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Nick Richards understands he has “to prove to everyone that I can play”

Nick Richards knows he has a lot of questions to answer this year. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

During the last two season Kentucky coach John Calipari may have been more patient with center Nick Richards than any player in his 10 years at  UK.

No, he’s not given Richards excessive minutes when he’s not played well. However, Calipari has never lost his belief that Richards can be a special player and never given up hope on him.

It’s no different going into Richards’s junior year.

“Right now he’s really playing well and he’s playing confident and, obviously, the expectation is this is his time,” Calipari said. “He played against two mooses (PJ Washington and Reid Travis) last year. They could take your confidence away.

“But he, right now, what he’s doing on the court and how he’s playing, whether he goes against EJ (Montgomery), whether he goes against Nate (Sestina), scoring around the basket, shooting the ball better, running, he’s in the best shape I’ve seen him in.”

Richards said at Tuesday’s Media Day that he was more excited to start this season than his first two at UK. He came to Kentucky with a goal of winning a national title, something he’s yet to do but hopes can be done this season.

“I don’t feel any pressure at all. I know I have a good team that’s behind me. I know I can play basketball, and it’s just me stepping on the court to prove to everyone that I can play,” Richards said.

That’s what Calipari — and UK fans — are waiting to see Richards do. The talk has always been good, but now it is time to turn the talk into play.

“You got to get on the court, and now you’re playing against a player that’s a football player that’s trying to just say, ‘I know I can’t play you, I’m going to try to rough you up.’ Can you hold your ground? Can you sustain your confidence in that kind of situation?” Calipari said.

“Until we start playing games, who will know? Now, my hope is he’s ready for it. He’s been here, has a smile on his face, he’s a beautiful kid, he’s one of the nicest people we have had here. There’s no one rooting for him more than me.”

Richards appreciates Calipari’s support.

“It helps to know that I have a coach that has confidence in me and that I have a coaching staff that is helping me get better every day. Either way, coaches tell me in practice, ‘Stick to what we tell you to do but also try to work on your game, as well,’ and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Richards said.

There does need to be one major difference in Richards this year. He’s a three-year scholarship player, a rarity for Calipari at UK. He knows it’s time for him to increase his leadership.

“I just have to set an example for the younger guys and show them how it works here,” Richards said.  “People say it’s a hard time trying to figure out our coach’s system and they never really had veterans around to explain it to them, so I’m just happy to be one of those veterans that can help these guys.”

13 comments

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  1. It’s breakout time !!!
    RAH RAH !!!

    1. RAH! RAH! Hornet, get em!!!!!!

  2. As the great philosopher Yoda has proclaimed, “Do. Don’t Try”

    It is time for Richards to blossom into a real post player, and everyone knows that. What we do not know is whether he will do it. I know he started playing basketball later in life than most of these kids, but he has had between 2 and 3 years to learn from the master, and that excuse wears just as thinly as the “we are so young” excuse we hear every year.

    I agree with Calipari that a team that does not have a legitimate post man is a pretender, not a contender. It is clear that this team must rely upon Richards and Montgomery to be legitimate post players.

    The question for me is whether the 2019 recruiting outcome (no legitimate post player) was the plan because the coaches have such high confidence in these two guys, or is the 2019 recruiting outcome was a failure of the plan because the coaches could not land a real post player in this year’s recruiting class.

    Either way, the March fortunes for this group will rise and fall on the success that Richards and Montgomery have on the floor, and if this team must play 3 and 4 guards (Calipari has spoken about a 3 point guard lineup) and rely upon the 3 point shot to win, this team will not be in the hunt come mid March.

  3. Larry
    My wife is a cousin to Ralph Beard. Homer Rice has told me he would have loved to have my wife as a quarterback for one of his teams. My wife keeps telling me that Nick Richards needs to groom his hair cut so he doesn’t look so intimidating and maybe the referees won’t call fouls on him so quickly and the coach has to put him back on the bench. She has amazed me with her innate comments about sports for 47 years now. Might be worth a try.

    1. A very good point because Nick does look rather thuggish. Nick is saying all the right things but lets see if he has really internalized things to the point that it will have positive effect on attitude and performance.

  4. UK has three big men. They all have experience, and a lot of talent around them. UK is in good shape. I say Nick will bring it in 2019-20.

  5. I Agree Pup, I don’t know why some people getting uptight about we don’t have a big man. We will be fine.

  6. I agree about Nick’s hood haircut. Trim it up and get more favorable calls…just human nature.
    Nick has shown he can play…go back and look at the games in the Bahamas last year. It is worth saying that Calipari wasn’t coaching those games. Is that a coincidence or is there more to it? I say that Calipari pushes the wrong buttons with Nick but that goes against the rah rah way of thinking here. EJ should be Nick’s backup until he shows he can be more. Sestina should start at the 4 spot, but I am pretty sure Calipari will have EJ there.
    Its all fodder for rah rah debates as Calipari is going to have his wings go wild to the expense of the rest of the team. If Allen gets healthy and Juzang lives up to his billing, that could win 25 games, but no titles of any kind. We have to get 35 points and 25 rebounds from our three bigs to have any chance of winning any kind of title…which would ban me from this site. I hope it happens, but am pretty confident that it won’t…Alvederzang Cats 79.

    1. Rumor has it that Nick’s barber doesn’t have any early retirement plans.

  7. Catmandoo this site won’t be the same without the soap opera that you bring on here if you lose.

    1. But…he does make some very good points. He also is challenged to prepare some of you for post Cal recovery in 22….Ha..Ha..bring it on. Let the season begin!

    2. It’s going to be interesting to see if he’s a man of his word.

  8. Oh by the way the referee doesn’t pertain of calling on the player by hair or looks. There’s nothing with wrong Nicks hair period.

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