By LARRY VAUGHT
Another Southeastern Conference game for Kentucky, so a chance for another SEC coach to praise Kentucky junior center Nick Richards — who had 25 points in the second half in Tuesday’s win over Mississippi State.
“I’m really impressed with Nick (Richards) and the fact that John (Calipari) and his staff have done a great job at developing him. He was a guy that most people thought at the time was going to be a one-and-done player, but you have to give him credit for buying in to the work ethic and what they need him to do,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said looking ahead to Saturday’s home game with the Wildcats.
“I’m sure it’s more than just work ethic, I’m sure it’s understanding the game more and more. When you look at his development, he can score in a couple of different places. He can score facing up and shooting the ball or obviously get around the rim.
“He gets to the rim, and those lobs, there really is no defense for them if they get the ball where they want to and throw it up there because he is so long and can go up and go get it. I’m always impressed with guys that work hard and develop, and I think he has done that really well.”
So do I. He just continues to grind and not let anything bother him.
Give Barnes credit for admitting he was not sure if Richards is the SEC’s best big.
“I haven’t looked at it where I could say that totally, but I know this, he has really improved and he is a terrific player. Again, I think John (Calipari) is doing a good job of utilizing what he does do well,” Barnes said.
The Tennessee coach is also a big fan of UK’s defense, especially sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans.
“Hagans is a really good on-ball defender, and I would imagine he is going to be a lot of pressure (on) if he is matched up with Santiago (Vescovi). They have some rim protectors, and they’re just very sound. They don’t take many chances and they make it hard to score,” Barnes said Thursday.