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Kentucky Basketball

EJ Montgomery is Back For Year 2

May 29, 2019

John Calipari is known as an incredible recruiter and king of the one and done system, but on Wednesday he got arguably his biggest recruit in a player he already had. Despite rumors of his intention to enter the draft, EJ Montgomery announced today that he was returning to Kentucky for a sophomore season. The 9th ranked recruit in the 2018 class will likely slot into the starting PF role left open by another highly-rated sophomore PJ Washington. 

Like PJ, Montgomery will need to improve in his consistency and leadership as he moves into year two. He will be thrust into a much more significant role after playing just 15 minutes per game his freshman year. Despite only scoring double digits twice last year, EJ showed flashes of a variety of offensive skills, hitting baseline jumpers as well as the occasional three. Another year in UK's strength program should improve his inside game while his jump shot should continue to improve. For a team that will play three guards often, EJ will provide incredible versatility in the frontcourt.

Rebounding was sneakily a strength of EJ's in year one. He averaged 4.1 rebounds per game, but when you look at his rebounding rates, he was second on the team in both offensive and defensive rebounding rates. Per 40 minutes, EJ averaged 10.8 rebounds last year, and as he continues to add strength, his rebounding should continue to improve. Look for EJ to potentially lead UK in rebounding in year two, especially with the departure of PJ and Reid Travis. 

On the defensive end, EJ can improve in his understanding of concepts and help defense, but he has shown flashes of a productive defender. His 7.8% block rate translates to 2.7 blocks per 40 minutes and is comparable to freshman Nick Richards (7.0), junior Marcus Lee (7.3) and junior Willie Cauley-Stein (7.1). Add in 1.1 steals per 40 minutes, and fluid athleticism and EJ has the potential to be a plus defender in year two for the Cats.

One of my favorite things to use when thinking about the potential of players is to use the similar players feature on KenPom. It factors in a multitude of stats as well as class, size, and strength of schedule to spit out players that produced similar seasons at the same point in their career. EJ's top five players are Rakeem Christmas, Mason Plumlee, Mangok Mathiang, Khadeem Lattin and Adreian Payne. All five were two-way players that made significant impacts on their teams. When looking at UK comparisons, I harken back to PJ and Terrance Jones as models for a sophomore EJ Montgomery. While he was not as productive as a freshman, EJ has similar inside-out skillsets as those two and should see a similar role on the 2020 Kentucky roster.

While Kentucky's 2020 roster might not be complete, adding EJ to the frontcourt is a major addition. After averaging 3.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg with 1.0 block in 15.1 minutes as a freshman, I'm expecting increases across the board in year two. EJ can realistically provide 10 ppg, and 9.0 rpg with 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals in 30 minutes per game. If he does that, UK will be poised to make a deep run in the tournament again.

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EJ Montgomery is Back For Year 2

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