In his junior season, Nick Richards has been a completely different player and he has been a game-changer for the Kentucky Wildcats in 2019-20.
You could make the argument that Richards has been the most important player for this team.
On the road against Georgia, the Bulldogs held a halftime lead which saw Richards sit on the bench for most of it due to foul trouble. In the second half, the Cats rally for a big win because he was on the floor.
Fast forward to the matchup with the Bulldogs in Rupp, Richards never got in foul trouble and the Cats were able to control the game and roll to an 89-79 win.
Larry Vaught of Vaughts Views wrote about Richards’ numbers this season and it shows just how much he has improved.
Richards is on a streak of 7 straight games of scoring in double digits, and in those games, he is almost averaging a double-double with 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds.
After his 20 point, 8 rebound and 3 block performance against Georgia on Tuesday, he is now the team’s leading scorer at 13.7 points per game.
Shawn Smith of gobigbluecountry.com noted that after the Georgia game, Richards now has three games (Georgia, Eastern Kentucky and Missouri) where he has put up at least 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks.
The only player to have more under Cal is Anthony Davis, who had 6 games with that stat line. Only one other player has achieved that 3 times and that was Terrence Jones who did it in 2010-2011.
Vaught pointed out that games where Richards has played his lowest number of minutes this season just happen to be 3 of the 4 losses for the Cats (Evansville, Ohio State and South Carolina).
On his radio show this week, Cal said that Nick’s biggest change was that he is now in elite shape.
“But biggest turning point, not even close, is that he is in shape. It’s hard to get in elite level shape. It’s painful and normally you are trying to tell yourself to stop and when you do there is probably about 40 percent left in the tank. He had that breakthrough”
Another junior that had a breakout season under coach Cal was Willie Cauley-Stein, who was a 1st team All-American in his 3rd year.
However, based on the numbers Richards is having a better year than the year Willie put together.
The numbers were broken down via Twitter and it shows just how good Richards has been this year.
Willie: 8.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 25.9 MPG
Nick: 13.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 28.9 MPG
Total Rebound %
Player Efficiency Rating
Blocks per 40 MIN
One thing that I didn’t see coming was Richards leading in blocks per 40 minutes. However, he has improved tremendously in that area and the numbers back it up.
Cauley-Stein was able to guard all 5 positions on the court and that is something that Nick hasn’t been asked to do a whole lot. But he showed he is capable of it in the Arkansas game which was really impressive to see.
I think it is safe to say that while Richards might not be our best player (I think you could argue that point), he is our most important player with the way his presence completely changes games for this team.