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Tony Barbee Believes EJ Montgomery is Progressing just like Nick Richards

Chet White | UK Athletics

Chet White | UK Athletics

Unlike many other years under John Calipari’s watch, the Kentucky Wildcats aren’t playing with immediate difference-makers in the paint. Now primarily operating with upperclassmen, Tony Barbee sees the post players taking positive steps in their developmental process.

Nick Richards is a late-bloomer under Calipari standards. Those standards are lightyears ahead of typical college basketball expectations. Now entering his third year in the program, Richards has transformed into one of the most reliable players on the team.

Richards has scored in double figures in each of the last six games, averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds through that stretch. Kenny Payne and Barbee did not hesitate to call his number when the game was on the line at Arkansas, knocking down five crucial free throws in the final five minutes to help the Cats pull away.

“He’s evolved. He’s a totally different person. He’s a totally different player and it’s neat to see it come together for Nick at this point,” Barbee said Monday morning.

“We’ve had so many uncommon freshmen here that have made the game look easy. Nick is a typical player who has evolved from his freshman year, sophomore year, now in his junior year, you just don’t see that very often, especially around here. Everybody doesn’t come in here ready-made, ready to hit the road and ready to dominate. Because he was a late starter to the game anyway, coming to basketball when he was 13, 14, 15, it hasn’t been natural for him but he’s worked hard, he’s studied hard and now he’s reaping the rewards and so are we.”

Kentucky’s coaching staff remained patient with Richards through the tough times. They’re doing the same with E.J. Montgomery. The sophomore is not filling up the box score, but Barbee liked the effort Montgomery gave on the defensive end in Fayetteville.

He’s on that same progression as Nick, so to speak. But it went unnoticed in that game how good of a job E.J. did on 33 (Jimmy Whitt).”

Whitt scored 30 points Wednesday night against Vanderbilt. Primarily defended by Montgomery, Whitt was just 3-of-9 from the field, earning the bulk of his 14 points from the free throw line.

“E.J. single-handedly made the game difficult on him because of his size and his ability to move the feet. You’re not going to get a whole lot of credit externally about how good you are defensively. It’s usually the highlight offensive plays that get all the credit, but E.J. deserves a lot of credit for what happened in the Arkansas game and what he was able to do to 33.”

Kentucky’s coaches are seeing progress from Montgomery. They do not need him to become a double-double machine like Richards. They just need to see him continually improve.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

21 Comments for Tony Barbee Believes EJ Montgomery is Progressing just like Nick Richards



  1. StillBP
    2:19 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    This just can’t be true, the KSR message board experts say he’s garbage and should transfer. Hmmm… Who should I believe? Men who get paid to coach for a living or keyboard warriors??



    • JASUN74
      2:31 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      Lol. I hear you BP! I just try to look, and see what I see. We’ve all watched Basketball for as long as we can remember and a lot of played High School and some of us in College, and there’s nothing a Kentucky fan knows more about than basketball. Yeah we have some straight up dumb asses here, but it’s not hard to look and make observations for ourselves.

      It’s not very hard to see how much potential EJ has, it’s also not hard to see he takes plays off and doesn’t try to take over a game when he could. It’s like he’s scared to do too much because he doesn’t want it to be expected. I’m all in with him though if he’ll give 100%, if not, we certainly have someone who can fill in for him, it’s up to him. Have a good one brother.



  2. JASUN74
    2:22 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    I disagree with this 100%. We absolutely need EJ to become a double double threat!! At the very least, we need him to do one or the other. Either points or rebounds. I’m all for EJ taking as much time as he wants to become the best he can be, but in the mean time, if he’s not giving us something, Brooks needs to take his spot!

    EJ has all the potential in the world, he’s long and athletic, he’s got a great looking shot, he’s just not giving 100% because he doesn’t have the confidence in himself to be the dominant player he can be. We don’t need him to have 18 and 14 every game, but he absolutely can get 10 points and ten rebounds a game. If not, we’re just as good or better with him on the bench and Brooks in his place.

    Now I’m not trying to say Brooks is better than EJ,( although I do think he has the potential to be,), I just think if Brooks is going to play harder and give his all, we’re a better team with Keion in the game. Maybe the bench would help give EJ some much needed time to see the game and adjust.

    I’m not sure the answer, I just know it looked like EJ wanted out of that game against Arkansas so bad, and he just grabbed the guy for his fifth foul. I do think the call against him for his fourth was Bullshiit, but he was done after that.

    Of course this is just my opinion on the subject and I want all these kids to play as well as they can. I love every one of those guys as individual kids!! I also love Kentucky Basketball!! Lol. Now I do believe EJ could and should be doing a lot more than he is, but until he wants it, sit him down to think about it! Go Cats.



    • ClutchCargo
      2:32 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      I think what he’s saying is it’s not EJ’s fault that he isn’t a plug and play, one and done, 1st team AA right out of the box, and that people should get off his back. He’s on his own path, no matter how hard fans want to wring their hands about it.



    • ClutchCargo
      2:34 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      And I’ll go out on a limb and say that EJ didn’t make a conscious decision to be just okay for 1.5 seasons to keep expectations low. lol



  3. VirginiaCat
    2:49 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    We don’t need EJ to be great, we just need him to hold his own and provide capable minutes. We all progress at different rates, so I would like to believe that he has a lot of upside left and will improve as the year progresses. We have to appreciate that these kids are individuals and some need more time than others.



