LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Nick Richards likely won’t play in Kentucky’s Friday night exhibition game against Kentucky State.
Richards is listed as day-to-day after spraining his ankle in the Wildcats’ 80-53 win over Georgetown College in an exhibition contest last Sunday. The junior forward made all three of his attempts from the field and finished with six points, had five rebounds in 15 minutes on the court.
Kentucky associate coach Kenny Payne said Richards’ injury “looked bad” live and on tape.
“You could tell the kid was in pain,” Payne said Thursday said. “Hopefully he’ll be OK. It’s an injury and it happens every day. We’ve just got to find a way to make up for it.”
Payne said Richards is getting treatment “around the clock” in an effort to make a quick return to the court. Payne aded that he considers Richards one the top post players in the country.
“Even when he doesn’t block a shot, he’s so long and active that he can change shots,” Payne said. “I personally believe that he he’s not playing basketball against a defensive player offensively, he’s playing against himself. If Nick decides to catch the ball with two feet in the paint and explode over a guy, nobody in the country can stop him. He’s just has to be mentally tough enough and aware to go out and do it.”
Payne said the Wildcats will need Richards to make a run for the Final Four this season.
“I hope that the people that are out there watching us and watched us in that first exhibition game, realize how important Nick is to this program,” Payne said. "... We need him more than ever. … Now, it’s Nick’s time. A lot of things that are going to happen — winning or losing, success-wise with this team, falls in Nick and EJ (Montgomery).”
The takeaway from Kentucky’s win over the Tigers was the team’s rebounding. Georgetown College out rebounded the Wildcats 45-39.
The Wildcats have been focusing on their mental approach this week and becoming more alert when it comes to rebounding the ball.
“We can fix it,” Payne said. “I just think we’re teaching habits. Right now, the habit is to look at the ball. As you are looking at the ball as it’s been shot, somebody is running to get an offensive rebound. Our habit has to be hit first and block out and attack that basketball and get that rebound, which is vital for us to get out in transition, where we are really good.”
Payne’s son Zan Payne is recovering from a torn MCL, ACL and petula tendon on the same knee and said it was a “pretty gruesome injury.” Payne said his son is on the mend back and is “on the borderline of getting cleared to play 5-on-5, which is great for him.”
"He’s been doing workouts and he’s getting better,” Kenny Payne said. “I’m proud of the work that he has done to get to this point. He’s still got more to do.”
Kentucky Mr. Basketball Dontaie Allen also is on the mend and on the road to getting back on the court. Allen’s recovery from a knee injury and a broken collar bone he sustained in an automobile accident last April, has been lengthy but nearing completion.
“He’s getting better and you can tell his legs are coming back,” Payne said. “I’m sure that he is a a couple of weeks away, somewhere (in that range). I don’t know how long that is, if it’s more like three or more like two (weeks), I don’t know. He’s getting better.”
Gametracker: Kentucky State at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Friday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.