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Kenny Payne to EJ Montgomery: “Why don’t you just punch the guy that’s not passing you the ball?”

EJ Montgomery is fighting harder inside but assistant coach Kenny Payne said Monday that UK’s guards are not getting him the ball. (Vicky Graff Photo)


The development of forward EJ Montgomery into a consistent, productive performer has been a season-long goal for coach John Calipari much like it was last year with Nick Richards.

At times last year, Richards got it. But most of the year he seemed a little behind and out of sync. Montgomery has been the same way but with four regular-season games left assistant coach Kenny Payne believes Montgomery is closer to being what UK needs.

“His energy is way better, his rebounding is better, his fighting to make plays for us to win has been really good,” Payne said Monday while discussing Tuesday night’s game at Texas A&M.

The the UK assistant coach dropped this on media members — and those criticizing Montgomery’s play.

“He’s posting up harder than he’s ever posted up. The second part of that is our guards haven’t passed him the ball. We’re in staff meetings and film sessions saying, ‘EJ, why don’t you just punch the guy that’s not passing you the ball? Like, let him know,'” Payne said. “You want this ball. Don’t just accept a guy saying, ‘My fault, my bad.’ They shot the ball and you’re wide open with a defender.”

Montgomery is looking for an alternative to punching guys to let them know he was open.

“But he’s telling me that I just need to punch them. They’re my guys. I try to just tell them and try to have them hit me next time,” Montgomery said.

Tyrese Maxey is one of those UK guards who knows he’s missed chances to get the ball to Montgomery.

“If he’s open, he needs to get the ball. Sometimes we miss him. We don’t see everything. Coach Cal always says, we’re not robots. So, if I miss him, I always apologize,” Maxey said. “If he says he was open, I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, I’m going to look for you next time.’

“But yeah, he should say something. If you’re open, anybody, and you work that hard, especially EJ, Nick, Nate (Sestina), Keion (Brooks Jr.), guys like that who fight their behinds off and rebound and defend. If they’re open in the post, you should get it to them.”


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  1. How about just SCREAMING at them!

  2. Hagans and Maxey are like a black hole when they have the ball.
    How about benching a guard for 2-5 minutes if he misses a pass to the bigs twice. Bet they won’t miss a third when they get back in.
    Not getting the ball inside is going to get this team beat early in the tournament, then you will hear Hagans and Maxey saying my bad; should have got it inside more.
    Quickley can forget to look also, but when he’s hot, there is no else I want with the ball.

  3. This has been a problem for most of the season. I am glad that it is finally getting the attention of the coaches. Old Fan is right, bench a guy who is not giving up the ball. They watch the tape of every game and know who is guilty of this. Make them pay with less PT until they correct this selfish behavior. Its sad that we are having to talk about this with just 4 games left. This should have been addressed in December. Nick should get 15 shots every game. EJ should get 6 to 8 depending on the matchup as should Nate. Keion should get 4 to 6 if he hits the glass and gets out on the break. That would mean that our big guys would be taking 31 to 37 of our average 57 shots a game. Our guards are not going to be happy with just 20 shots between the 4 of them, so the offense will have to speed up considerably to get the extra 15 or so shots it will take to keep them happy. My gut says, nothing will change. the guards will take 37 of our 57 shots and our 4 big guy will have to be happy with the 20 or so that is left over. That will not get us a SEC tourney title or a trip to the Final 4. If this plays out, it will be on the coaches because they are clearly aware of it.

    1. We’ll see.

  4. How about putting their butts on the pine until they play the way the coaches want them to play?

  5. Hey EJ, align yourself with Nick and the two of you go after the guard not getting you the ball when you bust your arse getting into position for the ball. It is definitely a problem since there are too many astute posters on this board calling for a change-Go Cats!

  6. This team has a player that the program is touting as an All American, but the team is not getting the ball to that All American player.

    Either the AA promotion is a bunch of BS, or the coaching is not getting the job done. It cannot be both ways..

    Now for some facts. I know that facts are tough to digest, but they are what they are:

    1. Nick Richards is the most efficient player on this team, currently averaging 1.36 points for every possession he ends.
    2 Nate Sestina is the second most efficient player on this team, at 1.18 ppp for every possession he ends.
    3. These 3 guards that every one wants to tout are 3rd, 5th, and 6th most efficient at 1.09, 1.05, and 0.96 ppp for Hagans, Quickley, and Maxey in that order.
    4. Nick Richards ends 12.3% of all possessions with shots, free throws, or turnovers while Hagans ends 19.3%, and Quickly ends 18.3% and Maxey uses 19.8% of all possessions.
    5. EJ Montgomery is the 4th most efficient player at 1.09 ppp and only ends 6.2% of the team’s possessions.

    This picture is upside down. This front line, Richards, Sestina, and Montgomery should be ending upwards of 60% of all possessions instead of the current 24.0% between them.

    This is what good coaching would produce.

    But, as the line has been since he arrived, he just rolls the ball on the floor and the rest is up to them.

    They are good kids, as we know.

    Therefore, they must not need coaching, because we all know good kids respond to good coaching.

    1. Professor I would think you would be happier today. Hey, old Pomeroy has UK the 26th best efficient team in the land this morning, up two spots. They are moving up, and the best news is, they have already beaten 3 of the top 10 most efficient teams in the land, and all with these selfish guards we have. As for all you guys on Calipari’s case here it seems, well he has his team sitting in first place in the SEC this morning. I’ll take it.

  7. Yes, our guards should pass the ball to our bigs when they are open, but it ain’t always that easy boys. Especially the way opposing defenses are guarding Kentucky’s post players today, and against a fading shot clock. We’ve all watched our bigs fumble balls and miss easy shots at the rim too. I’ve seen Nick fumble passes to him, or miss open shots at close range. Also, hot shooting from long range has been tough for UK in 2020. Thank goodness for Quick right now, and Maxey. Sustina is missing far to many open shots by the way, Shore that up,and make defenders get out and guard our shooters, and watch how that opens up Nick and others players around the paint area. All that said, UK wouldn’t have the record we have today without these talented UK guards. UK is winning, and that is all that matters. Start sitting these UK guards for very long as punishment and watch UK lose.

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