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John Calipari and Nick Richards comment on return to UK

Coach Cal made it clear he expects Nick to be one of the best big men in college basketball.

UK Athletics

It’s official.

Nick Richards is making the uncommon move for a Kentucky player to return for his junior season.

Richards was testing the NBA waters for the last month, and there was a lot of speculation that he was ready to begin his pro career, even if it didn’t mean being an NBA Draft pick. After all, Richards just finished his sophomore season, and it’s become a rarity for players to return for their junior years in Lexington.

In addition, Richards is already 21 years of age and turns 22 in November, making him older than most college seniors, so it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to get any better or if Richards is simply going to be the player we’ve seen for the last two seasons.

But people forget Richards didn’t start playing basketball until he was in high school, so he’s still a fairly young player in terms of how many years he’s spent developing his game.

In fact, John Calipari expects Richards to make a big jump as a junior when the 2019-20 season begins.

“I was fully supportive of Nick going through the NBA Draft process for the first time in his career to see where he stood,” Calipari said in a press release. “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 possession.”

As for Richards, he’s enjoyed his time in Lexington and wasn’t ready to leave it for good.

“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 today.

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 3?”

It also helps that his girlfriend is UK Volleyball star Leah Edmond.

Hopefully, Junior Nick Richards resembles what we saw from him during the Bahamas tour last summer.

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