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What does EJ Montgomery’s decision to return mean for Kentucky?

This evening, Kentucky forward EJ Montgomery announced that he would be withdrawing from the NBA Draft and returning to UK for a sophomore season.

In an official press release, the 6-foot-10 big man said that he enjoyed his first season in Lexington, felt the team did great things, and appreciated the fans for all their support.

“Big Blue Nation, I just want to say thanks for all you’ve done for me and my family,” Montgomery said. “I enjoyed putting on a Kentucky uniform with my brothers and playing in front of the best fans in the nation. I appreciate your support for me and my teammates this season. I want to say thanks for Coach Cal, Coach KP, Coach Joel, Coach Robic and Coach Barbee for pushing me every single day to be the best I can be on and off the court. I got to compete against the best of the best every day in practice. We had a good season on the court because of our love for the grind. I’m proud of what we accomplished together.”

That being said, he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the NBA yet.

“BBN, I’m back. Year two,” he announced.

So what does today’s big decision mean for Kentucky moving forward?

Montgomery can be one heck of a player

Averaging 3.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and a block per game as a freshman, the 6-foot-10 forward didn’t make a major impact from a pure numbers standpoint, and his NBA Draft stock reflected that. After originally testing the waters, Montgomery wasn’t invited to the NBA Combine and there wasn’t a single mock draft from a major media outlet with him included.

Looking at his potential, though, it’s also obvious why teams were fascinated with Montgomery as a potential late second-rounder or undrafted free agent to bring on as a two-way player.

In very short spurts, the Fort Pierce, FL native showed the ability to be an elite rebounder, comfortably bring the ball up the floor, make solid passes, knock down mid-range jumpers, and possess a soft touch around the rim at various moments. He showed he can put it all together at the high school level, hence why he was considered a top-ten recruit in the class of 2018. With another year of college, there was always a chance he would’ve been able to put it all together at Kentucky and turn himself into a lottery pick.

Instead of pulling the trigger on his professional career and potentially getting lost in the shuffle as a G-League player, we get to see if Montgomery can live up to his star potential in Lexington for one more season.

If you ask Kentucky head coach John Calipari, he thinks the now-sophomore can make that happen.

“I’m thrilled to be able to continue to coach EJ,” he said. “He has a special skillset and he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. EJ knows how hard this is going to be, and I know he’s ready to embrace the grind and do everything he can for this team while continuing to develop into the best version of himself.”

Depth at every position

Before yesterday, the only scholarship player Kentucky had listed as over 6-foot-7 was Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina.

With EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards now back for another year, Kentucky has legitimate depth at every position and flexibility to work in several different fun and unique lineup next season.

Here is what the loose depth chart looks like as of today:

PG: Ashton Hagans/Immanuel Quickley

SG: Tyrese Maxey/Johnny Juzang/Brad Calipari

SF: Kahlil Whitney/Dontaie Allen

PF: EJ Montgomery/Keion Brooks Jr.

C: Nick Richards/Nate Sestina

Ten legitimate scholarship players, including eight 5-stars, one 4-star, and a graduate transfer who averaged nearly 16 points and nine rebounds per game last year.

If Calipari wants to utilize a traditional lineup, he can go with Hagans, Maxey, Whitney, Montgomery, and Richards. Small ball lineup with elite versatility? Hagans, Maxey, Juzang, Whitney, and Brooks. Shooting lineup? Quickley, Maxey, Juzang, Brooks, and Sestina. Pure size and length? Hagans, Juzang, Whitney, Montgomery, and Richards.

As mentioned in my “Five reasons to be excited for Junior Nick Richards” post yesterday (you can find that HERE), Calipari is looking to get out and run in transition next season with a roster full of versatile players, and Montgomery fits that mold perfectly. He’s always been incredibly skilled, and if he can slow down and let the game come to him as a sophomore, he can really take that next step forward as a high-level starter in the SEC.

