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Kentucky freshman center Nick Richards has probably been better than anticipated on offense but not as good as expected on defense — or at least not yet.

Sporting News college basketball columnist Mike DeCourcy says that is not a bad thing so early in the season.

“Offensively he is not a super skilled post guy. He is not Elton Brand. He does not have all those undo the defense moves. Can he catch it? Yes. Can he turn and score? Okay, you can work on that,” DeCourcy said before UK opened its season..

“If he has not been good defensively, it’s okay. He’s a freshman. That is not a problem at all. It’s an issue for Cal (John Calipari) to work on and he may lose minutes but that is something he can make up between now and March. That’s not really a great concern at this point.

“Whatever defensive deficiencies he has it is not physical. He just doesn’t know how to do it yet. That’s one of the reasons I say one-and-done is a good thing. Imagine Richards having that problem this year in the NBA. Instead, he can learn from Cal and get better and make Kentucky better at the same time.”

DeCourcy, like many others, sees freshman Kevin Knox as the Kentucky player with the most potential. He anticipates P.J. Washington being the most consistent from game one to the end of the season.

What about freshman Hamidou Diallo? He’s considered the best athlete not only at Kentucky, but one of the best in the country.

“I think that Hami is a talent. Sometimes I think because guys become highly rated … people just know he is a top 10 or 15 guy but they don’t know what each one of them is,” DeCourcy said. “It’s a question of what are they being rated for: college prospect, pro prospect. All that comes into it.

“He’s not a great shooter but he has time to improve and is making some progress. He’s really a great up and down (the court) athlete but how good is he at picking you apart defensively. I am not sure he is great at that yet.”

Kentucky Radio Network analyst Mike Pratt has the same concern about Diallo’s feel for the game. DeCourcy said redshirting the second semester at UK was a move that had to help Diallo with that.

“He has a long ways to go. He is not there yet. If I looked at Kentucky’s team and was having a college draft, he would be my third pick. Maybe my fourth depending on whether I needed a point guard,” DeCourcy said.

“Hami is the guy who is the biggest variable. Can he be great? Yes. Can he be great this year? Maybe. I am not sure. I worry a little bit about how people will react to his struggles and how he will react. That’s something nobody knows at this point.”


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