By LARRY VAUGHT
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.”