UK Men's Basketball

Kentucky appears to be the favorite for five-star center, says national analyst

Nick Richards played for Expressions Elite on the Nike circuit this summer, and he’s considered one of the best centers in the class of 2017. Richards visits UK this weekend.
Nick Richards played for Expressions Elite on the Nike circuit this summer, and he’s considered one of the best centers in the class of 2017. Richards visits UK this weekend. Nike

One of Kentucky’s top basketball recruiting targets will be in Lexington for his official visit this weekend, and the Wildcats look to be in great shape going into the trip.

Nick Richards — a 6-foot-11 center from Queens, N.Y. — is coming to UK for the first official visit of his recruitment. The Patrick School (N.J.) standout said several times over the summer that he planned to wait until the spring to make a college commitment, but that timetable might have shifted over the past few weeks.

In an interview with the Herald-Leader last week, Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels was asked to name a recruit from the class of 2017 that UK had the best shot at landing.

At the time, Daniels said it was five-star forward PJ Washington.

“But now I think it’s probably Nick Richards,” Daniels told the Herald-Leader this week, noting that he still thinks UK is in great shape with Washington. “They appear to be in really good shape with Nick Richards. They certainly appear to be the favorite, but Nick hasn’t said that. So I guess we’ll see how it goes. Obviously this visit will be big for him.”

Richards also lists Arizona, Indiana, Syracuse and UConn among his top five schools — and he’s expected to take an official visit to Arizona next weekend — but, right now, all signs are pointing to UK as his most likely destination.

John Calipari has visited with Richards twice since the fall recruiting period began this month, and former UK star Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — also a former player at Richards’ high school — has talked to the five-star prospect about playing for the Cats.

It’s looking more likely that Richards could be ready to make a decision in time for the early signing period, which starts Nov. 9, and a commitment to the Cats would be a great start to UK’s 2017 recruiting class.

They appear to be in really good shape with Nick Richards. They certainly appear to be the favorite.

Evan Daniels, Scout.com national analyst

Scout.com ranks Richards as the No. 17 overall prospect in the country. He averaged 12.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots in 23.1 minutes on the Nike circuit this summer (while teaming up with fellow UK target Tremont Waters).

Richards still has a way to go offensively, but he’s established himself as one of the best rebounders and post defenders in high school basketball.

“I like how hard he plays,” Daniels said. “He’s a competitor, and he has legitimate size and strength. He really battles. He uses his strength inside.

“He’s not going to wow you with his scoring ability. But he will with his toughness, his rebounding and his ability to protect the rim.”

Calipari is looking to add at least one true post player to his 2017 recruiting class, while UK is expected to return four 6-10-or-taller players from this season’s team: Isaac Humphries, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard.

Richards and 7-footer Mohamed Bamba — the No. 2 overall player in the Scout.com rankings — are the only centers Calipari is still recruiting for 2017.

Bamba’s recruitment is still a bit of a mystery. A solid visit this weekend could seal the deal with Richards.

“They appear to be in awesome shape for him,” Daniels said.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats

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