What started as a lighthearted joke is now a reality: Sophomore Nick Richards is here, and he’s here to stay.
The 6-foot-11 center led the Cats with 19 points, three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal in their 85-61 victory over the Bahamas National Team, showing just a bit of everything on the floor. He was comfortable, he was confident, and he was arguably the best player on the floor.
If you ask John Calipari, however, it wasn’t a surprise at all.
“Oh wow,” he told the media in the postgame press conference. “Like all the kids, there’s a lot of stuff to grow. He’s not the same player. Like I told him, if you make your free throws like that, get fouled. Ball fake, don’t fade away. Go to the rim and shoot through people. He played well. Blocked some shots.”
Best of all, he’s confident, a major turn of events from last season.
“He has spent some time with (sports psychologist) Bob Rotella… When things don’t go well, I tell him that it’s not last year. (He’s) way better,” said Calipari.
Richards wasn’t the only player that impressed Coach Cal.
“I thought Ashton (Hagans) added a bit of toughness, I think Keldon (Johnson) pressed a little bit, some of the guys pressed. Tyler (Herro) played well, first half especially,” he said.
Like all young teams just getting started in the season, the Cats got tired early. And that’s okay.
“The game was rough and fast, and they lost their legs,” said Calipari. “But I’m really happy their national team came at us and didn’t go away. Their national team made a run to start the second half, so we could see what would happen. They needed to learn, but I saw some good stuff.”