Going into the evening, Kentucky sophomores EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley were seen as unlikely options due to injuries they each suffered recently. Montgomery had been out since the Michigan State game with an ankle injury, while Quickley missed the Utah Valley game with an apparent chest issue.
To take it a step further, John Calipari recently said Ashton Hagans was dealing with a “leg” injury and was playing at 80%, while Kahlil Whitney dislocated his finger against Utah Valley. Both players were expected to play, but unlikely at full strength.
All four players played, with each finding success in various aspects in Kentucky’s victory over Mount St. Mary’s.
Following the game, Calipari, along with a few of the players, addressed the various injuries that have taken over the roster to start the season and how important it was to have all four back.
When asked about how long Montgomery and Quickley had been back, Calipari said they both practiced in some form or fashion over the last 24 hours.
“EJ [Montgomery] practiced a little bit in the halfcourt,” Calipari said “Immanuel [Quickley] has been back a day. I told them we got to get through this weekend, then we got one game a week for six weeks. That’s when we start camp, when we’re doing some stuff in the mornings. We’ll catch up.”
Calipari was pleased with each of their performances, adding that Montgomery was a “difference maker” in his 15 minutes on the floor.
“Immanuel made shots. Great to have him back,” he said. “The guy that made the difference is EJ. You would have never known he was not playing for a while. I mean, not having him really affects us. Having him, when he’s playing, he’s a difference maker.”
As for Whitney’s dislocated finger, the freshman wing admitted that he was “kind of scared” to play with the injury at first, but said he got comfortable once the game started.
At the end of the day, it’s “just mental” for him.
“I was kind of scared to play on it today, but it ended up being okay,” Whitney said. “It’s feeling better, it’s a day-by-day process. I’ve just been getting a lot of massages, icing it. It’s getting better. The thing is, it just needs to get stronger. Today was kind of crazy because I was steady thinking about it, hoping it wouldn’t happen again. That’s just mental.”
With Hagans, who finished with 16 points in 29 minutes of action, he said his leg issues are “good” and he’s “almost there.”
“I’m getting there, almost there,” Hagans said. “I’m getting treatments, trying to get better. I’m practicing, I’m recovering. If I’m not feeling it [in practice], I’ll just step to the side a little bit. Then I hop right back in. But other than that, I’m good.”
Whitney said that after playing with just seven scholarship players against Utah Valley, it was a relief to be able to call for help when he needed a breather.
“It was a lot better knowing you can call for a sub, sometimes you’re dying out there,” Whitney said. “It was great, we were getting a lot of help off the bench. [Immanuel Quickley] came in, hit a lot of threes. EJ [Montgomery]came in off the bench, he knocked down a couple of shots. We’re just getting there, working together. We’re trying to be special.”
They may not all be completely healthy quite yet, but Kentucky inching closer to full strength – and playing like it in the second half – is a massive relief.