clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kentucky Basketball: What to expect from sophomore Nick Richards

He is easily one of Kentucky’s biggest question marks this season.

Vanderbilt v Kentucky Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Nick Richards is the only returning player that started in all of Kentucky’s 37 games last season. He was not as productive as the Kentucky coaching staff expected him to be, and it showed as he was 8th on the team in minutes per game.

Now that he is back for year number two, he finds himself in a weird spot. With the addition of EJ Montgomery and Reid Travis to the roster, there is much less pressure for him to perform than last season. But there will also be less opportunity to show the improvements he has made in the off-season.

I know, I know. “Richards only started playing organized basketball in high school” is the new “Willie Cauley-Stein used to play football.” But it is still true.

Most of the players that Calipari brings to campus have been on the recruiting radar since they were in 8th grade. Nick Richards did not join a team in New Jersey until 2013. His ceiling is high, and there is every reason to believe he will be a much better player this season.

When Richards was at his best last year, he was hitting mid-range jumpers and living above the rim, altering shots and pulling down rebounds. But any time things did not go his way, he was quick to get down on himself and his game fell apart.

He has had a full off-season of working with Kenny Payne on his footwork, hand-eye coordination, and court vision. He has had another year to compete with high-level players in practice to hone his skills.

Instead of Willie Cauley-Stein 2.0, I think Richards will look more like a Marcus Lee upgrade this year. He will be improved at catching the ball in transition and securing rebounds. He will be a problem for other teams trying to shoot in the paint. And if you are setting the over-under on missed dunks at 5 this season, I am taking the under.

We will see a more refined Nick Richards this season, a player that is free to utilize his strengths alongside the rest of the loaded front court without having to grow into an NBA All-Star overnight. He will be much more confident and more aggressive.

I predict that Richards will improve upon his 5.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game this season, potentially with fewer minutes on the floor (14.7 per game last year).

How would you feel about a taller, longer Marcus Lee with a jumper playing under the basket in Rupp Arena this season?