Basketball Season Coverage
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 30th, 2019 @ 1:00pm
With Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery returning to school and the possibility of adding Kerry Blackshear still on the table, the NBA Draft deadline was surprisingly kind to Kentucky; in fact, Jeff Borzello named the Cats one of his winners of deadline day in his recap on ESPN.
“The Wildcats had a couple players leave earlier this spring, but received good news when Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery decided to return to Lexington. Kentucky was a little thin on the interior, with only Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina in the post position. Richards and Montgomery aren’t game-changers right now, but they provide much-needed depth for John Calipari. Another plus for Calipari is that Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr.decided to withdraw his name from the draft. Kentucky is an option for Blackshear.”
Obviously this was written before this morning’s news that Brad Calipari may transfer.
Some of Borzello’s other NBA Draft deadline winners: Kansas (not sure I agree with that since Quentin Grimes is going to transfer), Louisville, LSU, and Florida. Some of the losers: Tennessee, Auburn, Memphis, and Georgia. Check out the entire list out at the Worldwide Leader.
By Aaron Torres on ©May 30th, 2019 @ 10:30am
The college basketball off-season is always wild, but is it just me or has this one been especially bananas?
Seriously, since the day the season ended, here are a few things that have happened: Mick Cronin left Cincinnati for UCLA. John Beilein left for the NBA and was replaced by Juwan Howard. We went through an entire FBI trial under the assumption that it would result in (at least) Sean Miller and Will Wade losing their jobs, only instead, both somehow survived. Memphis went from one Top 50 recruit to four, with the additions of Precious Achuiwa, Boogie Ellis and Lester Quinones. Cole Anthony (North Carolina), Matthew Hurt (Duke), Cassius Stanley (Duke), Trendon Watford (LSU), Jaden McDaniels (Washington) and Johnny Juzang (Kentucky) also announced their college decisions. RJ Hampton announced he’d reclassify, then cut his recruiting list from five to four, four to three, went back up to four with Texas Tech, cut Kentucky to get back down to three, then eventually committed to play for the… New Zealand Breakers. Huh? Oh, and Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Cassius Winston and Markus Howard were among the big names who announced they’d return to college basketball.
Of course, while that handful of guys announced they’d be back, hundreds – literally hundreds – declared for the draft. And because players were allowed to declare with an agent this year, it left the sport in a fit of chaos, with no one quite sure who was actually just “testing the draft waters” and who was actually planning on staying in.
Only now, finally, mercifully, we have hit May 29th. The pre-draft portion of this process is complete and we now know who actually is coming back to college and staying in the draft.
And with that, we have a much clearer picture of what next year of college basketball will look like.
Here was my initial “Way Too Early Top 25” from back after the day ended. And below, is my updated list post NBA Draft deadline.
Apparently we aren’t done with 2019-20 roster news after all. According to Al.com’s Matt Zenitz, Brad Calipari has entered the transfer portal.
The possibility of Brad transferring has been mentioned before. He redshirted this past season and graduated from Kentucky earlier this month, so he will have two years of immediate eligibility left. John Calipari even mentioned the option in an interview with Jim Rome during the tournament.
“He can go to another school, a smaller school where he’ll play more,” Cal said, before adding he believes Brad will stay at Kentucky.
Will Brad finish his college career at Kentucky or go to a school where he can get more playing time? If it’s the latter, somebody on the team needs to step up their sartorial game.
By Nick Roush on ©May 30th, 2019 @ 9:00am
It was a wild NBA Draft withdrawal deadline. After more than 12 hours of chaos, college basketball was the real winner Wednesday.
It was the best case scenario for the Big Blue Nation. Just before 6:00 p.m., E.J. Montgomery announced he would return to UK for a second season in Lexington. The addition guarantees John Calipari will have three posts — Montgomery, Richards, Sestina — to work with in 2019-20. They may not be alone.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. was one of the last players to remove his name from the NBA Draft pool. The former Virginia Tech All-ACC forward will explore grad transfer options. Kentucky has the name brand and championship potential, but a crowded backcourt could push him to join Andrew Nembhard, Scottie Lewis and Keyontae Johnson not far from his hometown in Gainesville, Florida.
Blackshear’s future will remain uncertain a little longer, just like Quentin Grimes. Not long after Devon Dotson announced he would return to Lawrence, we learned his backcourt running mate removed his name from the NBA Draft. Instead of returning to Kansas, Grimes will transfer, capping off a bizarre offseason for the Jayhawks.
Closer to home, Jordan Nwora is giving Louisville fans hope. With the return of the Cards’ leading scorer, they’ll be a preseason top five team. After years of rule-breaking, they finally have hope, maybe too much hope. An assistant coach AND the athletic director are calling for a Final Four. How cute.
?hold on mom, Steven is beeping in
?I’m back …he’s back
?hold on again mom, Jordan is beeping in now
?I’m back….he’s back too
?Final Four….it’s in Atlanta
— Vince Tyra (@vincetyra) May 30, 2019
— Luke Murray (@CoachLukeMurray) May 30, 2019
Many fringe players could have made the leap, but decided to return to college basketball.
- Myles Powell — Seton Hall
- Mamadi Diakite — Virginia
- Charles Bassey — WKU
- Devon Dotson — Kansas
- Xavier Sneed — Kansas State
Those were just a couple of the decisions from yesterday. See who will stay and who will go in this long list from Jeff Goodman.
The SEC Basketball Schedule is (almost) Set
We do not have the dates, but we do know UK’s SEC opponents. In a surprising twist, the league will not make the Cats play LSU twice. Instead, the Cats will play a Nic Claxton-less Georgia at home and on the road.
|2019-20 SEC Home Games||2019-20 SEC Away Games|
|Mississippi State||South Carolina|
A Big Addition for Michigan?
Juwan Howard could make a splash with one of his first hires. The Michigan head coach has reportedly offered an assistant coaching job to Phil Martelli, who spent the last 24 seasons leading the St. Joe’s basketball program. Martelli would be the perfect ying to Howard’s yang.
Rex Chapman is BACK
The King of Twitter was taken off the social media site for a few days. “Twitter jail food is better than real jail food,” he said.
