Richards looking forward to sophomore campaign

KEITH TAYLOR - Kentucky Today
Richards -

LEXINGTON — Although basketball season is more than three months away, Nick Richards is already thinking about next year.

“I’m pretty confident in myself right now, (more) than I was last season,” he said. “I actually haven’t been more excited about going into a season than this one right now. This is probably the most excited I’ve been about playing basketball in my entire life.”

Last year, Richards started off his collegiate career by scoring 25 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in the sixth game with the Wildcats. Despite the fast start, Richards regressed throughout the year, especially during the second half of the season. During the final 10 games, he scored 11 points and collected 20 rebounds. He finished the season averaging 5.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per outing.

Richards, a McDonald’s All-American, said the transition from high school to college took its toll on him and he failed to make the necessary adjustment.

“Your body just wears and tears and you don’t really know how to recover. In high school, I got out of practice and just went home,” he said. “I never really thought of stuff like this, just those little things.”

Although his freshman campaign was a struggle, Richards has gained more confidence since the season ended and credits the turnaround to a renewed emphasis on the court.

“I’m pretty confident in myself right now, (more) than I was last season,” he said. “I actually haven’t been more excited about going into a season than this one right now. This is probably the most excited I’ve been about playing basketball in my entire life.”

The difference?

“I just got a little bit more fire,” Richards said. “It’s going to be an exciting season. I can’t wait for it. I can’t wait to start practice. I can’t wait for my coaches to start teaching and coaching me. I can’t wait for these workouts, these games, the College GameDays. It’s all going to be fun.”

Even Kentucky coach John Calipari has noticed a difference in the 7-foot center but added Richards must be willing to back his talk by the walk.

“He’s gotten way more comfortable, way more confident, way more physical,” he said “But he’s going to have to demonstrate performance in games so that he builds his own confidence” Calipari said. “It’s not what I’m going to do or what I say. He’s gotta go do it. We’re working with him every day. I really, as I watch where the game is kind of going position-less, I want him to train as though he’s a guard. I want him to have those kinds of skills at the end of the day.”

In addition to his improvement on the court, Richards wants to become more vocal on and off the floor.

“During high school I never really spoke out that much (and) I guess it’s my personality,” he said. “In high school I was more of a lead-by-example (person). My coaches and everybody just followed me. Just look what I’m doing and here we are.”

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KEITH TAYLOR

Kentucky Today