By LARRY VAUGHT
One of the more perplexing things about Kentucky’s basketball season to me continues to be the references to sophomore EJ Montgomery needing to get in better shape.
He’s a lean, agile athlete who looks like he should be able to run and jump forever. Yet it often looks like on the court that he is not exerting enough effort.
So what’s the case? How can Montgomery hope to be a NBA player and not be in condition midway of his sophomore season, especially considering he’s not had a major injury or had to play a huge number of minutes?
“I think a part of it is conditioning. I think the majority of it is mentality. Can I fight through? Will I fight through? Again, another kid, that I would say, high-character kid that his battle isn’t the opponent. His battle is how he sees his self, how he fights through whatever is that’s holding him back,” Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne said Monday.
To me, that makes more sense than what I’ve heard explained.
“He’s capable. He’s a very good basketball player that has to learn to fight through his own demons. He’s headed in the right direction. There are times that he does some unbelievable things for us to win that doesn’t get in the newspaper clippings or whatever, but he’s an integral part of what we do here and we need him to play better,” Payne said.
Kentucky DESPERATLEY needs Montgomery to play better to give the Cats another inside presence to go with Nick Richards. Tonight UK plays Mississippi State and center Reggie Perry — the only SEC player averaging a double-double.
“Again, the kid (Perry) is an NBA player. There will be a bunch of scouts coming here to see him. There’s a challenge there,” Payne said. “So, EJ is capable. Nick is capable. How about Keion Brooks (Jr.). ‘You may have to guard him at times when we play him at the four. So, don’t care that he is 100 pounds bigger. You’ve gotta fight.’
“So, there is a challenge there that we’ve gotta rise up to that challenge and have success against him.”