I think the play of Nick Richards has been the top storyline of this UK basketball season so far. Not only has he shown improvement in several areas of his game, but the consistency he has shown so far has been very encouraging. With Nate Sestina out for several weeks, Richards stepped right into a bigger role and has become this team’s leading scorer. And whether or not you think that is a good thing, it has been a thing that has helped UK through some tight games.
But I would caution people on one thing when it comes to Richards play so far. He has not been playing very many guys his size, either in height or weight, in UK’s first 8 games. Take a look at each opponent’s biggest starter so far in the first 8 games:
Nick Richards: 6’11”, 245 lbs.
Michigan State (7 points, 4 rebounds)
Xavier Tillman: 6’8”, 245 lbs.
Eastern Kentucky (21 points, 10 rebounds)
Darius Hicks: 6’8”, 225 lbs.
Evansville (6 points, 6 rebounds)
Deandre Williams: 6’9”, 190 lbs.
Utah Valley (21 points, 10 rebounds)
Brandon Morley: 7’0”, 225 lbs.
Mount St. Mary’s (19 points, 6 rebounds)
Malik Jefferson: 6’9”, 230 lbs.
Lamar (10 points, 13 rebounds)
David Muoka: 6’10”, 210 lbs.
UAB (16 points, 9 rebounds)
Tamell Pearson: 6’10”, 223 lbs.
Fairleigh Dickinson (12 points, 10 rebounds)
Kaleb Bishop: 6’8”, 210 lbs.
Richards has only faced up with one guy who weighs as much as he does, Xavier Tillman of Michigan State, and in that game Richards had his lowest rebound output. And he’s only faced one player who was 6’11” or taller, Morley from Utah Valley. Now in that game Richards had a huge game, collecting 21 points and 10 boards, but Morley was also giving up 20 pounds to Richards. I want to see Richards up against some guys with his height and bulk and see how he handles that. And luckily, we’ve got that coming up. Take a look at some guys Richards will be matching up with soon:
GEORGIA TECH: James Banks III, 6’10”, 250 lbs.
OHIO STATE: Kaleb Wesson, 6’9”, 270 lbs.
LOUISVILLE: Steven Enoch, 6’10”, 255 lbs.
MISSOURI: Jeremiah Tilmon, 6’10”, 260 lbs.
Richards is set to play 4 guys in the next 5 games who carry more weight than him and all stand at least 6’9”. And Utah, who I didn’t list here, has a 7-foot starting center but is slight in frame. These next 5 games will show me a lot about what Nick Richards can truly be this season. If he still remains a double-double threat and one of the team’s leading scorers, then I think we have officially seen the transformation of Richards into a real key piece on this team. If we see him bullied and in foul trouble, with low rebound numbers and turnovers, then I worry what we saw in these first 8 games was just a big guy bullying smaller players.