clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Kentucky Basketball: NBA scouts impressed with a pair of Wildcats during Bahamas trip

New, comments

These two made a lasting impression on NBA scouts, and frankly, the rest of college basketball.

Nick RIchards Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Kentucky has become a breeding ground for NBA talent under John Calipari, and the early returns suggest that’ll remain the case this year.

Several Wildcats turned in impressive performances in the Bahamas, and there were plenty of NBA scouts in attendance to witness them. Freshma wing Keldon Johnson and sophomore big man Nick Richards drew a lot of attention.

“Love Keldon Johnson as a pro,” one scout said, according to Adam Zagoria. “Kid is big time.”

Johnson was one of the highest ranked recruits in his class. He tends to fly under the radar as a potential star, probably because he’s not active on social media. But he can play the game nonetheless, and Calipari knows it.

Johnson averaged 13.3 points per game in the Bahamas, which ranked third on the team. He also averaged 4.8 rebounds and was a menace on defense.

John Calipari has known what Johnson is capable of for awhile.

“When you talk about good players, these guys are evaluating, if there’s five better players than him in the country, you’ve gotta tell me who they are,” Calipari exclaimed following Sunday’s win over Team Toronto. “I don’t care what you read anywhere, I’ve been doing this a long time and I know who’s who.

“And if there are five better than him, tell me who they are. This kid is legitimate 6-5, he can play point guard, two, three, and four, shoots it good enough. Tough. Will fight you. In the gym at midnight. Loves the game. High motor. High energy. No coolness. Nah. Doesn’t matter where I go, I just want to have fun. Well, that ain’t this kid. This kid is like, okay.

“Proud of him. I really am.”

Johnson is probably the favorite to be Kentucky’s top draft pick in next year’s NBA Draft. He has the versatility that NBA teams want, and he likely has the highest ceiling of any player on this year’s team.

Richards is also getting attention after showing off his much-improved skillset last week. Calipari said scouts love him.

“The scouts out there, the guy they’re amazed with? Nick,” Calipari said Sunday. “They’re looking at Nick. And he’s seven-foot. If you look at the tape, he’s flying up and down the court.”

Richards looked so much better last week than he looked at any point last year. His athleticism is much improved, and that showed with his ability to run the floor. He also showed an improved range, as he hit a number of baseline jumpers that totally made him look like an NBA big. He averaged 12 points and 4.8 rebounds on the trip.

And it’s not just the scouts he’s impressing, but also Calipari’s wife, Ellen Calipari, who said Richards is “not even the same kid.”

“He doesn’t walk the same, he doesn’t look the same, he doesn’t carry himself the same,” Calipari explained. “So. when I met with him, I said, ‘Ellen, tell him what you said.’ And she told him all that and said, ‘I’m really proud of you.’”

It’s only August, but the Wildcats appear to have a much stronger future draft class than we thought. We’ll see if they stay on that track.

Be sure to go ‘like’ our Facebook page and follow our Twitter page for the latest Kentucky Wildcats news.