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Don’t sleep on Nick Richards

Nick Richards’ former coach weighs in on the big man’s poor first season at Kentucky.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Buffalo vs Kentucky Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

I was on record when the season started that I wasn’t very high on Nick Richards.

Richards offers a 6’11, 240 lb frame with a 7’0 wingspan. He also offers a soft touch around the rim and the physical ability to block any shot that enters the paint. What he didn’t offer last season, however, was simple awareness and grit on both ends of the floor.

Richards often at times looked lost on both ends of the court. He was often man-handled against older, stronger players. It came to the point where Richards would start the game to win the opening tip and after the first timeout, his minutes were extremely limited.

Richards’ former coach, Mike Rice, says not to give up on the big man.

“Sometimes, not having an easy path is the best thing for young basketball players. Because they’ve gotten punched, and now they’ve got back up, dusted themselves off, and they’re going to work harder and understand how hard it is to be successful,” Rice told the Herald-Leader. “And I think Nick’s one of those guys who’s not going to be afraid to put the work in.”

Rice also wanted to remind Kentucky Wildcats fans that Richards hasn’t been playing basketball all of his life. Richards moved to the States just before high school, the same time he began to learn the game and play competitively.

This was something Rice hung his hat on, going on to say that most players have been playing since they were in elementary school. “Organized leagues and playing games,” Rice said. “Nick never had that.”

While Richards certainly struggled in game play, his practice effort was duly noted by John Calipari and the Kentucky staff all season. Rice said Calipari hasn’t given up on Richards, and neither should Big Blue Nation.

You can read the entire interview here.

With at least 1-2 of Jarred Vanderbilt, P.J. Washington and Wenyen Gabriel expected to return to Kentucky, along with top-10 recruit E.J. Montgomery, Richards will certainly have his work cut out for him.

However, if anyone has the talent and work ethic to work their way onto the court, it’s him.