Kentucky’s game vs. Monmouth tomorrow in Madison Square Garden is also a homecoming for two Wildcats, Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards.
â€œItâ€™s going to be great,” Diallo, a Queens native, said of returning to New York. “I havenâ€™t played there in a long time. Itâ€™s just going to be a great experience to see all whoâ€™s coming out. Iâ€™ve got a lot of family coming that havenâ€™t seen me play in person in a long time. Itâ€™s going to be a great atmosphere because Monmouth has a couple of New York guys on their team as well. Itâ€™s just going to be a great atmosphere and Iâ€™m going to enjoy it.â€
What will be like for the New York native to play in Madison Square Garden, arguably the most famous arena in the sport?
â€œItâ€™s different. Iâ€™ve never played in the Garden. Itâ€™s every kidâ€™s dream whoâ€™s from New York to play there. Iâ€™m just going to go out there and treat it like itâ€™s another game.”
Richards, a native of Jamaica, moved to Queens, New York in high school. He eventually enrolled in The Patrick School in New Jersey, alma mater of fellow Cats Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Dakari Johnson.
“Itâ€™s going to be a great experience just to play at MSG in front of friends and family who have supported me throughout the years playing basketball,” Richards said. “I think this is one way of me giving back to that community is just showing out for them.â€
Richards will actually be playing against his former high school teammate Marcus McClary, a freshman shooting guard for Monmouth. This isn’t the first time Richards has played against a Patrick School alum.
â€œItâ€™s going to be the same as when I played against Harvard when I played against (former high school teammate) Bryce Aiken. Youâ€™re friends off the court and after the game and right before the game, but weâ€™re going to compete as basketball players during the game.â€
How excited is Richards to be heading home? Check out his grin as he boarded the plane to New York this morning:
Next stop: the Big ðŸŽ pic.twitter.com/K4DvaUta5K
â€” Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 8, 2017
Calipari’s players haven’t always handled their homecomings well, so let’s hope both Diallo and Richards seize the moment tomorrow instead of shrink from it.