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Hamidou Diallo finally had his One Shining Moment. Now it’s time for Nick Richards to break through.

Throughout the regular season, Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards were massive question marks in terms of what kind of production you’d see on any given night. Each of them had their moments, but not once did the term “consistency” go hand-in-hand with either of their names.

Diallo had the Virginia Tech, Monmouth, Harvard, and Texas A&M games, among others, where he showed an impressive combination of athleticism and efficiency. The game slowed down for him, and it looked like things were clicking.

But then you saw the 13 conference games he failed to reach double-figures, lack of energy, arguing with teammates and coaches, and pure frustration.

For Richards, he had his ridiculous 25-point, 15-rebound performance against IPFW, the clutch putback dunk against West Virginia, and seven total games with ten or more points. He showed the ability to block shots, run the floor, convert on alley-oops, and rebound. He was always raw offensively, but the potential was there, and he did enough elsewhere on the court to make a positive impact.

But then you saw the 15 conference games (including the SEC Tournament) he scored just five points or less, fumbled balls, opponents dominating him in the post, and a massive decline in minutes.

It has been a roller coaster ride for both players this season, but you know the one thing that has remained consistent in the process?

John Calipari’s trust in each of them.

If you were to scroll through social media on any given gameday, especially during the conference schedule, questions of Coach Cal’s neverending and tireless habit of starting Hamidou Diallo and Nick Richards were guaranteed to pop up on your timeline at least once. And rightfully so. Why not start the players you expect to see thrive night in and night out?

Half the time, it wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to yank one or both players from the lineup. If they struggled, Calipari had options on the bench to replace them with, and he never hesitated to utilize them.

Yet Calipari started both Diallo and Richards in every single game this season. Every one.

Was it so he could “whine” about starting freshmen and easily having the youngest starting lineup in the nation?

No, it was for the moment Diallo had yesterday afternoon.

This moment.

“The team absolutely mauled him when he walked in,” Calipari said after the game. “Every guy was standing on chairs, hugging him. It was neat to see.”

Diallo finished the day with  22 points on 9-12 shooting, eight rebounds, two blocks, and several jaw-dropping highlights. His energy was remarkable, he made game-winning plays, and his smile shined brighter than we’ve ever seen in his time at Kentucky.

In the wise words of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Wildcats would not be Sweet Sixteen bound if it weren’t for Hamidou Diallo.

Personally, I don’t think we win tonight without Hami,” Gilgeous-Alexander said afterward. “He played huge for us down the stretch. We went to him a little bit in a set, and he had like four baskets in a row that were really big. He works really hard, and when you work hard, good things are going to happen for you.”

For all of the comments Calipari has made throughout the season about Diallo being someone’s son, not giving up on him, taking it one game at a time, etc., it finally all made sense. The puzzle pieces finally came together and it was truly special to see.

While Diallo is being celebrated for his big break in the Round of 32, the latter half of the duo in question still has a lot left to prove. In fact, he might be the only guy left in the regular rotation that hasn’t broken through that rookie wall, if you ask John Calipari, at least.

Nick is the only one that’s not breaking through right now,” said Calipari. “For him personally, I want to see him block and play…I want him to break through.”

In Kentucky’s 95-75 victory over Buffalo, Richards finished with just two points, two rebounds, and two fouls in eight minutes of action. It was the fourth game in a row and sixth of the last seven he had seen less than ten minutes of playing time. He has been virtually unplayable at times late in the season, and that holds true even in the NCAA Tournament. Missed defensive assignments, being just a hair late on nearly every play at the basket, foul trouble, scoring opportunities lost at the basket, etc. have held him back. Unfortunately, it has been a snowball effect that ultimately always leads to Richards finding his way back to the bench.

But Diallo had been deemed unplayable, too. He almost always found himself on the bench, as well. In the last game of the regular season in Gainesville, Diallo managed just one point on 0-7 shooting, a turnover, and a foul in 23 minutes of action. With the lineup of Gilgeous-Alexander, Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt, and PJ Washington working so well together, fans begged for Calipari to continue with that core group of guys going forward.

And then Diallo broke through, just like Calipari knew was going to happen sooner or later. Just like he knows Richards will, too.

“It’s like I was with Hami (Diallo), with Nick (Richards) and I just—we need (Nick). So starting him, maybe he gets going in a game and it’s like Hamidou and he has a breakthrough. Before you can worry about conquering somebody else, you gotta conquer yourself,” Calipari said earlier this month.

Everyone else on the team is having their taste of the pie, with some even going back for seconds, all while Nick Richards is left craving his first serving.

“I’m just letting him know he has to stay prepared because we’re going to need him,” Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones told the media following their opening round victory against Davidson. “There’s going to be a game very soon, it could be tomorrow, we don’t know when it’s going to be, but we’re going to need him to step up. I think he’ll be ready.”

With Jarred Vanderbilt nursing an ankle injury and Wenyen Gabriel, PJ Washington, and Sacha Killeya-Jones in regular foul trouble, Richards has a massive opportunity to take advantage of down low. Like Diallo, Richards has to slow down and allow the game to come to him.

“I saw him go from playing 30 minutes to less than five,” Diallo told the media. “It’s really tough for him. I love him as a teammate and I just keep telling him to stay prepared and stay focused. Everybody hits adversity. I hit it. Almost our whole team hit adversity this season. Just stay in the gym, stay physically and mentally prepared.”

