If the Kentucky Wildcats are going to make a deep tournament this March, they’re going to need EJ Montgomery to play a significant role.
At times this season, the all-important Montgomery has been more of a liability than an impact player.
On Dec. 7, it appeared Kentucky had the Montgomery they needed to make a deep run as he scored a career-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Cats past Fairleigh Dickinson.
The next weekend was a much different story. In a mid-December matchup with Georgia Tech, Montgomery did not score a single basket and grabbed just three rebounds, which forced John Calipari to sit the former five-star recruit for half of the game.
After nearly a month of up and down play, Montgomery had a breakthrough on Jan. 18 against Arkansas. While he was held to just one point and only grabbed two rebounds, he slowed down Razorbacks forward Jimmy Whitt Jr by holding him to 14 points and a 33% shooting percentage, after he had scored 30 points earlier that week.
Three days later, Montgomery scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds to help Kentucky defeat Georgia.
After the Georgia game, John Calipari revealed how the sophomore was finally able to piece together back to back quality performances: Improved Conditioning.
Calipari asked the media “You know who is now doing extra conditioning?” His response: “E.J. (Montgomery). Is it showing? Yes. It’s not going to happen overnight, though.”
A week later, Montgomery put together another a quality performance by scoring nine points, grabbing four rebounds and blocking a shot in a Kentucky 71-62 win over Vanderbilt.
Calipari bragged over Montgomery, finishing first in team running drills during practice and then said: “He’s (Montgomery) starting to get in better shape. See, that conditioning is really hard, and it hurts, but that’s how you build the stamina to build your confidence, so you don’t let go of the rope and you don’t surrender. You just keep fighting.”
An encouraged Montgomery added, “I’m just trying to run my hardest in practices and things like that so I can get in better conditioning. We have conditioning tomorrow, so we are just trying to get better every day.”
With improved stamina, the Wildcats are finally getting the production they need from Montgomery.
If the former five-star continues to get in shape, you can look to his teammate Nick Richards to see what his ceiling might be.