LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — EJ Montgomery is looking forward to a return visit to Madison Square Garden.
Montgomery’s high school team won in the Dick’s National Championship game and the freshman forward hopes the trend continues at the collegiate level when the No. 9 Wildcats (7-1) take on Seton Hall in a noon contest Saturday in New York City.
I’m hoping to get another win,” he said. “As a high school (player), it was very big. All the greats that have played on that court, it was a special moment.”
Like Montgomery, Kentucky senior Reid Travis also has played in the historic venue and is looking forward to a return visit in his final season at the college level.
It’s crazy,” he said. “When you’re walking through the halls and you see all the pictures of people that have done concerts there, the big games that are there, you can just feel it. When you get in the building, there’s a different feeling about it. I’m excited to get back there and just feel that feeling and just try to put on a good game on Saturday.”
Travis added the chance to play Seton Hall for just the third time in school history gives the team added motivation.
“(We’re) very excited,” Travis said. “Anytime we can kind of get away and play at a big neutral site like that and play against another big-time program, we’re excited for it. We’ve had a good week of prep, preparing ourselves and really think this is a big game to put ourselves on the right step as we go into more non-conference games.”
Montgomery and Travis have been competing for more playing time in the post since Kentucky’s 78-6 win over UNCG last weekend at Rupp Arena. Travis, PJ Washington and Montgomery figure to garner the most time in the post as Kentucky coach John Calipari trims this rotation.
“It’s not cut and dried as far as exactly him (Coach Cal) telling you these are the three, but you can just judge off the way that you’re performing in practice,” Travis said. “If you know that you’ve been working hard, playing well, then you should be in the rotation and should be getting your opportunities when the game starts.
“It’s just about you not worrying about where you fall within that position, but just worrying about what you can control in practice, which is just going out there trying to compete every day. If you feel comfortable and you feel good with the effort you put throughout the week of practice, you should be all right when the game comes.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari plans to address Travis, Washington, Montgomery and Nick Richards “and explain why I’m doing what I’m doing and what led me to this.
“You can’t have two guys not play well on the floor. Like, two not playing and competing. Now, they’re getting minutes. But, when you only have three and that one guy doesn’t bring it and you only play him 15 minutes, you’re okay — that’s been the issue,” he said. “You can’t have two of the four not absolutely diving on the floor for every ball, and that’s why I went with three. My chances of having two out there were better, and you see it. If they all four play and we start playing four and they’re competing, I’m good with that. But, I’m not doing it right now. (I’ve) got to coach to win. I’ll deal with the egos later. Again, I like the fact that they’ve got to compete for their time.”
Calipari wants the Wildcats to play better than they did on their previous contest on a neutral court when the Wildcats dropped a 118-84 loss to No. 3 Duke in the Champions Classic more than a month ago at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
“We have four million basketball coaches in our state, and all they really want to see is play really hard and compete. Now, they really want us to win, but they know the best chance of winning is playing that way. And then they want to see unselfish, good basketball,” he said. “They know what good basketball looks like and they know what bad basketball looks like. Lack of effort, they know what it looks like. How about this? You have three or four guys going crazy and that one guy decides I’m just not going to. He stands out. He just stands out. And then my job is to make sure he doesn’t stand out for very long.”
Gametracker: Kentucky vs. Seton Hall, noon, Saturday at Madison Square Garden. TV/Radio: FOX, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.