If you think of the top two players on the Kentucky roster that have shown the most individual development from last season to the current one, it’s nearly impossible not to single out both Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley right away.
Since last season, Richards has more than tripled his scoring average (4.0 PPG to 13.4 PPG), doubled his rebounding totals (3.3 RPG to 7.8 RPG), doubled his block totals (1.3 BPG to 2.4 BPG), and is managing a career-high in overall shooting at 68.2%. Meanwhile, Quickley has also nearly tripled his scoring average (5.2 PPG to 13.7 PPG), doubled his rebounding totals (1.8 RPG to 4.2 RPG), and he has seen his shooting averages raise across the board (42/41/93 splits from 37/35/83 last season).
While both players have worked hard in the gym from a skill standpoint, John Calipari credits the majority of their success to getting their bodies right.
“What do y’all think the number one thing with Nick that got him over the hump? … What do you think was the reason he got over the hump? He’s in shape,” Calipari said. “He put himself in great shape, so now he doesn’t surrender. It makes you a coward. You just surrender. He is in great shape.”
Right on par with Richards from a conditioning standpoint? Quickley.
“Who is the other guy in supreme condition? Immanuel,” he said.
Calipari is using those two success stories for EJ Montgomery, who the Kentucky head coach feels is right on the cusp of reaching that level of development.
“You know who is now doing extra conditioning? E.J. Is it showing? Yes,” he said of Montgomery, who finished with ten points on 4-6 shooting, six rebounds, two blocks, and one steal in 19 minutes of action. “It’s not going to happen overnight, though. Took Nick three years. … So look at him. [He asks], “Can I just get more shots? Can you just not say anything and leave me in the game?” How about you do the hardest thing, which is get in great condition, and then see where it takes you. Then all of a sudden you do stuff that you didn’t even know you can do, which builds your confidence and yourself esteem. It’s not what I say.”
According to Montgomery, UK associate head coach Kenny Payne has been putting in extra work outside of practice helping him get where he wants to be.
“Every chance I can, [Kenny Payne] grabs me and helps me with conditioning,” he said. “Trying to get me in better shape so I can play my hardest the whole game.”
And how do they train? The old fashioned way, of course.
“Line it up, foot on the line, and start running,” he said.
Now, he feels the confidence is allowing him to take the next step forward as a player.
“I feel like I’m getting better,” he added. “I feel like I’m going out there [each night] doing what it takes to help my team win.”