Three from UK men’s basketball honored with NABC District Awards

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Three Kentucky men’s basketball Wildcats added to their postseason honors with the release of the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District awards on Monday.

Junior forward Nick Richards was named to the NABC All-District 20 First Team, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley made the NABC All-District 20 Second Team and John Calipari was tabbed the NABC District 20 Coach of the Year.

Selected and voted on by member coaches of the NABC in NCAA Division I, the student-athletes represent the finest basketball players in America. The players are selected from schools that make up the Southeastern Conference.

Monday’s NABC awards add to a growing list of postseason honors for Richards, Quickley and Calipari. Quickley has already been named an All-American by a number of outlets after winning SEC Player of the Year honors (as selected by the coaches), Richards was a consensus All-SEC First Team pick by the league’s coaches and media, and Calipari was named the SEC Coach of the Year from the league’s coaches and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. A full list of their awards to this point is below.

Richards was joined on the NABC All-District 20 First Team by Skylar Mays (LSU), Reggie Perry (Mississippi State), Breein Tyree (Ole Miss) and Mason Jones (Arkansas).

In addition to Quickley, Anthony Edwards (Georgia), Samir Doughty (Auburn), Kira Lewis Jr. (Alabama) and Isaac Okoro (Auburn) rounded out the NABC All-District Second Team.

A player of the year was not chosen for each district.

Nick Richards

• NABC All-District 20 First Team
• All-SEC First Team (Associated Press/Coaches)
• SEC All-Defensive Team
• USBWA All-District IV Team
• Two-time SEC Player of the Week
• NCAA March Madness National Player of the Week (Jan. 27)
• USBWA Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week (Dec. 31)

Richards not only enjoyed the most productive season of his career, he produced one of college basketball's best stories of the season.

After averaging 4.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks over 13.4 minutes a game in the first two seasons of his career, he led Kentucky in rebounding (7.8 per game), blocks (2.1 per game) and double-doubles (10) to go along with a conference-high .644 field-goal percentage and 14.0 points per game. His field-goal percentage ranked fourth in the nation.

The centerpiece of a frontline that entered the season with questions about its depth and talent after losing PJ Washington and Reid Travis to the pros, Richards squashed any and all concerns about his ability to produce. Case in point: Richards was one of four players in the country to average at least 13.5 points per game, at least 7.5 rebounds and at least 2.0 blocks while shooting at least 60.0% from the floor this season. He finished 2019-20 in the 98th percentile in offensive efficiency in the Synergy national rankings and in the 88th percentile on defense.

Twice Richards won SEC Player of the Week in addition to two national player of the week awards.

Richards played well early in the season, but his meteoric rise began vs. Louisville and continued into the conference season. Despite impressive early numbers, Richards had yet to fully break through vs. consistent, upper-level competition. Against Louisville's front line, one of the best in the country, Richards delivered. The 6-foot-11 big man secured a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, the majority of his production coming in the latter stages of the game with four fouls.

Other noteworthy performances included a 27-point, 11-rebound game vs. Mississippi State, featuring 25 points in the second half. At Texas Tech, he recorded 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, becoming just the second Wildcat in the Calipari era with such a stat line. National Player of the Year Anthony Davis did it in 2012.

Richards also led the Wildcats with 66 blocks, including 18 games with multiple rejections.

As Richards went in 2019-20, so did UK. Kentucky was 22-2 this season when he scored in double figures, 10-0 when he grabbed double-digit rebounds and 7-1 when he blocked at least four shots.

Immanuel Quickley

• NABC All-District 20 Second Team
• The Athletic All-America Third Team
• ESPN’s Breakout Star of 2019-20
• CBS Sports All-America Third Team
• Bleacher Report All-America Third Team
• SEC Player of the Year (Coaches)
• All-SEC First Team (Associated Press/Coaches)
• U.S. Basketball Writers Association District IV Player of the Year
• USBWA All-District IV Team
• Three-time SEC Player of the Week

Quickley’s season will go down as one of the greatest development stories of the Calipari era. The Maryland native played in all 37 games during the 2019 Elite Eight season, but he did so primarily from a reserve role. After starting seven of the first eight games of the season, Quickley came off the bench the rest of the season and averaged 5.2 points per game with 30 3-pointers in 18.5 minutes per game.

One of four key returners on the 2019-20 squad, Quickley was expected to play a much larger role this season, but no one predicted he would be the SEC Player of the Year. He wasn’t picked for any preseason all-conference teams or player of the year watch lists.

Quickley's steady approach and belief in what coaches call "the process" proved everybody wrong. He scored in double figures in 26 of the 30 games he played in and topped the 20-point plateau in eight. Overall, he averaged a team-high 16.1 points per game and was Kentucky's best scorer and go-to option down the stretch.