Block or charge??????? pic.twitter.com/bnMyhRjPCD
— Rex Chapman?? (@RexChapman) May 30, 2019
Florida Offers Richie Leonard
Since the Florida offensive tackle de-committed from UK, Florida State has done everything to convince Leonard to commit to play in Tallahassee. Yesterday, the Florida Gators joined the fold, giving Leonard an offer from each of Florida’s “Big Three” schools. Leonard is set to officially visit UK next weekend.
I’ve been cooking up a few voluminous football recruiting pieces that will be ready to hit the presses this afternoon. Hold onto your butts.
Great News from Alex Trebek
Just three months ago the Jeopardy host announced he had stage four pancreatic cancer. Luckily, his body has responded to chemotherapy.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” he told People. “The doctors said they hadn’t seen this kind of positive result in their memory…some of the tumors have already shrunk by more than 50 percent.”
Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Trebek.
The NBA Finals Begin
The basketball hiatus is over. For the first time, an NBA Finals game will be played north of the border. Toronto hosts Golden State at 9:00 p.m. on ABC. DeMarcus Cousins returned to action in practice this week, however, Steve Kerr is still unsure how he will be able to use Boogie.
“DeMarcus has done an amazing job coming back from the injury, which we felt at the time was season-ending. So he’s done an incredible job of rebounding, rehabbing, and now here he is. He’s scrimmaged a couple times this week. He’s pain free, so it’s really more a matter of rhythm and timing and conditioning, all those things.
If this were the regular season, I’d throw him out there and he’d play whatever minutes he could tolerate and we’d build him up from there. This is not the regular season, it’s the Finals, so we have to figure out what’s the best way to utilize him. How many minutes he can play, what the game feels like, what the matchups are like. So some of that will be determined by what’s happening in the game, and the other stuff is just internal with our staff.”
Ryan Lemond’s Last Day in Jail
It’s been a wild ride over the last two weeks. Tonight Ryan Lemond says sayonara to KSJail. Last night the inmate received some company from the rest of the KSR crew. They’ll talk about their haunting experience beginning at 10:00 a.m.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
This evening, Kentucky forward EJ Montgomery announced that he would be withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to UK for a sophomore season.
In an official press release, the 6-foot-10 big man said that he enjoyed his first season in Lexington, felt the team did great things, and appreciated the fans for all their support.
“Big Blue Nation, I just want to say thanks for all you’ve done for me and my family,” Montgomery said. “I enjoyed putting on a Kentucky uniform with my brothers and playing in front of the best fans in the nation. I appreciate your support for me and my teammates this season. I want to say thanks for Coach Cal, Coach KP, Coach Joel, Coach Robic and Coach Barbee for pushing me every single day to be the best I can be on and off the court. I got to compete against the best of the best every day in practice. We had a good season on the court because of our love for the grind. I’m proud of what we accomplished together.”
That being said, he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the NBA yet.
“BBN, I’m back. Year two,” he announced.
So what does today’s big decision mean for Kentucky moving forward?
Montgomery can be one heck of a player
Averaging 3.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and a block per game as a freshman, the 6-foot-10 forward didn’t make a major impact from a pure numbers standpoint, and his NBA Draft stock reflected that. After originally testing the waters, Montgomery wasn’t invited to the NBA Combine and there wasn’t a single mock draft from a major media outlet with him included.
Looking at his potential, though, it’s also obvious why teams were fascinated with Montgomery as a potential late second-rounder or undrafted free agent to bring on as a two-way player.
In very short spurts, the Fort Pierce, FL native showed the ability to be an elite rebounder, comfortably bring the ball up the floor, make solid passes, knock down mid-range jumpers, and possess a soft touch around the rim at various moments. He showed he can put it all together at the high school level, hence why he was considered a top-ten recruit in the class of 2018. With another year of college, there was always a chance he would’ve been able to put it all together at Kentucky and turn himself into a lottery pick.
Instead of pulling the trigger on his professional career and potentially getting lost in the shuffle as a G-League player, we get to see if Montgomery can live up to his star potential in Lexington for one more season.
If you ask Kentucky head coach John Calipari, he thinks the now-sophomore can make that happen.
“I’m thrilled to be able to continue to coach EJ,” he said. “He has a special skillset and he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. EJ knows how hard this is going to be, and I know he’s ready to embrace the grind and do everything he can for this team while continuing to develop into the best version of himself.”
Depth at every position
Before yesterday, the only scholarship player Kentucky had listed as over 6-foot-7 was Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina.
With EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards now back for another year, Kentucky has legitimate depth at every position and flexibility to work in several different fun and unique lineup next season.
Here is what the loose depth chart looks like as of today:
PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley
SG: Tyrese Maxey/Johnny Juzang/Brad Calipari
SF: Kahlil Whitney/Dontaie Allen
PF: EJ Montgomery/Keion Brooks Jr.
C: Nick Richards/Nate Sestina
Ten legitimate scholarship players, including eight 5-stars, one 4-star, and a graduate transfer who averaged nearly 16 points and nine rebounds per game last year.
If Calipari wants to utilize a traditional lineup, he can go with Hagans, Maxey, Whitney, Montgomery, and Richards. Small ball lineup with elite versatility? Hagans, Maxey, Juzang, Whitney, and Brooks. Shooting lineup? Quickley, Maxey, Juzang, Brooks, and Sestina. Pure size and length? Hagans, Juzang, Whitney, Montgomery, and Richards.
As mentioned in my “Five reasons to be excited for Junior Nick Richards” post yesterday (you can find that HERE), Calipari is looking to get out and run in transition next season with a roster full of versatile players, and Montgomery fits that mold perfectly. He’s always been incredibly skilled, and if he can slow down and let the game come to him as a sophomore, he can really take that next step forward as a high-level starter in the SEC.
Kentucky can still add one more piece
Now that we have a decision from Montgomery, we can now sit back and relax the rest of the way with little-to-no pressure. Following Nate Sestina’s decision to sign with Kentucky (and when Montgomery and Richards seemed like a lock to return to school), a source within the basketball program told KSR that there is “plenty of room” to add another piece if one presented itself.
