By DEB MOORE, UK Athletics
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky men’s basketball sophomore forward EJ Montgomery announced Wednesday that he has submitted his name for the 2020 NBA Draft and is forgoing his remaining two years of eligibility.
A year after testing the waters within the NBA Draft process, Montgomery returned for his sophomore season and improved in every area of his game.
“What an incredible honor it has been to play for not only one of the best schools in the country, but also the best fans,” Montgomery said. “When I decided to come to Kentucky, it was a dream of mine to win a national championship. I know my brothers and I were ready to go to war for our coaches, the university and Big Blue Nation to bring home the national title this year.
“The circumstances were unfortunate, but I am thankful that I was able to play for a great coach and coaching staff and compete every day in practice and in games to challenge myself to become a better all-around player.
“With that being said, I have decided to take the next step in my career and chase after my ultimate dream and declare for the NBA Draft. I would like to thank Coach Cal and the entire coaching staff for giving me this opportunity and challenging me to become a better player and a better young man. Also, my brothers for the grind and always having my back. I would like to thank my family and friends for all their support through this experience. And lastly, I would like to thank you, BBN!”
Montgomery is the fifth UK underclassmen to announce his decision to enter the NBA Draft and forgo his remaining eligibility. Junior Nick Richards and sophomore Immanuel Quickley declared earlier this week, while freshman Tyrese Maxey and sophomore Ashton Hagans announced their intentions last week.
The 6-foot-10 forward out of Fort Pierce, Florida, appeared in 28 games for the Wildcats during his sophomore campaign and made 25 starts. He averaged 6.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, both of which were career highs. He also charted 31 total blocks, 12 steals and 17 assists.
“At 6-10 with perimeter skills, athleticism and an ability to block shots, someone is going to get a big-time prospect with EJ,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “His skill set is where the game is going. EJ has always had those tools, but what I’m so proud of is how he progressed, not only through his two seasons here but especially the last month of the season.
“I was excited for EJ going into the postseason because I really thought it was going to be a great opportunity to show all the work he’s put in. He was really playing his best basketball. I’m happy for EJ and his family and will continue to be here to help throughout this process.”
Montgomery registered a career-high 25 points in a win against Fairleigh Dickinson where he was 12 of 16 from the floor. He also played a major role in the win over Mississippi State with 12 points and eight rebounds. At Texas A&M he put together one of his best performances of his career with eight points, 10 boards, a career-high three assists, two steals and a block.
Montgomery led the Wildcats in blocks eight times and four games with three or more rejections. He paced the team in steals in four outings and matched that with four games led in rebounding. Montgomery capped the season shooting 51.8% from the field and he hauled in 151 rebounds, both of which ranked second on the squad. His 31 swats also was the second highest on the team.
Since Calipari joined the Kentucky program for the 2009-10 season, UK has produced 38 NBA Draft picks over 10 seasons, far and away more than any other school. Included in the 38 are 29 first-rounders, three No. 1 overall picks and 21 lottery selections.
Of the 60 players who have finished their college careers at Kentucky under Calipari (through the 2018-19 season), 38 were selected in the NBA Draft, a 63.3% success rate. Another six of those made the NBA, and the majority of the rest were walk-ons.