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Nick Richards leaving Kentucky for 2020 NBA Draft

Alabama v Kentucky

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY - JANUARY 11: Nick Richards #4 of the Kentucky Wildcats against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Rupp Arena on January 11, 2020 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

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Nick Richards is forgoing his final year at Kentucky to enter the 2020 NBA Draft.

Following a breakout junior season, the 6-foot-11 big man is turning pro and planning to stay in the draft.

Richards became a go-to presence for the Wildcats on the interior this season. The junior put up 14.0 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Richards was also incredibly efficient. He shot 64 percent from the floor and a respectable 75 percent from the free-throw line. Recognition followed with Richards getting first-team All-SEC honors.

Junior season was a revelation for Nick Richards after two up-and-down seasons in Lexington. The former McDonald’s All-American took time to develop. Richards had to battle for minutes against other five-star big men the past two seasons. This season, when Kentucky needed him to step up, Richards responded with a strong season.

While Richards received some criticism for his slower development, the big man deserves praise for sticking the course and improving dramatically. Not many would have envisioned Richards making the early leap to the NBA following his first two seasons at Kentucky. But Richards put the work in and was one of college basketball’s most-improved players this season.

As far as the NBA draft is concerned, it’ll be interesting to track Nick Richards. He’s not currently a draft darling listed in the first round of mock drafts. Obviously, Richards spent some time in college and is older than many of his draft peers. But he’s also shown two-way ability and a much-improved post game. NBA teams aren’t seeking many big men who can’t shoot from the perimeter. It’s still feasible that Richards carves out an NBA role thanks to his rim protection and late-blooming development.