At the time of this post, the obvious piece to look at is potential Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. If he decides to withdraw from the NBA Draft, the UK coaching staff is expected to still push for a commitment from him, hoping to give the Wildcats a high-level starter from a Power-5 school for the second year in a row.
If not, 2020 prospects N’Faly Dante, Makur Maker, Cliff Omoruyi, and Isaiah Todd have all been included in reclassification rumors. If the Kentucky coaching staff feels a bit feisty and wants to make a push for one of them to make the jump to provide even more depth, they have the flexibility to.
No matter what happens with Blackshear or what the Kentucky coaching staff decides to do moving forward regarding reclassification candidates, they can do it without the worry of being, for lack of a better word, screwed in the frontcourt. There won’t be any begging and they certainly aren’t desperate.
As it stands right now, the 2019-20 roster is loaded from top to bottom with no real glaring holes. Anything else would be icing on the (already-massive and packed-with-flavor) cake.
Make no mistake about it, Kentucky now has the pieces in place to contend for a national championship next season.
It’s already been a big day for Kentucky’s 2019-20 roster thanks to EJ Montgomery’s decision to return for a sophomore season, and the night is far from over. Kerry Blackshear just made things even more interesting.
The Virginia Tech grad transfer just announced he has withdrawn from the NBA Draft, meaning he’ll be eligible to compete on the collegiate level next season. Blackshear made the announcement on Instagram.
“After taking the time to weigh my options, I have decided to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft. I am still evaluating my options for my last year of eligibility and feel extremely fortunate to be in the position that I am in. I look forward to continuing my education and earning a Master’s degree while competing in the sport that I love as I continue working toward my goal of playing professionally.”
View this post on Instagram
Blackshear, listed at 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, was a second team All-ACC selection last season, averaging 14.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He also led the Hokies with 28 blocked shots and ranked third with 83 assists. He entered his name into the NCAA Transfer Portal after Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams left for the Texas A&M job, and ESPN named him the No. 1 ranked college basketball transfer on the market.
Several insiders predicted Blackshear would leave his name in the Draft or even try his hand at the G League, even though he wasn’t one of the players invited to this year’s NBA Combine. On the other hand, Blackshear was high on Kentucky’s list after announcing his decision to transfer, and the UK staff met with him right away. At one point, Kentucky even seemed like the favorite in the grad transfer’s recruitment. Now, could a Montgomery-Richards-Sestina front court hurt the Cats’ chances?
It’s important to acknowledge his decision to withdraw from the Draft does not necessarily mean Blackshear is heading to Lexington, as he clearly states he’s still evaluating his options. Other contenders include Florida, Gonzaga, Michigan State, Tennessee and Texas A&M, or he could decide to return to Virginia Tech. However, with the NBA officially out of the picture, he could be Kentucky’s to lose.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 6:22pm
Reports of an EJ Montgomery return were released a few minutes before 6:00 ET Wednesday afternoon, but things weren’t necessarily official until Montgomery eventually confirmed the news himself. He made the announcement on Instagram.
“Hey Big Blue Nation: I just want to say thanks for all you’ve done for me and my family. I enjoyed putting on a Kentucky uniform with my brothers and playing in front of the best fans in the nation. I appreciate your support for me and my team this season.”
“I want to say thanks to Coach Cal, Coach KP, Coach Joel, Coach Robic [and] Coach Barbee for pushing me every single day to be the best I can be on and off the court. I got to compete against the best of the best everyday in practice. We had a good season on the court because of our love for the grind. I’m proud of what we accomplished together. BBN, I’m back – year two.”
The folks with UK confirmed the news soon after his video was posted.
We (REALLY) like our team.
Spread the word, EJ is back for his sophomore season.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) May 29, 2019
John Calipari also weighed in, saying Montgomery has only “begun to scratch the surface of his potential.”
“I’m thrilled to be able to continue to coach EJ. He has a special skillset and he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his potential,” Calipari said in the press release. “EJ knows how hard this is going to be, and I know he’s ready to embrace the grind and do everything he can for this team while continuing to develop into the best version of himself.”
Calipari also acknowledged it was a tough choice for Montgomery and his family.
“When EJ and his family set out to go through this NBA Draft process, I told EJ he had my full support no matter what he decided,” Calipari said. “I know this was a tough decision for EJ and his family because of the positive feedback he received throughout this process. EJ improved so much during the season and I know how much he wants to show our fans what he can do with another year.”
By Maggie Davis on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 5:46pm
EJ Montgomery will return to Lexington next year for a sophomore season with John Calipari and the University of Kentucky, according to NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski.
It clearly came down to the wire, but Montgomery ultimately decided a second lap around Rupp Arena is the best move for himself and his future career.
Kentucky F EJ Montgomery will pull out of the 2019 NBA Draft and return to school for his sophomore season, source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 29, 2019
Last season, the freshman averaged 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, while totaling 38 total blocks, 16 steals and 15 assists.
We still haven’t received any official news from Montgomery himself or from the University, but Woj typically knows what he’s talking about. We’ll have more as the story develops.
Jeff Goodman has also announced Montgomery’s pending return.
Kentucky’s EJ Montgomery will return to school, source told @stadium. Much-needed for the ‘Cats.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) May 29, 2019
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 5:16pm
This is not the Kentucky Basketball news you’re waiting for, but the SEC just revealed the home-and-away matchups for each team in the league for the upcoming season.
Kentucky’s permanent home-and-away opponents remain Florida, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. In the 2019-20 season, the Cats will also play Auburn and Georgia twice in the regular season. They’ll also host Alabama, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Missouri and travel to Arkansas, LSU, South Carolina, and Texas A&M. That’s a little confusing in words, so here it is in a nifty chart courtesy of UK:
|2019-20 SEC Home Games||2019-20 SEC Away Games|
|Mississippi State||South Carolina|
My main takeaway? Thank goodness we only have to play LSU once. Also, this gives me a chance to knock Baton Rouge off my SEC bucket list.
