Richards appears to be a lock to come back, and at first glance, EJ should be as well. However, there has been an increasing uncertainty as to what Montgomery will ultimately do.
But if only one were to come back, which would you choose?
In my mind, this is an easy choice: EJ Montgomery. From a talent perspective, it’s not that close. From a potential perspective, it’s also not that close. I don’t think there’s much of an argument there.
However, Rivals’ Corey Evans made the case that Richards is actually more important for the Cats to have back than Montgomery.
Obviously, Evans starts by saying EJ is the more talented of the two, which I’m glad he did because I was just as confused as many of you probably were when I started reading this.
But he went on to say that Richards is more important for the team’s sake based on its roster construction.
“Keeping the Wildcats’ roster construction in mind, a glaring hole at center remains despite a bevy of versatile forwards that could fill Montgomery’s role.”
Evans went on to cite Kentucky’s addition of Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina. While he’s no Reid Travis, he should be able to provide quality upside for the Cats at the 4.
Meanwhile, Kentucky has no one to play the center position. No rim protector. No player over 6-8 on the current roster.
“For Kentucky’s sake, though, Richards is a big body that can rebound and alter shots, assets that not many on its current roster can claim to do, which would be the perfect complement to the wealth of perimeter firepower set to enroll.”
Evans’ case is strong. My first thought was that I’ll take talent and figure the rest out later. But as far as team needs go, Richards is definitely more important than EJ. Kentucky has several wings that can play the small-ball 4, as well as Sestina. There’s no one like Richards on the roster.
One thing to keep in mind is that Richards will be 22 years old when next year’s draft rolls around. While he’ll only be a junior this upcoming season, the older he gets, the harder it’ll be to ever get drafted.
Regardless, the best case scenario would be Kentucky returning both players, and maybe even adding Kerry Blackshear. The Cats are low on frontcourt depth for next season and while I think EJ will take a huge step forward, Nick might just be more important.