  4. bigtaters6957
    2:52 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    Don’t really know what Whitney is doing here. On the subject of Montgomery, he can dribble and pass a little bit, he has a decent stroke, seems like he should be playing out of the high post where he can face up and make a move. Either way, this staff can develop anyone that will stay long enough and put in the work. No one at UK lacks talent, they just have to refine it into skills.



    • JASUN74
      3:12 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      Bigtaters, lol. Killer Name by the way. Lol. Anyway, man I’d love to see EJ get down in the post!! I know the NBA will use him differently, but here at Kentucky, he should get down there and post up on people. No one can stop him when he’s got the ball within five feet or so. He could still get a couple outside shots a game but I’d like to see him get at least five or six Post ups a game also. Hopefully that’s coming. He’s a big Key for us and with everyone else improving, we need him if we’re going to be the best we can be in March.



  5. JASUN74
    3:05 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    Hey Clutch, I know what you’re saying, I just think he’s got a lot more than what he’s showing. We’ve saw what he can do when he goes as hard as he can, it’s like sometimes he tries to just blend in and do just enough to stay in the game. Of course he’s not the only player who does that and some kids just want to be on the floor!

    It’s tough with EJ and his game, it’s Like it’s hard for him to get going if he misses his first couple shots. I really do think he’s got as much potential as anyone on this team, and of course I know he’s not trying to just be OK. Lol. I still think he needs to pick it up for us to be as good as we can! He’s done it before and he should be playing as hard as he can every game. Especially Rebounding!! He could also get three or four buckets a game by going to the offensive glass.

    I just want to see him succeed and be the best he can be. That goes for all of them, but EJ has got something special and time flies, we all know how fast college goes by and a man wakes up one day and he’s 30! Haha. There’s been way too many Men wake up and wish they could have a do over, I just hope he’s not one of them. Again, I’m still 100% behind EJ, and I know he can do it, he’s just got to believe in himself and go out there and give all he can. If so, we’re going to be hard to beat as a team and he’ll be hard to take another player before him in the Draft.



    • ClutchCargo
      3:15 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      EJ just thinks too much and beats himself up when he makes a mistake. Once he gets to where he is more excited to succeed than he is afraid to fail, he is going to be fine. I really don’t think it’s lack of motivation or effort.



  6. KentuckyRob
    3:20 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t EJ play more like a guard when he was in HS? I thought he went through a major growth spurt in his senior season as well. To me it seems like he’s still in that “guard” frame of mind. He’s 6’10” and still tries to play to much like a guard. I’d just like to see him down in the post more. Secondly, I wish he’d work on using his right hand more. As a coach If I had a kid that used his left more than his right and I knew that he was uncomfortable using his right I would make him work on that side more so he could be comfortable and confident from either side. Again, this is just my opinion. EJ will be fine though



    • JASUN74
      3:32 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      Rob, I don’t think he grew that much. He was kind of a 3/4, but you’re right he played more outside than posting up like a center or so called big! I’m with you though and I would love to see him inside more. I think we’d be hard to stop with him on the other side of Nick. Lol. He’s a big ol boy now for sure. I saw a picture when he signed and one from the Arkansas game, he’s a brute now compared to them. I’m not sure how much weight he’s gained, but from pictures, it looks like 30 or 40 lbs. He’s one that will get in the NBA and become an All Star. He’s definitely got the potential to be great player.



  7. JASUN74
    3:24 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    Great post Clutch, I’d say your right. It does seem like he’s scared to death to mess up. I just want him to be the best he can, he’s gotten a lot better as a player since he’s been here and we know he’s a tough kid, if his confidence can catch up with his skill level, he’ll be fine. He really does have all the potential in the world. We can be scary good though if he can break out an play like he can. I believe it’s coming. Go Cats.



  8. clarks
    3:37 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    Needs to focus on rebounding. He presses to score when we need rebounding big time. Nick going for most of the blocks so when they are in together they cant both try to block the shot. Go CATS



    • KentuckyRob
      4:12 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      Absolutely! In 17 minutes against Arkansas he had a total of 2 rebounds. Zero offensive. That is unacceptable! That is why Cal talks about “fight” so much. He just needs to relax, quit worrying about making mistakes and just play! He’s thinking to much. Just play brother! I know he can do it. He just has to prove it to himself.



    • JASUN74
      5:08 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      I’m with you Rob!! We all know He can do it, let’s just hope he’s ready to take it to another level, If so, we’re going to a tough out. It really does get me excited to think about him playing his butt off. That’s all he has to do. Just go all out and it’ll take care of itself. Don’t worry about any numbers and just flat out go hard on every possession!

      I mean I’d love to have a Junior EJ Montgomery, haha, but I’d rather have Number 9 this year. I’ll love the kid either way. Go Cats!



  9. CrystalBall
    4:21 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    EJ seems to be trying to convince the NBA that he is a potential first round stretch 4.



  10. CahillsCrossingNT
    5:18 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    EJ is an enigma, but there will come a game(s) in which he is crucial. Just have patience.



  11. Looother
    7:17 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

    EJ is still way too soft to be an impact D1 player…



    • 4everUKBlue
      11:09 pm January 20, 2020 Permalink

      And you are still listening to the sources in your head. Just stop listening to them.