Nick Richards has wildly unique size and athleticism, unlike anyone across college basketball, yet he still hasn’t become a dominant post presence for Kentucky. We see flashes of how he can change a game, but it is far from consistent, and more often than not, the bad will outweigh the good.
Take the Kansas game for example. He came off the bench and blocked five shots, but was pulled for getting out-rebounded by a much smaller Kansas frontcourt. He played only nine minutes the entire game, simply because Kentucky needed to win the glass to win the game, Calipari said afterward.
Calipari wants Richards to match Reid Travis’ intensity. In Kenny Payne’s words, “When you watch Reid Travis fight for rebounds, fight for offensive rebounds, play with a physicality to the game, and then you watch Nick, who at times does it, but at other times he gets fatigued and he lets go. Then (he’s) coming out.”
But Richards does have some dog in him, Payne noted, and the sophomore big man needs to let that dog out. Payne said, “Nick Richards is a unique basketball player in a time where there’s not many seven-footers that can change shots around the basket. We need that from him. He has a lot more than his size, a lot more. We’re probably seeing 50 percent of him. We want 110 percent of him.”
Once Kentucky does start getting more of Richards and his inner-dog, the sky is the limit.
“If he can figure it out, every NBA organization will want Nick Richards,” said Payne. “He’ll be playing this game for a long time. That’s the goal. That’s why you come here – to be put in situations that are hard. If you’re at another program, they stick you under the basket and you never come out. We’re trying to say, ‘OK, you can block this shot and guard a point guard out on the perimeter.’”
“We’re asking a lot from a 7-footer that’s a sophomore in college,” he added, “but with what his tools are athletically, why not?”