EDITOR’S NOTE: John Calipari is preparing to put his youngest team yet on the floor — and that is saying something — for the 2017-18 season. Among the 11 scholarship players on the Kentucky roster, eight are freshmen, three are sophomores and … that’s it.
There is enough talent for a deep postseason run, but also enough inexperience for Big Blue Nation to be concerned. So in our Final Fourcast series, we’re breaking down each of the Wildcats and what role they might play in pursuit of a fifth Final Four in nine seasons under Calipari. In this edition, it’s freshman center Nick Richards.
Nick Richards: The basics
Nick Richards was one of six 5-star signees in Kentucky’s 2017 class. He was ranked the No. 18 overall prospect in the class, and the No. 2 center behind Western Kentucky’s Mitchell Robinson, according to the 247Sports composite. Richards, a McDonald’s All-American, was Kentucky’s first 2017 commitment. He picked Kentucky over Arizona and Syracuse. Richards, who grew up in Kingston, Jamaica, prepped at The Patrick School in New Jersey.
How Nick Richards fits
On a team loaded with positionless players, Richards has a natural home at center. The 6-foot-11, 240-pound prospect is more of a traditional, back-to-the-basket big man on offense. But Richards likely will have a bigger impact on defense. He’s known as one of the best defensive big men in the class with elite shot blocking and rebounding skills.
There’s really no going small with the length John Calipari has at his disposal, but Richards could find himself in lineups as the only “big man” on the floor. The Wildcats have plenty of length to guard the perimeter, but Richards could develop into Kentucky’s stopper inside.
What they’re saying about Nick Richards
“There’s value in his game because of his ability to protect the rim and rebound. He’s a strong, physical post presence. He’s not the best scorer in the world, but he’s going to bring it defense and he’s going to grab rebounds and kind of be an enforcer in the paint.” — Scout.com director of recruiting Evan Daniels
It all depends on what Calipari’s lineups look like, but Richards is likely to come off the bench at least early in the season. He’s only been playing basketball for about five years, and the transition from high school to college isn’t always smooth.
Richards’ skill set makes him more of a specialist. If Kentucky is facing a team with a dominant big man, or if the Cats are failing to protect the rim, Richards could be the answer.
The series so far …
- SG Hamidou Diallo has something to prove
- Quade Green next in line at Point Guard U
- PF P.J. Washington aims to be positionless
- Former QB Kevin Knox could play anywhere for Cats
- Jarred Vanderbilt another interchangeable forward
- Wenyen Gabriel could bounce back after hitting freshman wall
Up next: sophomore forward Sacha Killeya-Jones (publishing Thursday, Sept. 14)