LEXINGTON — EJ Montgomery knows what he needs to do to become a lottery pick in next year’s NBA Draft. He was close to remaining in this year’s pool of draftees but opted to return for a second season with the Wildcats.

Based on the feedback he received, athletically, Montgomery was ready. Physically he wasn’t set for the next level.

 “That was probably one of the main reasons (I came back), just my physical part — my body,” he said. “I went out there (for the workouts) and showed I can do a lot of things, but they just want to see that I can go out there and play with the physical guys.”

Montgomery, who waited until the last minute to make up his mind on whether to return or remain in the draft, was considered among the top prospects in the late first round. He conceded that it was a hard decision, but “laid out the pros and cons and coming back to Kentucky was the best option.”

“It was very close ... and I put a lot of thought into it,” he said. “I got positive feedback. They said I did good (and) I shot it well. I can stretch the floor and things like that.”

Montgomery worked out with former Kentucky guard Tony Delk and said the experience proved to be beneficial.

“It was good and I learned a lot,” he said. “We just talked about how it was when he played at Kentucky and stuff like that.”

During his freshman campaign, Montgomery averaged 3.8 points and 4.1 rebounds per game and played in 37 games, starting 10 of those contests. He finished third on the team with 28 blocked shots. Montgomery had 11 points and 13 rebounds in Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament opener against Abilene Christian. 

Despite playing limited minutes, Montgomery depended on his teammates and a “great support system” to get through his first season at the collegiate level.

“They always kept my head up and things like that,” he said. “If I had a bad day, we always just kept each other up. Working in the gym every day, that’s the way I got through it.”

Montgomery said it “definitely feels weird” to be among the veterans but added: “It’s different. You have to take that role.” He plans on earning his minutes next season.

“I have to work for everything,” he said. “It’s not going to be given to me, so I’m just going to stay in the gym.”

He hopes the decision to return improves his status in the next 12 months.

 “We’re getting back to business,” Montgomery said. “We’ve got another year.”

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