With Nick Richards back on board for another run at the title, Kentucky now has two big men locked in on next year’s roster: Richards and Nate Sestina, the grad transfer out of Bucknell. Those are two good pieces, but they won’t be enough. Kentucky still needs to add one more and the two obvious options for that spot are EJ Montgomery and Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Montgomery is the most likely of the two, but he is far from a sure thing to rejoin his old college team. Matter of fact, I’m beginning to think it is more likely he goes than returns. Word around Montgomery is he really wants to turn pro this summer, so much that he is willing to take any kind of a promise from an NBA team. Then there was last week’s comment from Tony Delk, who had a training session with Montgomery, saying he thinks Montgomery is leaning toward staying in the draft and leaving Kentucky for good.
Whether or not leaving is the best option for Montgomery is meaningless at this point because he has probably already made up his mind. The deadline to return to school is at midnight tomorrow night, so we will soon know his final decision. My guess is it will come tomorrow afternoon. If he returns, Kentucky is in pretty good shape with the three big men plus talent at every other position. Adding Blackshear would be a lovely bonus, but Calipari can roll with three big guys. If Montgomery goes, we turn to Blackshear for much-needed help.
Blackshear’s situation is a little different than Montgomery’s in that he doesn’t have to make a final decision by tomorrow at midnight. He can decide to return to college basketball, but there is no rush to name which school he will attend for his grad transfer year. One can assume Kentucky will be in the mix, maybe even the leader if Montgomery isn’t back, but Blackshear can make that decision on his own timetable because he has immediate eligibility to transfer wherever.
Like Montgomery, though, the belief around Blackshear is that he too wants to keep his name in the draft. However, he isn’t considered a highly-rated prospect by any of the major services. He doesn’t even crack ESPN’s top 100 players in this draft class. But that doesn’t mean he won’t make the decision to go ahead and start earning a living as a professional somewhere.
Bottom line here is it is great to have Richards back for a junior season, but Kentucky still needs one more body in the paint and either Montgomery or Blackshear will do. Fans may disagree on which of those two they prefer, but the future of one of the options, Montgomery, will be decided within the next 35 hours because it has to be made. He can solve UK’s big man problem by midnight tomorrow night.
Your move, EJ.