Nick Richards looks forward to new season, fresh start


Kentucky junior forward Nick Richards high fives Kentucky freshman guard Johnny Juzang during Kentucky’s game against Michigan State as part of the State Farm Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. UK won 69-62. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

The Nick Richards we see today might not be the Nick Richards we saw last season.

Despite a modest season last year, the Kentucky Men’s Basketball center had his fair share of turbulent moments. While the big man delivered critical plays down low, his shortcomings sometimes got the best of him. He got sent to the bench early in several games, perpetuating a cycle of self-doubt and low confidence.

If you’re Richards though, the past is the past.

“I’m more excited just to start the season. One of goals coming into college was to win a national championship. And that’s one of my goals this season,” Richards said.

Richards played in all 36 of the Cats’ games last year but only started three of them. Two of those three games were November matchups against non-conference opponents. He wouldn’t start again until the Cats faced the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville on 7. Aside from scoring a season-high 14 points against Vanderbilt between November and March, Richards didn’t fully see the light of day. Some games he didn’t even score and, if he did, it would be as little as two to five points.

All in all, he finished the season averaging 4.0 points-per-game, 3.3 rebounds-per-game and 47 total blocks. Richards spent some time this past summer re-watching film from last season. He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

“I see a very big man guarding multiple positions who can score the basketball on the low post and score the basketball every day. I see what I struggle with and try to figure out my mistakes,” Richards said. “I know I can rebound. I know I can block shots and make a turnaround jumper. I guard pick-and-roll pretty good.”

He carried over that sense of confidence and knowledge during his workout and routines over the summer. Whether it was working with assistant coach Kenny Payne or his fellow teammates, Richards’ close friend and roommate E.J. Montgomery says he saw that drive. Montgomery said the two never talked about Richards’ struggles from last year but that he could tell what Richards had.

“I see his work. Every time we come into practice, we’re both trying to finish first and sprint and things like that,” Montgomery said.

Another big man who has seen Richards’ grind is graduate transfer Nate Sestina. While Sestina has played the game slightly longer than Richards, he admits he’s still learning from a guy like him. Sestina added that he’s noticed that Richards “always wants to get better” just from seeing the drive in his eyes.

“He’s not working on stuff he’s good at. He’s working on stuff that [Kenny Payne] has told him, ‘Hey, if you wanna take this to the next level, you gotta work on these things.’” Sestina said. “He’s always in the weight room, taking care of his body, and I think that trickles down to the whole team.”