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Nick Richards up to the challenge of becoming top post player in nation after opting to return to UK


By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Nick Richards wants to get better and that’s the main reason he opted to return to Kentucky for a third season.

“That’s one of the reasons I came to this school is to improve on my basketball skills and get ready for the next level,” Richards said. “I thought that coming back for an extra year would just benefit that.”

Kentucky sophomore Nick Richards declared for the NBA Draft after the season but opted to return for a third season with the Wildcats. (Photo by Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today)

He added the decision was “easier” because “I knew I would be coming back.”

“The goal this year is just to be a better player both on and off of the court,” he said. “I’m just going out there and take it day by day. I’m trying to show everyone what kind of player I am and show everybody I love the game of basketball. Just try to move forward from there.”

Richards entered the NBA Draft but decided to come back after receiving feedback from coaches and executives at the next level and said the biggest concern is consistency.

“Everybody knows my game,” he said. “They know what I can do. They wanted to know if I can bring it every single night. They wanted to know if I can do it in the NBA and hopefully do it for 82 games straight.”

To reach a level of consistency, Richards said “It’s just one of those things I have to develop into.”

“Coach (John Calipari) just talks about me getting into the gym and working out the same things over and over again,” Richards said. “Hopefully one day it just clicks on the basketball court.”

Richards didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15-years-old and a visit with his grandmother in New York.

“I came to America just to visit my grandmother and ended up on a summer league basketball team in New York,” he said. “A basketball team saw me and offered me a scholarship to play for them.”

Prior to playing basketball, Richards played other sports.

“Where I grew up in Jamaica, basketball is not really the common sport,” he said. “It’s more about, we call it football, but in America they call it soccer. Cricket, track and field. I even did volleyball before. So, I was playing sports like that.”

Richards has played in 74 games during his first two seasons with the Wildcats and started 40 contests. He has averaged 4.5 points per game and 3.9 rebounds per game in his two seasons. This past season, he collected 47 blocks to lead the team and had five in a win over Kansas. Richards pulled down 19 rebounds — a career-high — in a win over Southern Illinois.

Now that he’s back for a third tour of duty at Kentucky, Richards has accepted a challenge from Calipari and his staff.

“He’s driving me to be one of the best players in the country — trying to make me one of the best big men in the country, and I am up for the challenge,” he said. “It’s not that hard for me to play basketball — it’s the sport I love to do. There’s not pressure towards it. Just taking it day by day and show him what I can do.”

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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