Dates and additional non-conference opponents will be released at a later time. Here’s the non-conference schedule as we know it:
- Nov. 5 – vs. Michigan State | Madison Square Garden | New York | State Farm Champions Classic
- Nov. 8 – Eastern Kentucky| Rupp Arena | Lexington
- Nov. 12 – Evansville | Rupp Arena | Lexington
- Dec. 18 – Utah | T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas
- Dec. 21 – Ohio State | T-Mobile Arena | Las Vegas | CBS Sports Classic
And a nifty graphic from Craig Pinkerton so you can see each team’s draw.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 5:00pm
Good afternoon — err, evening, my pals. It’s 5 p.m. in the Eastern Time Zone and there’s still no word on whether EJ Montgomery will keep his name in the NBA Draft or return to Kentucky for a sophomore season.
EJ has until 11:59 p.m. tonight to decide, so we’ve probably still got plenty of waiting ahead of us, but if you’re like me, you need a nibble of news to keep you from passing out on your keyboard. It’s not much, but at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, John Calipari said he’s also still in the dark about EJ’s decision.
John Calipari did not have a lot of information about EJ Montgomery's decision in presser at SEC Meetings.
"We’ll see. Still waiting."
(Quotes via USA TODAY Network colleague @btoppmeyer in Destin)
— Jon Hale (@JonHale_CJ) May 29, 2019
I told you it’s not much, but hey, it’s all we’ve got until EJ talks or Ashton Hagans does an Instagram Live. (Ashton, seriously, where you at?)
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 4:05pm
It may be time to get your passports up to date, Kentucky fans.
According to Darrell Bird of The Cats’ Pause, John Calipari has been contacted about playing in London next season, and the potential opponent is “a good one.”
“[John Calipari] told me he has been contacted about Kentucky playing in London during 2020-21 season,” he said in a Twitter post. “Can’t reveal possible foe, but it’s a good one.”
Kentucky has been on three foreign exhibition trips since Calipari has been in Lexington, with the 2010-11 team playing in Canada and the 2014-15 and 2018-19 teams taking trips to the Bahamas.
In terms of regular season games outside of the states, Kentucky took on Arizona State in Nassau during the 2016-17, while the 2009-10 Wildcats played two games in Cancun as part of the Cancun Challenge.
Tennessee and Auburn may have lost their point guards to the NBA Draft, but Florida’s is coming back. Andrew Nembhard just announced he’s withdrawing his name from the draft to return to Florida for his sophomore season.
— Andrew Nembhard (@AndrewNembhard) May 29, 2019
Nembhard averaged 8.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds while starting all 36 games as a freshman. Having him back will be a big boost for the Gators, who also return Keyontae Johnson and Noah Locke and add five-star recruit Scottie Lewis and two other top 50 prospects in Tre Mann and Omar Payne.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 11:30am
The Miami Heat have the No. 13 pick in next month’s NBA Draft, and according to a new report, they’re looking hard at Kentucky’s three draft prospects.
The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson is reporting that the Heat have scheduled a private workout with PJ Washington and plan to bring in Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson as well.
“The Heat’s interest in Kentucky prospects is not surprising,” Jackson writes. “Heat president Pat Riley attended school there and keeps a close eye on the Wildcats program. Coach John Calipari often produces NBA-ready prospects. And the Heat’s most recent first-round pick, Bam Adebayo, played at Kentucky.”
Back in 2017, Riley made it his mission to draft Adebayo with Miami’s No. 14 pick, in part because Bam’s a beast, but also because he admires what Calipari’s doing at Kentucky.
“I’m a big fan of what John [Calipari] does from a coaching standpoint at Kentucky. He comes from a great system,” Riley said. “What [Calipari] said to me was, [Bam] was a great teammate, a wonderful teammate to have. When we talked to him, he had a level of maturity about him, a quietness about him that we really liked.”
Calipari brings up his conversations with Riley a lot as proof Kentucky best prepares players for the league.
“Pat Riley gave me one of the greatest compliments about what we do,” Cal said at a coaching clinic earlier this month. “He said, ‘Your players are some of the best teammates in the NBA.'”
"Pat Riley gave me one of the greatest compliments about what we do. He said, 'Your players are some of the best teammates in the NBA.'"Coach Cal's vision for UK's culture starts in recruiting. You can watch his full discussion on building and sustaining a culture of excellence at www.CoachCal.com.
Posted by CoachCal.com on Monday, May 13, 2019
Will another former Cat join Bam in Miami? If Riley has his way, it sounds like it.
By Aaron Torres on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 11:00am
The internet really is a funny place sometimes.
Yesterday, I wrote an article detailing why I didn’t think it was the best move for RJ Hampton to spend next season in New Zealand playing in the NBL Australia’s professional basketball league. Honestly, at the time, the article didn’t feel all that “controversial” to me. Hampton’s stated reasoning for going to Australia was that this league would “best prepare him” for the NBA in 2020 and beyond, and I simply didn’t believe that. I simply didn’t buy that playing in a league with a 28-game schedule, against good, but not elite international competition was the “best” way to prepare him for the NBA.
And yes, the competition is good, but not elite. With all due respect, the last two Rookie’s of the Year in the league have been Isaac Humphries (Kentucky) and Harry Froling (Marquette), two players who literally couldn’t get off the bench for major colleges.
To be clear, I never said the level of competition in college is better than Australia. But again, Hampton’s stated goal was to do what will “best prepare him for the NBA.” And as I said on my podcast (though unfortunately not in the article), part of the “best way to prepare” is to play against the best possible competition. Therefore, playing in the G-League (which is an option for elite high school players) or in a top European league seemed like it would be better preparation. Beyond that, if it was really about “living a pro lifestyle” I believe that college was just as good of an option, you know, since colleges actually play more games, over a shorter stretch of time than the NBL.
Now call me crazy, but to me, that doesn’t feel all that controversial of a take. You can disagree, but my argument seems relatively simple and logically thought out.
Or, so I thought.
Because apparently I caused an international controversy by simply stating that I don’t believe Australia/New Zealand is the best option for RJ Hampton next season – which it isn’t.
In essence, I got the entire country of Australia mad.
There were so many tweets that my thumb got tired scrolling through them all. But here are some of the best ones:
This is the most laughably dumb thing I’ve read in a couple of days. Do yourself the favour and give him the clicks he desperately wants. You’ll enjoy the hell out of reading it. https://t.co/XOa7v1YIcR
— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottliebFOX) May 29, 2019
Sometimes, you read a story and decide that is enough internet for the day. This is that story.