After months of tough criticism, Hamidou Diallo finally had his day, and it was special to see.

Now it’s time for Nick Richards to have his moment in the spotlight.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

24 Comments for Hamidou Diallo finally had his One Shining Moment. Now it’s time for Nick Richards to break through.

  1. Randall lee
    12:50 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    The only moment Nick will have is if they remake the munsters and need a new Herman.

    • 4everUKblue
      12:55 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      Expected no less from you RL.

    • BigBlueNationDude
      6:46 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      4 ever cant take any criticism. Richards has been so bad. 1 thing wrong said about him. I swear he is the new ksr police. If his wife was cheating on him he would buy her a new necklace

    • 4everUKblue
      5:59 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

      Expected no less from you either Slater. When you start to criticize a player’s looks you’re being an @ss. You are incapable of saying ANYHING positive about my team, my coach or my conference, notice I didn’t say our, because you’re not part of it. You talk about players not being good, you don’t like one and dones but you don’t want them to come back next year. You defend coaches like Izzo, saying he’s better than Cal, Cal just gets better players, we need 4 year players. Izzo gets a lot of 4 year players, so which way do you want it? You’re argument against Cal is ludicrous, just as it has been against the players. Now go make up with your boyfriend or get a hobby, something you know anything about, because you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about one here. You need to go find a team with players you can find SOMETHING you make say positive about. I doubt seriously such a team exists.

    • 4everUKblue
      6:02 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

      * You need to go find a team with players you can find SOMETHING you can say positive about.

  2. Tony the Liger
    12:59 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Richards isn’t breaking through this season. See you next year, big guy.

  3. jimmer
    1:04 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    On most other teams NR play would be expected and accepted. Freshman struggles. No biggie come back next year or two and improve. No pressure and no hurry.

  4. UKinIN
    1:32 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Richards hasn’t really shown the flashes of possibility that we’ve seen from Diallo. Against Buffalo Diallo’s performance was unexpected and welcomed. But in the end this team goes as far as Gilgeous-Alexander and Knox can take them.

    • Parker_UKFanNC
      1:43 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      As long as Knox or Diallo plays that well along with Shari we will be fine. Wenyen also had a big day yesterday.

    • ClutchCargo
      8:42 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

      Big men are slower to develop than guards. It has always been this way. Not only that, but NR is still relatively new to the game. So whatever flashes of possibility you are looking for won’t necessarily be reflected in in-game performance this year.

  5. Kat4Life
    1:38 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Hami was incredible

  6. SoCalCat
    1:58 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Nick does seem more gifted than Dakari Johnson, but is suffering from being taller than most peers through high school and needing to adjust to stronger competition. He definitely needs to work on his lower body strength.

    • syrin23
      4:12 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

      That and his hands. Dude has AWFUL hands. Rarely does he catch a pass cleanly or get a rebound without bobbling it.

    • Sentient Third Eye
      8:29 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

      Nick will be fine, but it may take until next season to really show. What he needs most, honestly, is another off-season and a do-over. But that dude will eventually be a first-round draft pick. Mark my words. It’s just that not every kid is a one-and-done. He’s that talented, but he’s just on a different time-table. Some kids just take longer, especially big guys because they are often still adapting to their bodies.

  7. Aar
    5:40 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    I’m starting to have a new appreciation for Cal’s comments about each player being on their own schedule. This season we had Knox and Green start hot and gradually get better. Most of the rest have taken a step back before making a leap forward. I’ve enjoyed watching Washington, SGA, Vanderbilt, Gabriel, SKJ and, now, Diallo make huge breakthroughs in their own time. Richards could be the next Cat to conquer themselves.

    Early in the season Cal was constantly praising his work ethic and I was at Rupp for his best game. He has all of the gifts to be an excellent basketball player – size, strength, whole body coordination, agility, speed and quickness as much as he has opportunities that are mostly based in experience and confidence. He just needs a bit of success to turn his confidence in the right direction. Looking forward to the game when that happens….

  8. BigBlueNationDude
    6:45 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink


    • Booby Petrino
      8:59 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

      Funny like your stupidity. Remember when you said we were going to the NIT? Then you said one and done in ncaa tourney? And you said Cal can’t coach. You’re so dumb.

  9. Shredder
    9:39 pm March 18, 2018 Permalink

    Hopefully, it comes soon. If not, I would like to see PJ stay out of foul trouble!

  10. ScoggDog
    5:56 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

    With a little luck, he’ll get four more games to figure it out.

    The way this tournament has went, I have no idea who’ll make it out of the South Region … but I know who won’t.


  11. Dowser
    5:57 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

    It’s his footwork and inexperience/instinct.

  12. Jiminy Crickets
    8:57 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

    Richards is WCS 2.0, he needs time. Maybe 2-3 more years time. He has a lot of developmental issues need to be addressed, and those things will come. But his biggest issue has been the fact that he does not play with any emotion or energy.

  13. Smyrna_Cat
    9:51 am March 19, 2018 Permalink

    Richards only plays 5 to 8 minutes a game.

  14. ukblue22
    1:56 pm March 19, 2018 Permalink

    The play in the second half where an opportunity for an offensive rebound got a way and he just stood there and watched with his hands at his sides, motionless, was a clue the game is still too fast for him. He’ll probably be fine next season, but right now the game is not his pace.