By LARRY VAUGHT
Nick Richards is playing more minutes (30), scoring more (14 points per game), rebounding more (8.5 per game) and blocking more shots (2.3 per game) this season than in his two previous seasons combined.
He’s also shooting a career-high 67.6 percent from the field and 74 percent at the foul line.
Yet Kentucky coach John Calipari said he recently had someone ask him why his 7-foot center was not rebounding more.
“Well, you might say, ‘He’s getting 10 to 11.’ And I’m telling you, ‘Why not get 15? Why not go after every ball with two hands? Why not create space?’” Calipari said.
Despite Richards’ impressive play so far this season, Calipari says he continues to talk to him about being “humble and hungry” just like he does with other players.
But he also had to offer a golf analogy.
“You’re humble and hungry because this thing, if any of you are golfers, you know it can flip in two seconds,” Calipari said. “I’m the best putter in the world and then you can’t make a putt because you said it. I’ve been driving the ball great. Good. Now you’ve rolled four off the tee and hooked one into the trees. How about that for your driver?
“So, you just stay hungry. You keep training. You want to fall back on your training. Well, when I walk in here, if his training is lazy catches, one-handed rebounds, I’m not fighting for a position. The shot goes up. I run from my man. Well, that’s what you’re going to do in the games. The minute you go down that road, it’s not what I say, it’s what you’re saying to yourself.
“You take away your own confidence, and when you build your confidence through the process, through training, no one takes it away. No one. I can’t take it away, an official, another teammate. But, if you take your own confidence away by how you’re training and you walk in a game and you start playing that way, you did it to yourself.”
Calipari said he holds Richards and every player accountable and will again today when UK hosts Georgia Tech.
“Probably been tougher in practice than I had all year for three days. A couple days I was really tough. Tough meaning it’s a high standard, what we’re expecting,” Calipari said.