The 6-foot-3 guard made a team-high 62 3-pointers -- including making a 3 in 28 games and 11 straight to end the season -- and shot a team-high 42.8% from behind the arc after a slow start.

The sophomore ended the season on a career-best 20-game double-figure scoring streak, the best run since Malik Monk scored in double figures in 30 straight games during the 2016-17 season. During the 20-game stretch, Quickley scored 20 or more points eight times and made three or more 3-pointers seven times, including a career-high eight at Texas A&M.

Quickley won SEC Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks in late February/early March, becoming the first Wildcat in school history to win SEC Player of the Week consecutively (dating back to the 1984-85 season). He won three times total this season.

During the 20-game stretch of scoring in double figures, Quickley averaged 18.6 points to go along with 4.6 rebounds per game and 50 3-pointers while shooting 47.2% from long range. He poured in a career-high 30 points at Texas A&M and sunk a career-best eight 3-pointers to become the first UK player with 30 or more points since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 30 on Jan. 30, 2018, vs. Vanderbilt. He’s also the first player with back-to-back 25-plus-point games since Monk from Feb. 25-28, 2017. The eight 3s tied Monk, Jamal Murray and Eric Bledsoe for the most 3-pointers in a game during the Calipari era.

What those stats don't fully reveal is just how clutch Quickley was. He became Kentucky's go-to scorer late in games, breaking the will of more than a handful of opponents with daggers from beyond the arc and clutch free throws.

Two of the best examples were at LSU and at home vs. Florida. He scored 14 of his team-high 21 points in the second half in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which included making all five field-goal attempts and dishing a pair of assists. At home vs. Florida, he scored 22 points in the second half, including 20 of Kentucky's 28 points when the Wildcats fell behind 40-33. He finished with a game-high 26 points vs. the Gators.

Over the course of UK's eight-game winning streak in February, in the second half alone, Quickley averaged 14.9 points, shot 56.4% from the field, 57.7% from 3-point range and 93.3% from the charity stripe.

Quickley made 92.3% at the free-throw line, which ranks second in school history, just behind Tyler Herro's school record set in 2018-19 of 93.5%. That mark ranked first in the SEC and third in the nation. He enjoyed four different stretches of 17 or more consecutive makes (with a high of 24 straight and was 30 of 31 at the free-throw line this season when it was a two-possession game at any point with 3:00 or less to go or the game is in overtime.

Mirroring his even-keel approach, Quickley was Kentucky's most consistent performer in hostile territory. He averaged a team-best 19.1 points in addition to 4.8 rebounds and 29 3-pointers (on 59.2% shooting) in UK's 10 true road games.

John Calipari

• NABC District 20 Coach of the Year
• SEC Coach of the Year (Coaches)
• USBWA District IV Coach of the Year
• Naismith National Coach of the Year semifinalist

Calipari’s work in 2019-20 was certainly one of his best coaching jobs.

With Calipari at the helm, Kentucky won its sixth regular-season league title in the last 11 seasons and had positioned itself for one of the top seed lines in the NCAA Tournament before the cancellation of the postseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UK sported a 9-3 record vs. quadrant one teams in the NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings, a 4-2 mark vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams at the time of the game and an 8-2 record in true road games. Kentucky’s six losses were by a combined 32 points.

Calipari once again proved to be a master of blending talented but young pieces together in a short period of time. By Calipari-Kentucky standards, this group was led by older players, but few of them played a major role in last season’s Elite Eight run. Only 50 starts, 27.2% of the scoring and 30.5% of the rebounding returned from a season ago, and UK still checks in at 335th in the country out of 353 teams with an average of 0.99 years of experience in Ken Pomeroy’s experience rankings.

After struggling to defend early in the season with new pieces, the Wildcats were once again one of the best defensive teams in the country. UK limited opponents to 39.4% from the floor, ranked 20th in the country, and held 18 opponents to 40% or less from the field, including eight of the last 12. UK was 15-3 in those games. Of the six AP Top 25 opponents Kentucky played at the time, the Wildcats held four of them to less than 40% from the floor.

Six different players led the Wildcats in scoring and five players scored at least 25 points in a game a total of nine times this season. This group was the first Kentucky team with three players to average 14.0 points or more since John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson in 2009-10.

Calipari recently passed Joe B. Hall for the second-most coached games at UK. Hall's 13-year career with the Wildcats ended with his 397th game. Calipari and Kentucky's win over Mississippi State on Feb. 4, marked the 398th career game he's been at the UK helm. Adolph Rupp is first in games coached with a 41-season tenure spanning 1,066 career games.

Earlier this season, he was named Coach of the Decade by Sporting News and he’s orchestrated another 20-win season – his 26th straight, the longest active streak in the country.