We are a week away from the deadline to withdraw from the draft and there are three names for Kentucky fans to keep an eye on… EJ, Nick, and Kerry. All of these players have the potential to be a top prospect but EJ and Nick have not found their stride at Kentucky while Blackshear could improve his game at an elite University. EJ has more upside than Nick ever will, but here is why they both should return.
Nick Richards has been sort of a disappointment since he stepped on campus two seasons ago. Unfortunately for Richards, not only did his minutes go down in his second season but so did his efficiency. Nick has the necessary tools: the height, the athletic ability, the length, and most importantly he has the heart. There have been moments where he looks like the recruit we thought he was, but his issue lies with his consistency. There are games he came in and had anywhere from 10 to 15 rebounds but then he’d foul out the next game or get two quick ones and he would not have an impact on the game. A lot of that really depended on how PJ and Reid played and it took away from his minutes.
I think Richards should come back because he has a ton left to prove. This year there is no PJ, there is no Reid. He will be one of the tallest players we have which will lead to more minutes for him. He could really improve his stock by coming back, especially with the little competition at the big man spot (minus all the forwards we have).
When it comes to Montgomery, I think he has the most to gain from another season. Last year he grew so much over the season and towards the end of the year he was playing his best basketball. In February, he had his best game against South Carolina. He played only 13 minutes, but recorded his first career double-double at the university. I was at that game and honestly it was the coolest moment of the year because you could tell how happy everyone was including Cal, the fans, and the other players. EJ has shown he has the potential to be the #1 big and play long, extended minutes but again…consistency. I feel like he has so much room to grow.
EJ is special. He is 6`10″ and can have a perimeter shot and he has shown that. If he comes back for another season, I think he could work on his perimeter game as well as grow in the weight room. He is so athletic and so long that he could be the missing piece for the Kentucky team next season. If he comes back, I expect him to have the impact that Nerlens or even Reid had last season.
Lastly, what about Kerry Blackshear? If you remember, I changed my prediction to Washington for McDaniels but I said Blackshear is looking more likely every day. The 6 foot 10 Virginia Tech Transfer averaged 14.9 points along with 7.5 rebounds last season in the ACC. He was not invited to the NBA combine last weekend which bodes well for Kentucky, who seems to be the favorite to land him. He has the potential to be the next Reid Travis and with his versability he could be what EJ needs to fully extend himself to the next level.
My Predictions: Nick leaves. I think he is okay with growing in the developmental league while earning some money for himself and his family. I think EJ and Kerry will come to Kentucky. I think they both will grow and contribute to the team that finally brings home #9. They both have yet to receive the information that they wanted to and this would allow them one season to grow on the court.