Nick Richards broke out in a big way in Kentucky’s first game in the Bahamas, scoring a team-high 19 points to go along with three rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. What helped Richards transform from an insecure freshman to the sophomore sensation we saw tonight? Some simple advice from his family: go out and have fun.
“My family members told me it didn’t look like I was having fun out there. It looked like I wasn’t really into the game as much as I was and I just went back and watched old clips of myself when I was younger and playing freely, and I just got back to that and hopefully I continue to play with that idea.”
“Oh wow,” John Calipari said of Richards after the game. “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.”
Calipari said Richards has also been working with renowned sports psychologist Bob Rotella, although Richards declined to get into specifics about their conversations.
“I can’t really talk about what me and Bob talk about on the phone, but I try to call him once a week and we talk like 30, 40 minutes at a time. We talk about anything and he gives really good advice. He just tells you what he’s done for past players, All-Stars in the NBA. He’s a really good dude. He’s been helping me a lot.”
Calipari has noted Richards’ improved confidence throughout the summer, but reiterated that the big man had to demonstrate it in games to take the next step in his development; Richards certainly did that tonight, and gave all the credit to his teammates.
“I didn’t expect to play like that. I was just trying to let the game come to me. I wasn’t expecting to score 14 points in the first half, but I’ll give it to my teammates. They did a really good job of getting the ball in the right spots and finding me for open jump shots, open buckets.”
It’s best not to read too much into an exhibition, but Nick Richards’ performance was the story of the night. At 6-11, he’s Kentucky’s only real rim protector and tonight’s performance bodes well for the Cats if his confidence continues to grow. As for the answer to the million dollar question?
“Yes, I’m having fun out there,” Richards said, smiling.