— Scott Pryde (@sk_pryde) May 29, 2019
— Brayden Heslehurst (@bheslehurst) May 29, 2019
Tiago’s tweet doesn’t really make sense, which is disappointing since he has “writer” in his bio. I do appreciate the effort of casually dropping an f-bomb in however.
This how you fucked up being a writer without consulting good sources… Smh https://t.co/1k90fIF6rj
— Tiago Magalhães (@tiagomag12) May 29, 2019
For those who tried to defend the league (which isn’t necessary), they argued that the league has produced several future NBA players the last couple years. You know, the same amount that the big-time colleges (Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Kansas) produce every season:
Wow what a piss poor article ! Torrent Craig (Nuggets) Bogut (Warriors) T Furgeson (OKC) played NBL last 2 seasons n are on NBA rosters. This is why the US is a laughing stock when you can’t even use the Internet properly https://t.co/unw3UztgRP
— ?Geoff Scott (@Insane_Itchy) May 29, 2019
Over the past two years playing NBL looks to have worked out well for:
So there doed appear to be 'a shred of evidence' playing NBL can develop your game in readiness for NBA.
— Millsy (@swooper_16) May 29, 2019
Heck, Harry Froling, last year’s NBL Rookie of the Year even got involved. Yes, the same Harry Froling who averaged three points per game at Marquette two years ago.
— Harry Froling (@HarryFroling) May 29, 2019
There are more and more and more and more, but we’ll just stop here. Especially since this whole story ends with a happy ending.
Although, I have pissed off every fan and media member in Australia, the folks at the NBL, the league Hampton will play in, couldn’t have been nicer, even if he called me Adam.
Think you are grossly underestimating the NBL Adam. Happy to chat further however!
— Nick Johnston (@nick_nbl) May 29, 2019
After a few DM’s with Nick, it appears as though the head of the league will be appearing on the next Aaron Torres Sports Podcast to discuss my article.
And sorry to all of Australia for making you mad.
Even if what I wrote was true.
By Jack Pilgrim on ©May 28th, 2019 @ 11:00pm
This afternoon, Sophomore Nick Richards officially graduated to Junior Nick Richards, as the 6-foot-11 center announced he would be returning to Kentucky for another season.
“These past two years have been the best of my life,” Richards said in a press release. “It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve learned a lot, but the job’s not done yet. BBN, are you ready for year three?”
We know it’s a big decision for the Wildcats and the layout of the 2019-20 roster, but why?
Here are five reasons why Kentucky fans should be excited about Richard sticking around for another season in Lexington:
It was a necessity
Before we get into the specifics of what Richards brings to the table as a player, the fact of the matter is that Kentucky needed a body in the frontcourt, and they needed one badly.
We’re still waiting on a decision from freshman forward EJ Montgomery, but looking at the roster as it currently stands, they are loaded in the backcourt and incredibly thin up front. Before Richards made his decision today, Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina (6-foot-9) was the only confirmed scholarship player on the roster listed as taller than 6-foot-7.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has flirted with small-ball lineups as of late, and he certainly has the tools to utilize them a lot more next season with Kahlil Whitney and Keion Brooks Jr. both being solid post threats. Having just one legitimate big man, though, is far too risky going into the year.
If Montgomery leaves for the NBA Draft, Kentucky would still like one more piece to add to the frontcourt, with Kerry Blackshear Jr. being the obvious replacement option. If the Virginia Tech forward stays in the draft, that would leave the UK coaching staff scouring the graduate transfer market (slim pickings) and/or forcing their hand to convince a 2020 prospect or two to reclassify to 2019.
One more piece is certainly doable. Adding two solid contributors this late in the game, though? That’s an awful lot of pressure on the coaching staff.
With Richards now back for a junior campaign, the Cats have a bit of flexibility and far less weight on their shoulders to hit a home run to close out the 2019-20 roster.
Potential for spike in production
As much as Kentucky needed Richards to return from a pure numbers standpoint, it’s also important to factor in that we could see a massive jump in the 6-foot-11 center’s game next season.
Looking at Willie Cauley-Stein’s statistics from his time in Lexington, specifically during his phenomenal junior campaign, the 7-footer managed PER-40 numbers of 13.8 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per contest. Taking an even deeper look, Cauley-Stein finished with an offensive rating (points scored or produced per 100 possessions) of 119.8 and a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 80.
As for Richards last year, the sophomore big man had PER-40 totals of 13.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 4.2 blocks per game to go with an offensive rating of 123.1 and a defensive rating of 93.4.
Obviously Cauley-Stein was the superior player and was a consensus First-Team All-American and National Defensive Player of the Year for a reason, but Richards is no chopped liver.
When he announced he was returning to school this afternoon, John Calipari said that he believes Richards could be the best big man in the nation.
In fact, he expects it.
“I’m excited to continue to coach Nick because I know how special he can be,” he said. “I’ve told him, ‘If you come back, I’m expecting you to be one of the best big men in the country.’ There is no reason he can’t be. There is nothing that Nick hasn’t seen at this point, and he knows what my expectations are for him in his junior season. I want him to dominate the game and affect it on every single possession.”
With confidence, Richards has proven he can be that dominant player. He’s had point totals of 25, 14, 12, 11, and 10 (five times), rebound totals of 19, 15 (twice), nine (twice), and eight (five times), and has finished with two or more blocks 21 times in two seasons as a Wildcat.
We joked a lot about “Sophomore Nick Richards” last year, but if he can combine his natural gifts as a pure athlete with just a slight bit of confidence in his abilities, the forward out of Kingston, Jamaica can be a high-impact player for Kentucky next season.
Style of play
As mentioned earlier, Coach Cal toyed with small-ball lineups a bit last season, and judging by how he has constructed his roster with long, athletic wings, he’s interested in doing something similar this season. In fact, sources have told KSR that the Kentucky head coach is trying to go back to his four-out Dribble Drive system this season and play in the open floor as much as possible.
Richards is the perfect big man to make that happen.
