Part of the struggles Kentucky had last season were due to the lack of production of 5-Star prospect Nick Richards. After being touted as a potential first round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Richards played just 14.7 minutes per game and averaged just over 5 points.
Despite starting all 37 games, Richards never had a good feel for the game around him and couldn’t keep himself on the floor enough to truly showcase the wide array of talent he possesses.
In the Bahamas Tour opener, Richards got the start over Reid Travis, and showed everyone that watched just how much he improved with a 19 point performance on 6/7 shooting, 7/8 from the free-throw line, and two blocked shots as well.
The biggest thing for Nick was being comfortable. Utilizing a professional-looking post hook shot, playing fundamentally correct defense and being a prescience with his incredible physical traits had Richards looking like a potential lottery pick next July.
The fluency of his movements also looked more improved, as was his timing on a lot of moves he made. A smooth baseline mid-range jumper and a ferocious dunk in transition paved the way for a 14-point first half against the Bahamas National Team.
“Like all the kids, there’s a lot of stuff to grow. He’s not the same player,” said John Calipari of Richards’ performance. “Like I told him, if you make your free throws like that, get fouled. Ball fake. Don’t fade away. Go to the rim and shoot through people. He played well. Blocked some shots.”
The 19 points are significant in the essence that outside of his 25-point game against Fort Wayne last November, Richards’ season high was 12 points last year; and he had just 7 double-digit scoring games.
Richards’ 8 free throws attempted in this game would have been higher than any game he played last season; as he shot 7 free throws in a game twice in 37 games. To go along with that, Richards drew 6 foul calls while committing just 3 fouls.
In a tight race in Kentucky’s frontcourt to try and start, Nick Richards had the best first audition of perhaps any player on the team.