Calipari looking to improve Richards, says he “needs him”


Nick Richards #4 of the Kentucky Wildcats dunks the ball during the game against Florida Saturday, January 20, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Florida defeated Kentucky 66-64. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Amid a four-game win streak, John Calipari took time Friday afternoon to let media know that the Cats aren’t where he wants them to be yet.

Before the team’s season finale at Florida on Saturday, Calipari said that players like Nick Richards and Sacha Killeya-Jones still need to work on “conquering” themselves.

“It’s like I was with Hami (Diallo), with Nick (Richards) and I just—we need him. So starting him, maybe he gets going in a game and it’s like Hami— he has a breakthrough. My talk to him yesterday was simple because, again, I got 18- and 19-year- old kids. Before you can worry about conquering somebody else, you gotta conquer yourself,” Calipari said.

Calipari said players like Richards need to play as hard as Jarred Vanderbilt to earn more time and make more of an impact on the court. He said that if Richards played as hard as Vanderbilt, he’d be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft.

The players talked about how focused they were on improving, but also made sure to note how far they’ve come this year.

“I feel like I’m definitely way more mature than I was,” forward P.J. Washington said. “Credit that to the coaching staff here, and also my teammates… owning up to my own mistakes and stuff like that.”

Calipari has stressed all season that his players must be accountable, not enabled, and must take responsibility for their actions, both good and bad.

Calipari also said that heading into the team’s final matchup in Florida, the Cats’ opponent was incredibly similar to their own team, except for one aspect: experience.

“You know what? They lost three in a row. They went through what we went through, and then they came back and won that game and then beat Alabama on the road. They’re clicking at the right time, too,” Calipari said.

He also called the Gators a “veteran” team, saying he hopes they don’t shoot the way they did in their win against Auburn, in which they made 13 of their 28 three-point attempts. If they do, he said, the Cats have lost the game.

They’ll take on the Gators at 12 noon on Saturday, March 3. The game will be broadcast on CBS.