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Speculation grows on who will return to UK next season

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There are mixed signals on which Wildcats will stay or leave for the pros.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Every year, Kentucky fans spent the majority of April and May trying to figure out what next year’s basketball team will look like.

After tournament play, you usually have a good idea of what guys are thinking. There is usually a surprise every few years, but there is rarely a shocking decision made by a player about their future.

Given the fact that the season ended abruptly without a tournament, and factor in the reality that there will likely be minimal (if any) workout opportunities for these guys with NBA teams, we could end up with more college basketball players across the country returning to school than normal. But will that include the Wildcats?

Ben Roberts of the Herald-Leader tackled this question in a mailbag on Wednesday, specifically speculating on the futures of Immanuel Quickley and EJ Montgomery.

For Quickley, Roberts says predicting his future at this point is really a coin flip. He certainly raised his stock over the course of his sophomore season, but could another year make him even more of a prospect?

“I was told immediately after the NCAA Tournament was canceled that there was a legitimate chance that Quickley would return for a junior season, even after emerging as a star player this year and earning SEC player of the year honors,” Roberts wrote. “ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony told the Herald-Leader recently that pro scouts would likely be more comfortable with Quickley if he can prove himself at that position before jumping to the league. Givony also pointed out Quickley’s relatively low two-point conversion rate as a sign that he needs to improve his ability to finish near the basket, something that will only get more difficult in the NBA.”

The feedback that Roberts is hearing from his sources is: “Quick is 50/50.”

Kyle Tucker recently spoke to Quickley’s mother about his pending decision, and the more the writer from The Athletic asks around, the better he feels about Quickley’s return.

“Oh, and when I told someone in the program, ‘I just got the he’s-coming-back vibe from IQ’s mom,’ the response was: Same here,” Tucker tweeted.

So it seems that some media believe Quickley is more likely than not to return. I’d like to go on record and say that my sources are telling me otherwise, and I’d put the chances of Quickley’s return closer to 10%.

Roberts feels even better about the prospect of Montgomery returning, writing, “Kentucky is expecting Montgomery to return for a junior season, though it’s no sure thing.”

Of course, the Nick Richards model (previously known as the PJ Washington model plus a year) is going to be applied to all future UK players that struggle early, especially big men. Double especially to long, lanky big men with similar skill sets to Richards.

The truth is that Montgomery was much better as a sophomore than Richards was. And Roberts believes that another year could help him make a splash in the 2021 NBA Draft, given his potential.

“He could be a major, major factor for the 2020-21 Wildcats and put himself on NBA Draft boards if that potential is realized,” Roberts wrote.

Sorry to be a “Debbie downer” here, but I think Montgomery is probably gone too. I think he came back for “one more year,” and that time has passed, so Montgomery ultimately goes pro, which means he will likely end up in the G-League or playing abroad. I’d put his chances of returning at 25%.

I know I could be wrong, and these guys certainly have their sources as well. But I like mine better in this instance.