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EJ Montgomery named candidate for Malone Award

EJ is a top-15 pick for the honor.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

EJ Montgomery is coming back to the University of Kentucky for his sophomore season, and he’s expected to thrive as one of the more experienced Wildcats.

A team known for their one-and-done recruits, Montgomery made the right decision to come back and sharpen his skill set. Not quite a polished freshman, Montgomery, who was the ninth-ranked recruit and top ranked player from Georgia in 2018, averaged just 3.8 points per game.

Having started a mere 10 games, Montgomery saw time yet never put together the season he was expected to. That said, Andy Katz, a writer for NCAA.com, has Montgomery in his top-15 players for the Karl Malone Award, which is given to college’s top power forward.

Just recently introduced, the award was first given away during the 2015 season. It’s named after arguably the NBA’s best power forward, Karl Malone, who ranks second all-time in points.

In respective order from oldest to newest, the winner have been Montrezl Harrell, Georges Niang, Johnathon Motley, Deandre Ayton and Zion Williamson. The five players have yet to really make a lasting impact at the next level.

Not a top-five pick, Katz isn’t expecting a breakout season from Montgomery. However, he is seemingly expecting him to be better than he was last year. He should get far more opportunity in 2019 as well.

With no PJ Washington, Montgomery will be the go-to big man for the Wildcats. That said, yes, they do have the No. 2 ranked recruiting class. However, four of their top-five recruits are small forwards, and not a single one comes close to Washington’s 6-foot-10 frame.

He’ll get all the run he can handle, and he’ll have the skilled backcourt to help him along the way.

Montgomery has the top-tier talent. He was a top-10 recruit for a reason, and now, with the spotlight and dependence on him, he’ll have to prove that he belongs at the next level during his second season.