The Kentucky men’s basketball team’s frontcourt in 2019-20 became a whole lot deeper with EJ Montgomery’s announcement Wednesday that he will return to Kentucky for a sophomore season. After testing the NBA waters and going through the NBA Draft process, the 6-foot-10 forward opted to return to the Wildcats.
“Big Blue Nation, I just want to say thanks for all you've done for me and my family,” Montgomery said. “I enjoyed putting on a Kentucky uniform with my brothers and playing in front of the best fans in the nation. I appreciate your support for me and my teammates this season. I want to say thanks for Coach Cal, Coach KP, Coach Joel, Coach Robic and Coach Barbee for pushing me every single day to be the best I can be on and off the court. I got to compete against the best of the best every day in practice. We had a good season on the court because of our love for the grind. I'm proud of what we accomplished together.
“BBN, I’m back. Year two.”
Montgomery will join fellow returners Nick Richards, Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Brad Calipari and Zan Payne to the fold in 2019-20.
Underclassmen PJ Washington, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson announced their intentions to stay in the NBA Draft. Additionally, forward Reid Travis and walk-on guard Jonny David have exhausted their eligibility, and guard Jemarl Baker Jr. has transferred to Arizona.
Despite returning four players who started at least one game last season, the Wildcats are slated to lose their top four scorers, top four rebounders and top three 3-point shooters from the 2018-19 squad that went to the Elite Eight.
Montgomery’s continued development will help offset that loss.
Montgomery’s season highlights included 11 rebounds against Abilene Christian in his NCAA Tournament debut. He recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 13 boards in a win over South Carolina. Against No. 1 Tennessee, he charted six points and four boards in just nine minutes. Two offensive rebounds in the second half helped spark a late comeback on the road at Florida, and he had 10 points and seven rebounds against Southern Illinois.
“When EJ and his family set out to go through this NBA Draft process, I told EJ he had my full support no matter what he decided,” UK head coach John Calipari said. “I know this was a tough decision for EJ and his family because of the positive feedback he received throughout this process. EJ improved so much during the season and I know how much he wants to show our fans what he can do with another year.
“I’m thrilled to be able to continue to coach EJ. He has a special skillset and he’s only begun to scratch the surface of his potential. EJ knows how hard this is going to be, and I know he’s ready to embrace the grind and do everything he can for this team while continuing to develop into the best version of himself.”
Of his 10 starts, nine came over the last 11 games of the season. UK went 9-1 when Montgomery started the game.
Montgomery was tabbed a five-star recruit out of high school and was rated as high as the No. 6 overall player in the 2018 high school class by 247Sports. He was a McDonald’s All American.
Montgomery, Richards, Hagans and Quickley will provide leadership and experience to couple with the No. 2 ranked signing class (which includes guard Dontaie Allen, forward Keion Brooks, walk-on forward Brennan Canada, guard Johnny Juzang, guard Tyrese Maxey and forward Kahlil Whitney). Also joining the mix is Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina, who will help add to the depth in the frontcourt.