By LARRY VAUGHT
Forgive Nick Richards for being a bit surprised after Wednesday’s win over Vanderbilt when he had all 15 of his points and 10 of his 11 rebounds in the second half to learn that coach John Calipari didn’t have anything bad to say about him.
“He said that? I’m just happy he’s my coach,” Richards said.
For most of his first two seasons at UK, Richards under performed compared to what Calipari expected even though the coach never gave up on him. Now Richards is playing at such a high level that Calipari said UK needed Richards to be a good team.
“Really? I think he’s over exaggerating,” Richards said.
Why? No one else seems to think it is an exaggeration.
“I think we have a lot of good pieces on our team. Ashton (Hagans) is a really good point guard. Immanuel (Quickley), he was the one that called that last play in the end which was basically back screening for the lob. I think we’ve got a lot of good guys on our team,” Richards said after the Vanderbilt win.
“EJ (Montgomery) is playing really good now. He’s turning the heat up. Tyrese (Maxey) played really good tonight. Keion (Brooks Jr.), Johnny (Juzang), they all played really good tonight, even Nate (Sestina). He did a lot of stuff on the court that’s not really showing on the stat sheet.”
Doing more than shows on the stat sheet is what Calipari always felt Richards could do as a rim protector but didn’t always do his first two years in part because he wouldn’t rebound enough or stay out of foul trouble.
Now its almost a weekly lovefest with Calipari talking about Richards.
“He’s always hard on me because I know he always wants the best for me and always wants to push me in the right direction. That’s why I said I’m just happy he’s my coach,” Richards said.
And it is also to the point that Calipari doesn’t have to scold Richards. He does it to himself.
He got two fouls in less than four minutes against Vandy to start the game. Calipari called them “dumb fouls” after the game. Richards didn’t disagree.
“I can’t do that. Even if I was the seventh man on the bench coming up, I can’t do that getting two fouls in two minutes. That’s really bad,” Richards said.