The current roster is loaded with players that thrive in transition and are comfortable making plays with the ball in their hands. Ashton Hagans, Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley, Johnny Juzang, Whitney, Brooks Jr., and Dontaie Allen are all stellar at grabbing rebounds and/or loose balls and just taking off. With Sestina having the ability to knock down deep jumpers at a consistent rate, the only obvious hole on the team was a rim running big with the ability to run the floor, catch lobs, and defend the paint.
Richards is that guy.
He was compared to Cauley-Stein as a high school recruit, and unfortunately, we’ve only seen flashes of that in his first two years in Lexington. In his third, the fit is perfect for Richards to finally unlock some of that hidden potential.
This is an easy point to make, but it’s always an important and valuable one.
In two years, Richards has been to a Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight. He’s had his ups and downs as a player, but he knows what it takes to win basketball games in the SEC and in postseason play.
We’ve seen sophomores like PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel, Isaiah Briscoe, and Tyler Ulis play major roles in recent memory, and we’ve also had graduate transfers such as Reid Travis, Julius Mays, and now Nate Sestina provide guidance as college basketball veterans. That being said, we rarely see third-year players with two full seasons under their belt in Lexington with the ability to provide that much-needed leadership in the locker room. In fact, this is the first time in three years that Kentucky has had a scholarship junior on the roster.
To take it a step further, it’s entirely possible that Kentucky boasts a starting lineup with a true freshman (Maxey, Whitney), sophomore (Hagans), junior (Richards), and senior (Sestina) next season.
Keeping Richards around for another year was huge for team chemistry and overall leadership.
Time for more phenomenal quotes
During his first season at Kentucky, Richards told KSR at UK Media Day that he enjoyed sitting in the dark in his free time. No television, no phone, no distractions, nothing.
“Nick Richards, he loves to sit in the dark. I don’t know why,” former UK point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said in 2017. “A lot of times when I go to his room, he’s just in the dark. His blinds are always down, he just loves the dark. I don’t understand why.”
When asked for his response, the Kentucky center had no rebuttal.
“Yeah, I do,” Richards said. “(I don’t meditate, either), I just… Whenever I’m by myself, I love sitting in the dark. It’s just how I’ve been since I was a little kid. I didn’t really like being around lights that much. I guess that’s a bad habit of mine.”
(Proof is HERE if you don’t believe me)
And then oddly enough, when Drew Franklin asked him about it this past season, Richards acted like he had no idea what he was talking about. Whether he dropped the habit, forgot he ever did it, or just lied, the quote was an absolute gem.
Fast forward to the end of this past season, Richards gave us yet another fascinating quote during the NCAA Tournament that certainly made headlines.
Prior to Kentucky’s Round of 32 matchup with Wofford, the Wildcat big man said the UK frontcourt was simply “better than them overall.”
“It’s a really good advantage for us,” he said. “They’re not really as athletic. … Their bigs are really skilled around the basket, they know how to move on the floor, but we’re just better than them overall, I think, so the advantage is our way, in my opinion.”
Probably wasn’t the best idea to give the Terriers locker room material with the season on the line, but it was priceless either way.
Hopefully a confidence boost this offseason will provide more great quotes and even better on-court performances.
Sophomore Junior Nick Richards.
We’ve seen the last of Jordan Bone in a Tennessee uniform. The Volunteers point guard just announced he will keep his name in the NBA Draft, ending his career in Knoxville.
— Jordan Bone (@JordanBone23) May 29, 2019
Bone was a key part of Tennessee’s run this past season, averaging 13.5 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. He was particularly pesky vs. Kentucky, averaging 21.3 points and 4.7 assists in three games vs. the Cats, including 27 points in the Vols’ rout in Knoxville.
Tennessee has now lost four starters from last year’s team: Bone; Grant Williams, who decided to forego his final year of eligibility; and Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander, who graduated.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 28th, 2019 @ 8:00pm
Kentucky’s NBA Draft decisions have obviously dominated the conversation on this website, but how are the Cats’ foes looking ahead of tomorrow’s early entry withdrawal deadline? Here’s a running list of who’s staying in the draft, who’s returning to school, and who’s still undecided as we close in on the final hours of limbo.
Undecided: Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson
It’s already been a rough week for Kansas after prime target RJ Hampton announced he’s taking his talents to New Zealand. Now, Bill Self has to wait to hear what Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson will do. If both stay in the draft, the Jayhawks’ backcourt will take a huge hit; however, Kansas did get a break last week when the NCAA ruled forward Silvio de Sousa eligible for the upcoming season.
Staying in draft: Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Marques Boldon
Returning to school: Javin DeLaurier
It was obvious the Blue Devils were going to lose the big three of Zion, RJ, and Reddish, but Marques Bolden announced yesterday that he will also remain in the draft, foregoing his final year of eligibility. That made fellow big man Javin DeLaurier’s decision to return to Duke a little easier. He’ll share Duke’s frontcourt with Jack White and freshmen Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey. Point guard Tre Jones, who did not declare for the draft, will give the Blue Devils some much-needed experience in the backcourt.
Staying in draft: VJ King
Returning to school: Steven Enoch
Undecided: Jordan Nwora
Forward VJ King was going to transfer from Louisville even if he took his name out of the draft, but the Cards got some good news today when center Steven Enoch announced he’s returning to school. Enoch averaged 9.2 points and 5.2 rebounds as a junior last season, but the big decision Chris Mack is waiting on is from forward Jordan Nwora, who averaged 17.0 points and 7.6 rebounds as a sophomore.
Staying in draft: Nick Ward
Returning to school: Cassius Winston
Kentucky’s first opponent of the season got some good news today when Marquette forward Joey Hauser committed to play for Tom Izzo, although he’ll have to sit out the 2019-20 season. Regardless, the Spartans will be stacked. The loss of big man Nick Ward to the draft was offset by the return of point guard Cassius Winston, the Big Ten Player of the Year who decided to come back for his senior year.
Returning to school: Kaleb Wesson
When Ohio State plays Kentucky in Las Vegas on December 21, they’ll be led by big man Kaleb Wesson, who announced today he’s returning to school for his junior season. Last year, he averaged 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
Staying in draft: Grant Williams
Undecided: Jordan Bone
Bone is still mulling things over, but most — including Rick Barnes — believe he’ll remain in the draft. Bone was one of the best point guards in the SEC last season, so his decision has huge implications for the Volunteers, who will already be in rebuilding mode after losing Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander to graduation.
