Nick Richards leaving Kentucky’s exhibition game Sunday with his ankle injury was something no fan wanted to see.
The Cats’ limited depth in the frontcourt is already something that could throttle their potential, especially a junior player with the experience that Richards has.
Thankfully, it sounds like it’s nothing major and shouldn’t keep him out too long.
On Thursday, the school announced Richards had a sprained left ankle and was listed as day to day. That would suggest there’s a shot he could return next week for the Champions Classic, but even if he doesn’t play, he should be back sooner rather than later.
At the postgame press conference following Sunday’s win over Georgetown, John Calipari said “It was swelled up,” but didn’t provide much insight on his interpretation or seriousness of the injury. He did say that they are really short without him and he didn’t know how long that the team would be without his services.
In addition, Ashton Hagans said Richards was fine and seemed unconcerned with the injury in the locker room following the game.
Before leaving with the injury, Richards was playing stellar. He recorded 6 points on 3-3 of shooting and 5 rebounds in 15 minutes of play. He started the game and by all indications would remain in that role heading into new week’s showdown with preseason #1 Michigan State.
While Richards is out, that puts major pressure to perform on EJ Montgomery, Keion Brooks, and Nate Sestina to step up and stay out of foul trouble. We could also see Kahlil Whitney pick up some minutes on the block, despite his poor showing in the exhibition game.
Long term, this hopefully will not be anything to worry about lingering, but it could play be a major factor in the Cats opening game. Looking at the big picture, it doesn’t have much implication on the season if UK was to lose to Michigan State. But it would still be nice to have the team at full strength in what will be one of UK’s biggest games of 2019-20.
Don’t forget that Michigan State has already lost one of their best players for the Kentucky game. Josh Langford has already been ruled out with a foot injury.
With an early season game like this, missing the experience of Langford and Richards could be crucial for both teams.