Kentucky can still add one more piece

Now that we have a decision from Montgomery, we can now sit back and relax the rest of the way with little-to-no pressure. Following Nate Sestina’s decision to sign with Kentucky (and when Montgomery and Richards seemed like a lock to return to school), a source within the basketball program told KSR that there is “plenty of room” to add another piece if one presented itself.

At the time of this post, the obvious piece to look at is potential Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. If he decides to withdraw from the NBA Draft, the UK coaching staff is expected to still push for a commitment from him, hoping to give the Wildcats a high-level starter from a Power-5 school for the second year in a row.

If not, 2020 prospects N’Faly Dante, Makur Maker, Cliff Omoruyi, and Isaiah Todd have all been included in reclassification rumors. If the Kentucky coaching staff feels a bit feisty and wants to make a push for one of them to make the jump to provide even more depth, they have the flexibility to.

No matter what happens with Blackshear or what the Kentucky coaching staff decides to do moving forward regarding reclassification candidates, they can do it without the worry of being, for lack of a better word, screwed in the frontcourt. There won’t be any begging and they certainly aren’t desperate.

As it stands right now, the 2019-20 roster is loaded from top to bottom with no real glaring holes. Anything else would be icing on the (already-massive and packed-with-flavor) cake.

Make no mistake about it, Kentucky now has the pieces in place to contend for a national championship next season.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

28 Comments for What does EJ Montgomery’s decision to return mean for Kentucky?

  1. BTIisGay
    7:03 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    We are absolutely stacked at the 2

    • mashburnfan1
      7:31 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

      Means another top pick from High School {he was a top 10 player} that was going undrafted after a year of college. And they want to change rules so that these kids can be drafted from High School. Should have a rule like football uses.

    • ready4nineNOW
      8:43 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      And what if those kids never worked out even with college? Now they have several millions of $ to start the rest if their life with and could easily play overseas. I say get their money. You truly don’t care about the player, only your team getting these players. UK will be fine.

    • makeitstop
      9:12 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

      Ok I know Mash sometimes carries his own cloud w him but I think this is fair, not a criticism of anyone. College gives u a pretty good idea of how players stack up, but they still have a combine, right? Still hv workouts? Bc ur making a multimillion dollar investment u do ur due diligence. College is the best place to do it for the best true comparison. Sure Count Kcazucula plays zone and Cal plays more of an NBA style where u can better evaluate talent but overall, a 40’ish game schedule against very good ACC SEC Big 12 athletes gives u the best predictor of future success, right? And the league is about to say “screw that jump right to the pros.” Fair enough. But it highlights the risks: some guys look great against AAU or HS competition but in college the holes are exposed. It should give NBA scouts pause bc can’t miss prospects may not “miss” but for every LeBron there are a lot of Skals, Boldens, Malik Newmans etc – great HS talent and what a benefit a year of top notch college makes in evaluating ur investment. I think that’s what Mash was saying.

    • Cletis75
      10:46 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      Makeitstop, the fact is mashburnfan1 always mixes untruths into the truth to make his points. Like the Top pick from high school comment. He was top ten, but was also considered very raw with no polish to his game. His strength was his rebounding and size. In the Blackshear post he said Nick was the #1 ranked center when he was in HS. Ayton, Bamba,Wendell Carter, Mitchell Robinson and Brandon McCoy were all ranked ahead of him. He never played basketball until high school. Mashburnfan1 always gives half truths and outright lies mixed in with a couple of true statements. What he won’t say that is the truth, is that UK has more starters in the league than any other school. We have more guys in the league overall probably. He will always prop up coach K, yet never mention the guys he has that didn’t knock it outta the park.

    • 4everUKblue
      1:31 pm May 30, 2019 Permalink

      Cletis you nailed, that is exactly what mashbumfan, he picks and chooses bits and pieces that fit his agenda with no regard for truth, even though he brags that he only states the facts.

  2. Smyrna_Cat
    7:34 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Suck it Mashburn … and change your name. It is an insult.