Staying in draft: Naz Reid, Tremont Waters
Returning to school: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Marlon Taylor, Emmitt Williams
Of LSU’s six players to declare for the NBA Draft, four are returning to Baton Rouge next season. Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, and Marlon Taylor will help fill the void left by Tremont Waters, who will stay in the draft, while Emmitt Williams and his short shorts will take over for Naz Reid on the inside.
Staying in draft (reportedly): Nic Claxton
Jonathan Givony reported a few hours ago that Georgia forward Nic Claxton will stay in the draft, although Claxton said on Instagram that he still hasn’t made his mind up:
Georgia’s Nic Claxton just posted this to his Instagram addressing reports he will remain in the NBA draft.
“I haven’t made a decision yet I’m still consulting with my family.” pic.twitter.com/htFeuiCJFg
— Kyle Boone (@Kyle__Boone) May 28, 2019
Claxton averaged 13.0 points and 8.6 rebounds last season for the Dawgs and is a projected first round pick. Getting him back for another season would be huge for Tom Crean.
Returning to school: A.J. Lawson
Yes, that’s Pitbull you hear because Frank Martin is celebrating. A few hours ago, South Carolina guard A.J. Lawson announced he’s coming back to school, which is big, big news for the Gamecocks. Lawson averaged 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists last season and was named to the SEC All-Freshmen Team.
— Frank Martin (@FrankMartin_SC) May 28, 2019
Undecided: Reggie Perry
After averaging 9.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last season, Reggie Perry is still contemplating a jump to the pros. Perry earned an invite to the NBA Draft Combine after turning heads at the G-League Elite Camp.
Undecided: Andrew Nembhard
Florida’s starting point guard has one more NBA team workout to go through before making his final decision on whether or not to stay in the draft. As a freshman, Nembhard averaged 8.0 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds.
Staying in draft: Darius Garland, Simi Shittu
Darius Garland made his intentions clear when he left school back in January, but on Friday, Vandy big man Simi Shittu announced he’s staying in the draft as well. As a freshman, the former five-star recruit averaged 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and is projected to go undrafted.
Staying in draft: Daniel Gafford
Predictably, Daniel Gafford is staying in the draft after his sophomore season at Arkansas. Yesterday, first-year coach Eric Musselman added another transfer in guard Jimmy Whitt Jr., who actually played for the Razorbacks his freshman season before transferring to SMU. He’s the fifth transfer to commit to Arkansas since Musselman took over in April.
Staying in draft: Chuma Okeke
Undecided: Jared Harper
Jared Harper, who burned Kentucky in the second half of the Elite Eight nightmare, has yet to announce if he’s keeping his name in the draft or returning to school for his senior season, but Jeff Goodman is reporting that he’s leaning towards staying in alongside fellow Tiger Chuma Okeke. If so, Bruce Pearl will have quite a rebuilding project on his hands after also losing Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, and Malik Dunbar to graduation. Ain’t it a shame.
UPDATE: Tennessee’s Jordan Bone announced he is staying in the draft. Reggie Perry announced he is returning to Mississippi State.
By Aaron Torres on ©May 28th, 2019 @ 7:00pm
On Tuesday morning, RJ Hampton sat down in front of ESPN’s cameras and made the announcement that every kid dreams of when he first picks up a basketball…. He’ll be playing next season for the New Zealand Breakers.
Ok so obviously I’m being sarcastic, but it is a decision that sent shockwaves across the entire world of basketball. There have been players who have gone overseas for a year (Brandon Jennings, Jeremy Tyler, Emmanuel Mudiay and Terrence Ferguson) and a few others who’ve sat out of college basketball all together (Mitchell Robinson and Darius Bazley). But none quite like Hampton.
The reasons are two-fold. One, there were no academic or NCAA issues holding Hampton back. Unlike Jennings, Mudiay and Ferguson, if RJ Hampton wanted to play college basketball, there was nothing stopping him. But two, and more importantly, he’s simply better than all of them. Hampton was by basically any tangible measurement, one of the Top 5 prospects in America last year. Barring something shocking, he will be a Top 5 pick next year’s NBA Draft – the kid is honestly that good. Yet rather than playing it safe and doing what hundreds of other elite prospects did, he took an alternative path.
And ultimately, if there was any doubt why he chose that alternative path, Hampton made it clear Tuesday morning on ESPN. He said it’s because he believes that this is what will best prepare him for a future in the NBA.
“My No. 1 goal is to play in the NBA,” Hampton said. “I wanted to be an NBA player before I ever wanted to be a college player. This is about getting ready for the next level faster and more efficiently.”
And that’s all fair and good, and of course the media went out of the way to applaud him for such a courageous decision. There’s just one problem: After doing some pretty extensive research on Hampton’s new team and league, I can’t find a single shred of evidence that it will actually better prepare him better for the NBA than college would have. If anything, I think you could make a legitimate case it’s the exact opposite, that college is the better alternative than this particular pro league.
Now before we go further, I want to make something abundantly clear: This article wasn’t written to go after Hampton or his family. I didn’t do this because I love college basketball (which I do) and want to attack any kid who makes any alternate decision. Hampton made the decision that was best for he and his family, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
What bothers me is the media lauding him for the decision without doing any research. Because like I said, I can’t find a single ounce of evidence that would indicate that from strictly a basketball standpoint, this was a better decision for him than going to a big-time college basketball power.
Now for those of you who don’t know anything about the NBL (which was me, like six hours ago) let me give you a few details. Because while the NBL is, in theory, a pro league, with salaries and arenas and things of that nature, it isn’t a pro league in the traditional sense that we think of in America. As best I can tell, it’s more on par with a high-major college league. The players are a little older, and the amenities are a little worse. But playing in this league will be a far cry from playing in a junior/mini NBA, which is what everyone has made it out to be.
For starters, the NBL season basically runs equivalent to the college season. Games start in early October and run through early March. But here’s the catch: They only play 28 regular season games, plus a few for the playoffs. This year’s NBL champs, the Perth Wildcats, played a grand total of 34 games this year, including the playoffs.
