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Is Nick Richards’ return more important than EJ Montgomery’s?

While all eyes and ears have been focused on EJ Montgomery and his ongoing decision between a sophomore season and a chance at the NBA, another question mark is being partially overlooked. Nick Richards is facing the same decision as his teammate, and while his potential may not be as high as Montgomery’s, is Richards’ decision more important for Kentucky’s future?

At least one person thinks so. National basketball analyst Corey Evans, of, claims Nick Richards’ decision will have a larger impact on UK’s success next season than EJ Montgomery’s. Off the bat, Evans is clear he believes Montgomery is a more skilled basketball player. On the other hand, Richards brings something more unique to the Cats’ roster – his height.

As it stands now, Richards (who’s 6-foot-11) is the only player listed above 6-foot-8. His ability to block shots and protect the rim is something we’ve seen glimpses of, and we know the potential is there, based on his wingspan and some of the more-impressive blocks we’ve seen throughout the past two seasons. Has he blocked as much as fans would like or as the coaching staff may have expected? Probably not. But he did finish the season with 47 total blocks (1.3 rejections per game), more than any other player on the roster. He was followed by PJ Washington’s 43 and Montgomery’s 38.

While EJ Montgomery and Nate Sestina will play more-similar styles, Richards’ is the only guy on Kentucky’s current roster who has this particular skill set. Here’s how Evans puts it:

“For Kentucky’s sake, though, Richards is a big body that can rebound and alter shots, assets that not many on its current roster can claim to do, which would be the perfect complement to the wealth of perimeter firepower set to enroll.”

Evans goes on to point out Richards’ age – he’ll be 22 years old by the time next year’s Draft rolls back around. Even though he’d be junior Nick Richards, he’d already be the age of most graduating seniors.

For me personally, Montgomery’s potential and build still puts him highest on my priority list of returners. Aaron Torres even calls him the most important stay-or-go prospect in the Draft. And yet, Corey Evans makes an excellent point in singling-out Richards’ individual assets that are unfamiliar to the rest of Kentucky’s roster.

Kerry Blackshear Jr. is listed at 6-foot-10, and his presence in the front court could have a massive impact on the Cats’ success next season. But much like Richards and Montgomery, his future is still viewed as a question mark, and there seems to be growing suspicion he’ll try his hand at the NBA Draft.

There’s also a distinction to be made between a sophomore Montgomery, a junior Nick Richards and a grad transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr., as Kentucky has seen what a few years of experience can do for the locker room and down the stretch of the season. None of these guys are the same as Reid Travis, but it’s reasonable to compare their levels of experience, especially under the spotlight that comes with UK Basketball.

The NCAA’s deadline for players to withdraw from this year’s NBA Draft and retain their college eligibility is 11:59 p.m. this Wednesday.


Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

21 Comments for Is Nick Richards’ return more important than EJ Montgomery’s?

  1. Han
    2:12 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    This Site: We need Montgomery to come back!

    Also This Site: Do we even need Montgomery if Richards comes back?

  2. Cletis75
    2:13 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    Would love to see Nick put all the pieces together this coming season. I think it’s more mental for him, hopefully they can get him in the right mindset.

    3:19 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    There’s still the possibility that Nick pulls out of the draft…but decides to transfer, especially if he thinks he might get limited minutes yet again…or the insta-yank every time he messes up.

    • mashburnfan1
      5:29 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

      Bingo, why would he come back here. Played like 5 minutes the last 2 games. The Auburn game, exactly what is described as he gives us we needed yet, Cal would not play him. We needed a rim protector as their guards made ours look like middle school players, what better and more needed time for Richards. He has to think if I can’t get in at that time I have no chance here.

    • runningunnin.454
      7:18 am May 27, 2019 Permalink

      Nick is not going to transfer.

  4. Big Sexy
    3:36 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    It seems that some of these kids see money and become shortsighted as to what’s best for their future.

    • Big Sexy
      3:36 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

      I just hope EJ doesn’t fall into that category.

  5. Bigblueswami
    3:47 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    I think you just skip ahead to the next article: “The small ball life: Making a case for the ‘other wildcats’ blueprint for success.”

  6. Bruce Dickinson
    4:23 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    If E J leaves, Nick should see a ton of playing time. He would have a great opportunity to show what he can do.

    • blueballs80
      4:30 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

      If he stays or goes, his game has to improve. I haven’t seen any development in his game since the time he has been here.

    • Bruce Dickinson
      4:56 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

      I have seen some improvements. It didn’t seem like he could catch a balloon his fist year.

    • mashburnfan1
      5:30 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

      but but but all on here say only Cal develops all these kids to NBA picks in 8 months. NBA just is screwing up, Nick should go top 10.

    • 4everUKblue
      5:50 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

      Alright mashbum, you’ve proved yourself to be an idiot long ago, no need to beat a dead horse. We’ve seen the evidence in all your posts, now get a life or take your own.

  7. Fitz
    8:46 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    There is no question Richards size is an excellent compliment to this years team, but you have to use that size. Cal failed to do that against Texas Tech and it cost the Cats dearly.

  8. JT55
    11:43 pm May 26, 2019 Permalink

    They need big guys period. Even if they both decide to return (very unlikely) they need at least 1 more quality big guy. If Blackshear stays in, like expected, not sure where Cal finds the big guy at?

  9. Racerr11
    7:27 am May 27, 2019 Permalink

    Insta yank are you serious the guy has been givin every opportunity in the world to perform. Goofy goofy fans.

  10. Racerr11
    7:30 am May 27, 2019 Permalink

    Texas tech? That’s exactly why I say goofy goofy fans.

  11. Fitz
    7:40 am May 27, 2019 Permalink

    Auburn. Not goofy, just wishful thinking on my part. I may have mistakenly stated the wrong team, but my point is still valid. Size means nothing when it’s on the bench like Richards was nearly the entire half against Auburn and left the rim open for drives by the Tiger guards.

  12. BlueByYou
    8:31 am May 27, 2019 Permalink

    I’d like to see EJ come back just to see him play extended minutes. From what I saw last year, he has the potential to be one of those special players. No doubt it was hard to earn PT behind PJ & Travis but he could not have a better situation than what he has in front of him now by staying. Definitely put him in the 1st round next year if he stays…..but, who knows.