took notice of Washington’s ascent to near the top of the draft chart.
“(I) just (know) how hard he went in everything he did and how his body changed over the summer,” he said.
To get to that level Montgomery knows what it takes to get to that level.
“(I need to) just staying in the gym and having my confidence up — just know what I can do and just get more physical,” he said with a smile.
* * *
Gametracker: Blue-White Game, 7 p.m., Friday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.