In essence, the NBL runs over the same period of time as college hoops, only plays fewer games. So if part of this decision was to allow Hampton to adjust to the “professional lifestyle” (like he said on Tuesday morning) well he’s really not doing that. This league isn’t about playing one game and hopping on a flight to the next like in the NBA, and it certainly won’t prepare Hampton for the grind of an 82-game NBA schedule any better than college basketball would have. I sure hope he likes to practice, because that’s basically what’s he’s going to be doing every day for six months of his life.
Now of course at the same time, I know most of you are thinking: Ok, fine, whatever, the schedule isn’t so intense. But the competition level in Australia will be way better than in college basketball. He will be playing against grown men after all.
Serious question though: What if those grown men aren’t all that good?
Because here’s what you need to know about the big, bad, mighty NBL, which is going to so well prepare Hampton for the NBA next season: The 2019 league MVP was… Andrew Bogut. The same Andrew Bogut who hasn’t averaged more than six points per game in the NBA since 2014. The same Andrew Bogut who returned to the Golden State Warriors for the playoff push late this season (once the NBL season was done) and played a grand total of 24 minutes in the Western Conference Finals.
Honestly, Bogut is a great leader and locker room presence, but at this point is actual basketball tangibles are up for debate. If there were 450 players on NBA rosters this season, I don’t think you could legitimately make a case that he was in the Top 400. And that’s the guy who was the best player in this league?
As a matter of fact, let’s take things one step further: You know who won the Rookie of the Year in the NBL last season? A guy by the name of Harry Froling, a kid that college basketball fans should tangentially remember. He played at Marquette two seasons ago and averaged three points per game. Two years ago the league’s Rookie of the Year was Isaac Humphries, who couldn’t get off the bench at Kentucky.
So to be clear… the last two Rookie’s of the Year in the NBL couldn’t get off the bench at major colleges. And… THIS LEAGUE IS GOING TO BETTER PREPARE RJ HAMPTON FOR THE NBA THAN COLLEGE??? WHEN THEIR TWO BEST PLAYERS COULDN’T EVEN PLAY IN COLLEGE? JUST STOP!!!!!!!!
And I haven’t even hit on other factors. Remember, “preparing” for the NBA isn’t just about the competition on the floor (which is suspect at best) but other variables too. For example, what are the weight-training programs like in the NBL? I know he’d be working with a work class strength and conditioning coach at Kansas, Memphis, Duke or Kentucky. I can’t say I’m as sure about the merits of the Breakers’ strength plan. What will he be eating while he’s over there? Because I know that every major college basketball program in America has a nutritionist, and in many cases, a private chef on staff.
By the way, if this path really is going to so much better prepare him for the NBA than college, shouldn’t we at least go back to the last kid who went from high school, to the NBL, to the NBA? That would be Terrence Ferguson who skipped a season at Arizona, went on to the NBL, then was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017. In his first NBA season, he averaged three points per game. In his second NBA season this year he averaged seven. Well by golly, it sure does show how much better he is because of his season in Australia. How much would he be averaging had he gone to college instead of played professionally? Half a point worse. Again, just stop.
Now again to be clear, this isn’t anything personal about RJ Hampton. He’s a great kid and a great player, and the bottom-line is that he is going to end up a Top 5 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft whether he played at Kansas or with the New Zealand Breakers next year. In his case, he chose the path that was best for him, even if it was a bit different.
My only issue is using the reasoning that it will better prepare him for the NBA than college basketball.
That simply isn’t true at all.
Emmitt Williams and his short shorts aren’t done with college basketball yet. Williams’ AAU coach told Jon Rothstein that the big man will return to LSU for his sophomore season, which is big, big news for Will Wade.
Last season, Williams averaged 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds for the Tigers, and with Naz Reid off to the NBA, his role will expand. Guards Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, and Marlon Taylor will also return after testing the draft waters, while Tremont Waters elected to keep his name in. Five-star forward Trendon Watford will also join the fold, making LSU a formidable foe once again.
Get ready to see those thighs!
With Nick Richards back on board for another run at the title, Kentucky now has two big men locked in on next year’s roster: Richards and Nate Sestina, the grad transfer out of Bucknell. Those are two good pieces, but they won’t be enough. Kentucky still needs to add one more and the two obvious options for that spot are EJ Montgomery and Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Montgomery is the most likely of the two, but he is far from a sure thing to rejoin his old college team. Matter of fact, I’m beginning to think it is more likely he goes than returns. Word around Montgomery is he really wants to turn pro this summer, so much that he is willing to take any kind of a promise from an NBA team. Then there was last week’s comment from Tony Delk, who had a training session with Montgomery, saying he thinks Montgomery is leaning toward staying in the draft and leaving Kentucky for good.
Whether or not leaving is the best option for Montgomery is meaningless at this point because he has probably already made up his mind. The deadline to return to school is at midnight tomorrow night, so we will soon know his final decision. My guess is it will come tomorrow afternoon. If he returns, Kentucky is in pretty good shape with the three big men plus talent at every other position. Adding Blackshear would be a lovely bonus, but Calipari can roll with three big guys. If Montgomery goes, we turn to Blackshear for much-needed help.
Blackshear’s situation is a little different than Montgomery’s in that he doesn’t have to make a final decision by tomorrow at midnight. He can decide to return to college basketball, but there is no rush to name which school he will attend for his grad transfer year. One can assume Kentucky will be in the mix, maybe even the leader if Montgomery isn’t back, but Blackshear can make that decision on his own timetable because he has immediate eligibility to transfer wherever.
Like Montgomery, though, the belief around Blackshear is that he too wants to keep his name in the draft. However, he isn’t considered a highly-rated prospect by any of the major services. He doesn’t even crack ESPN’s top 100 players in this draft class. But that doesn’t mean he won’t make the decision to go ahead and start earning a living as a professional somewhere.
Bottom line here is it is great to have Richards back for a junior season, but Kentucky still needs one more body in the paint and either Montgomery or Blackshear will do. Fans may disagree on which of those two they prefer, but the future of one of the options, Montgomery, will be decided within the next 35 hours because it has to be made. He can solve UK’s big man problem by midnight tomorrow night.
Your move, EJ.