    • mashburnfan1
      8:31 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

      Fuk you Smyrna.
      I spoke the truth again. Another one that can’t handle the truth I see. When they change the rule lots of kids {young men} will get lots of money early but if, and in some cases when, they fail to make the NBA they will have nothing to fall back on and probably little money left in some cases. Is a sad reality.

    • nocode96
      1:21 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      I’m so glad I comment easily again so I can show up just to call you a loser mashburnfan. You’re a loser. You’re bitter. You’re a sad, pathetic, micro little man. Cal and UK basketball would never miss you for a second, we sure as hell wouldn’t around here. Why don’t you hop over to dookie fan site so you can more openly gargle K’s nut in your throat you sorry sack of shlt.

    • 4everUKblue
      8:49 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

      I said a while back that if I were Jamal Mashburn I would hunt this jackass down and beat drag him from one end of campus to the other and beat him every step of the way. He’s such a pathetic little man.

    • Matt10
      7:38 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      You people that get all worked up over these comments are ALL pretty embarrassing. No common courtesy and little respect for differing opinions. Acting like middle school name callers. If I ran this site I’d ban all of this crap. Yeah, looking at you Smyrna, nocode, 4ever. Find some joy in life so you don’t live to spread your horse manure around sports comment boards, trying to have pissing contests with complete strangers. Pathetic.

    • ready4nineNOW
      8:40 am May 30, 2019 Permalink


    • StillBP
      9:09 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      Lol Matt must be Mash’s burner account. Matt got all worked up about people getting worked up then he name called while saying he’d ban people who do that type of behavior. Lol pot, meet kettle

    • 4everUKblue
      9:42 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      Good point BP. You know what’s embarrassing is people like you who defend people like mashbumfan who have nothing good to say about a program they claim to be a fan of.

  3. Luether
    8:22 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Good post Jack…

  4. Racerr11
    8:44 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Some make good decisions some don’t it’s just like everything else in life. I don’t live with a negative attitude like some. What a run we’ve had with Cal and I expect it will continue at least 5-6 more years. There is not another coach in the country I would rather have period. Love the players we’ve had and will continue to get. #1 or#2 every year in recruiting and always in the hunt for the championship what else could you want. We have some goofy goofy fans. BBN is #1

  5. dcforuk
    9:08 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Capitalism sometimes creates situations whereby the flowers can’t grow without weeds growing, too. It is the NBA’s and NFL’s product.

  6. KYjellyRoll
    9:22 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Blackshear just withdrew from the draft

  7. UKBigBlueForever
    9:33 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Blackshear just withdrew from draft!! dangt KYJellyRoll you beat me to it LOL

  8. Swizzle
    10:34 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    Calipari listed like hes playin, good stuff.

  9. Miller45
    11:42 pm May 29, 2019 Permalink

    How many players coming out of high school are legitimately good enough to succeed straight out of highschool though? I know so many have dominated their competition and have had their parents, high school coaches, AAU coaches, friends, teachers etc feeding them all of this grandeur and most fall way short of that. How many highschoolers are really in the company of Kevin Garnett, Kobe, Amare Stoudemire, lebron, Dwight Howard?

  10. ofallthethings
    3:13 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

    Go Cats

  11. FakeDickeyV
    7:38 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

    Its party time in Lexington baby!

  12. ready4nineNOW
    8:37 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

    What a day can do!

  13. UKinmyblood
    8:50 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

    Good move EJ……now take a lesson from PJ and get into lottery shape !

  14. CMC
    9:25 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

    What did mash say that got everyone so worked up? It sounds like he’s saying if ej went he wouldn’t have been drafted and that’s bad for ej??? Am I right??

    • StillBP
      10:13 am May 30, 2019 Permalink

      Nothing on this thread but in another EJ thread he says EJ would’ve been a 1st rounder out of HS but after a year with Cal and Cal not being a good coach, EJ fell out of the draft and had no other choice but to return to school.