Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Kentucky’s Nick Richards to return for junior season; Freshman E.J. Montgomery still undecided
(Release via Kentucky Athletics)
After testing the NBA waters and going through the NBA Draft process for the first time in his career, Kentucky men’s basketball forward Nick Richards has decided to continue pursuing his collegiate goals while strengthening his future professional prospects.
The big man is coming back to UK for his junior season. The 6-foot-11 forward announced his return on social media on Tuesday.
“First off, I want to
thank God, the man up above, for without him I couldn’t do any of this,”
Richards said. “Next, I want to thank my family: my mom, my aunt, my
sister (and) my brothers. I want to thank my
teammates and the coaching staff, for without them I wouldn’t be here.
They pushed me in the right direction that I needed to be to where I am
“These past two years
have been the best of my life. It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve
learned a lot, but the job’s not done yet. BBN, are you ready for year
Big Blue Nation will
certainly be thrilled for the return of the most experienced Wildcat on
the 2019-20 roster. Richards will join guards
Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickly, Brad Calipari and forward/guard Zan Payne as returning players from the 2018-19 team.
forward EJ Montgomery, who like Richards was going through the NBA
Draft evaluation process, has not yet made a decision. He has until
11:59 p.m. ET Wednesday to notify the NBA, via written statement, that
he is withdrawing from the 2019 NBA Draft, as
well as submit a written statement to UK that he plans to resume his
Tyler Herro and
Keldon Johnson have already announced their intentions to stay in
the NBA Draft. Additionally, forward Reid Travis and walk-on guard Jonny
David have exhausted their eligibility, and guard
Jemarl Baker Jr. has transferred to Arizona.
Regardless of what
Montgomery decides, the Wildcats are slated to lose their top four
scorers, top four rebounders and top three 3-point shooters from the
2018-19 squad that went to the Elite Eight.
That’s where Richards’ returning experience and leadership will loom large.
has appeared in all 74 games of his two-year career with the Wildcats,
making 40 starts. He has averaged 4.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1
blocks per game
to this point with a career field-goal percentage of 60.8 percent. He
also makes free throws at a 70.4-percent clip.
Kingston, Jamaica, native helped the Wildcats to a Southeastern
Conference Tournament title as a freshman and an Elite Eight appearance
in the NCAA Tournament
as a sophomore.
“I was fully supportive
of Nick going through the NBA Draft process for the first time in his
career to see where he stood,” UK head coach John Caliapri said. “I’m
happy with where Nick and his family ended up
and I’m excited to continue to coach Nick because I know how special he
can be. I’ve told him, ‘If you come back, I’m expecting you to be one
of the best big men in the country.’ There is no reason he can’t be.
There is nothing that Nick hasn’t seen at this
point, and he knows what my expectations are for him in his junior
season. I want him to dominate the game and affect it on every single
2018-19, Richards led the team in blocks with 47 and paced the team in
swats in 16 games, including a career-high five blocked shots in the win
He snared a career-high 19 rebounds in a win over Southern Illinois,
matching the entire SIU squad’s total for the game. The 19 boards also
equaled Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the most in a game under Calipari.
Richards also scored 10 points in a win over Winthrop and posted 14 on the road at Vanderbilt.
his career, Richards has charted nine double-figure scoring efforts and
three double-figure rebounding games. He’s led the team in rebounding
in 12 games and
28 games in blocks. Over two seasons, he has logged three or more
blocks in a game on 12 occasions.
Richards will have plenty of help next season with the returning backcourt of Hagans and Quickley, the
No. 2 ranked signing class (which includes guard
Dontaie Allen, forward
Keion Brooks, walk-on forward
Brennan Canada, guard
Johnny Juzang, guard
Tyrese Maxey and forward
Kahlil Whitney), plus Bucknell graduate transfer
Nate Sestina, but none of them possess Richards’ length (7-foot-5 wingspan) or size (6-11, 244 pounds).
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.