By LARRY VAUGHT
If there was one thing that Kentucky assistant coach Tony Barbee said Friday that probably made almost every UK fan happy was news that the staff is “working” on getting sophomore forward EJ Montgomery to be “meaner” on the court.
“This team needs it. We’ve been working on it. We’ve been talking to him about it, and I think with EJ he’s got to have a self-belief that we believe in him, and he’s got to look in that mirror and see what we think he should be, and sometimes I think he questions that,” Barbee said.
Montgomery will get a chance to play “meaner” Saturday afternoon when UK opens SEC play hosting Missouri.
“If he gets more confident, the proof is in the pudding. He did it the last five minutes of the game (against Louisville) when you really needed it,” Barbee said. “He went and did it. He was physical. He reacted. He went and blocked shots out of nowhere. He defended a guy on the perimeter that was going by him to start the game and at the end of the game, the guy couldn’t get by him.
“He’s capable of it, so when we look at that and you say it’s a confidence deal with EJ. He’s got to believe he can do it for the majority of the time he’s out there.”
Maybe Montgomery’s mindset changed late in the game but Barbee thinks it’s more at times he gets uncomfortable doing what he’s asked to do.
“You’ve heard around here a bunch — you’ve got to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and he likes to play in a comfort zone,” Barbee said. “If you stay in a comfort zone, you’re never going to grow. For him to grow, he’s got to step out of that and do it all the time and do it full time.”