UK Men's Basketball

Fifth Kentucky underclassman opts to enter name into NBA Draft

Nick Richards feels like one thing has been holding the Kentucky center back

Kentucky center Nick Richards said he needs to improve in one area after a frustrating freshman season. He believes he already sees improvement.
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Kentucky center Nick Richards said he needs to improve in one area after a frustrating freshman season. He believes he already sees improvement.

Kentucky’s Nick Richards, a sophomore center who started just three games this season, announced Monday he will test his stock in the upcoming NBA Draft.

“After discussing my options with Coach Cal and my family, I decided to enter my name into the NBA Draft,” Richards wrote in a social media post. “Using the rules in place, I want to explore every option and see where my game is. I know that my game has grown so much in my time at Kentucky and I want to thank Coach Cal and my teammates for pushing me to be my best every day.”

Richards becomes the fifth UK underclassman to enter his name for consideration. Freshmen Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson and fellow sophomore PJ Washington announced previously and also declared they would remain in the draft. All are projected first-round picks.

Last week, freshman EJ Montgomery, who often split time with Richards in the lineup, announced he would also explore his pro options. Both Richards and Montgomery have until May 29 to decide whether they wish to return to UK after having the opportunity to get input from an NCAA-approved agent, NBA officials and the NBA Draft Combine if they are invited.

“I want to keep all doors open. If this isn’t my time, I’ll be more than excited to suit up in front of the best fans in the country again next season and chase our goal of winning a championship,” Richards said. “This is a learning process for me and I appreciate the Big Blue Nation for being both understanding and supportive of my decision. I can’t thank you enough for welcoming me into your family from day one.”

Richards, a 6-11 native of Kingston, Jamaica, has made 40 starts and played in all 74 games of his two-year career with the Cats, averaging 4.5 points per game, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

“Nick is one of the most loveable and nicest people I’ve ever coached,” UK head coach John Calipari said in a press release. “He’s made great strides and at some point he’s going to be an NBA player who influences games. At 7-foot with his ability to shoot and block shots, it’s just a rare commodity. I think Nick is making a good decision for him and his family to explore their options and see what’s out there. I’ll fully support what he and his family choose to do.”

Calipari has often said during Richards’ UK career that his success would be key to the team’s success, but the center’s impact has been sporadic, occasionally turning in standout performances despite limited playing time as he did when he had five blocks against Kansas in just nine minutes and when he had 15 rebounds against Arkansas.

But there have been other games where Richards struggled and Calipari only used him for four minutes and one minute, respectively, in UK’s final two NCAA Tournament games this past season.

The 2019 NBA Draft Combine will take place May 15-19 in Chicago. The 2019 NBA Draft is June 20 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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