LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky opened its four-game Bahamas exhibition tour with an 85-61 win over the Bahamas National Team Wednesday at Imperial Arena in Atlantis.
Nick Richards led four players in double figures with a team-high 19 points and missed just one shot on seven attempts. Freshman guard Tyler Herro followed Richards with 16 points and two steals. Keldon Johnson added 11 points and PJ Washington tallied 10 points. Quade Green and Immanuel Quickley combined for nine of Kentucky’s 13 assists.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said Richards “isn’t the same player” as he was during his freshman campaign. Prior to leaving for the Bahamas earlier this week, Calipari lauded the improvement by Richards.
“We met in the office (last Tuesday) and I just told him, ‘You’ve never been a better player in your life.’ They’re all wanting to please me and Nick really does,” he said. “I told Nick, ‘You gotta be in love with you. You gotta please yourself and try to define a little of what he can do so.’”
Richards said he was anxious to get back on the court following a slow finish last season.
“It’s blessing and it’s exciting to be back out there with my teammates,” he said on the SEC Network. “We just wanted to come out and see where we’re at. Hopefully, we’ll get better.”
Richards, Green, and Washington started the contest and were joined by freshman newcomers Johnson and Quickley. Richards scored 10 of the first 19 points for the Kentucky, which opened with a 13-0 run. The Bahamas team didn’t score its first basket until the 16:33 mark of the opening half.
Kentucky led 42-35 at the break and was paced in scoring by a veteran and a newcomer.
Richards led the Wildcats with 14 points in the opening half. Herro came off the bench and followed Richards with 12 points. Washington tallied five, Ashton Hagans added four, Quickley followed with three, Johnson scored two and E.J. Montgomery contributed with two points.
Richards and Herro were 9-12 from the field, while Richards was perfect on all five of his attempts from the field. Kentucky shot 41 percent from the field in the first half.
The NCAA announced policy and rule changes in college basketball Wednesday. Among the changes will be giving the elite high school and college players permission to hire agents, while underclassmen who declare for the NBA Draft and go undrafted can return to school, pending approval by the NBA and the NBA Players Association. In addition, two independent groups will be formed to resolve complicated rules violations.
Calipari said some questions remain following the rule change during a halftime segment on the SEC Network.
“We are in the beginning changes and we have three years before this has to be finalized,” he said. “They’re saying a player can go in the draft and if he’s not drafted, he can go back to college. The kid leaves and the scholarship is taken away, he wants to go back to school, there’s no scholarship. What do we do? Does he transfer? Does he have to sit out? What? There are so many things that need to be answered and thank goodness we have time to do it. We’re wasting our breath because we’re a ways away from doing all this stuff.”
Kahlil Whitney, one of the top players in the Class of 2019, committed to Kentucky Wednesday. He chose the Wildcats over Georgetown, Oregon, and Illinois.
Whitney, a 6-foot-6 , 180-pound small forward at Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, joins point guard Tyrese Maxey and in-state standout Dontaie Allen as Kentucky’s first three commitments for next season.
“Where I’m from, growing up on the west side of Chicago, I never imagined I’d be in this situation,” he said in a release. “Many kids from the city get caught up in the wrong lifestyle. I, however, saw a different way, the basketball way.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21