Asked why he was bringing his five-star basketball recruit son — PJ Washington — back to Lexington for Friday night’s Big Blue Madness so soon after last month’s official visit to UK, Paul Washington joked Monday that he didn’t even want to make this trip.
“This is all PJ,” he said with a laugh. “I’m tired of flying.”
The elder Washington was speaking from Colorado, where PJ participated in a Team USA training camp over the weekend. That followed cross-country trips for official visits to UK and North Carolina on consecutive weekends at the end of last month.
And those trips came after a spring and summer that included stops all across the country for Nike league events and various camps, as well as a trip to Chile, where PJ helped the Team USA U18 squad win a FIBA gold medal.
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The Washington family’s upcoming travel schedule includes official visits set for Arizona and Texas later this month before the high school season begins for Findlay Prep (Nev.), which is now coached by Paul Washington and plays a national schedule every year.
A weekend off the road probably would’ve been nice, but a trip to Big Blue Madness is something that PJ Washington — the No. 14 overall recruit in the class of 2017 — has been looking forward to for a while.
Paul Washington said his son wanted to attend the event last year, but the family’s schedule didn’t allow it. Since Washington has already taken his official visit to UK, this trip will have to be an unofficial visit, meaning the family — based in the Las Vegas area — will have to pay all of their own expenses.
“It’s something he really wanted to do,” Paul Washington told the Herald-Leader. “We’ve never been to a Kentucky game, so this will be the closest that we’ve gotten to that, as far as the fans. We’ll be able to see Rupp Arena packed. And people cheering for Big Blue.
“So that’ll be exciting and kind of like a game atmosphere.”
The family’s official visit to UK in September was the serious trip. That’s when they met with academic advisers, talked to the current players about their experiences and received a more formal tour of the campus and basketball facilities.
This weekend’s visit will be more laid back, but it will still be an important trip for Washington, who many recruiting observers are predicting will ultimately become a Wildcat.
The 6-foot-8, 232-pound forward will be on campus at the same time as fellow class of 2017 stars Quade Green, Kevin Knox, Nick Richards and Trae Young, players he knows well from Team USA camps and Nike league events, and players who could end up being his college teammates a year from now.
Washington, who was born in Louisville but grew up in Texas, jumped to the top of John Calipari’s recruiting wish list earlier this year, impressing the UK coach with his team-first play and ability to dominate in the post.
Over the summer, Washington played on the same Nike team as fellow UK recruiting target John Petty, who told the Herald-Leader that he is a great player who takes pressure off of his teammates.
The coach of that team — former NBA star Penny Hardaway — said in July that Washington is “very unselfish” and makes those around him better.
Washington’s teammates on that gold medal-winning USA squad over the summer included five-star college freshmen Markelle Fultz and Jarrett Allen, top-five recruit Michael Porter Jr., and UK targets such as Green, Young, Mohamed Bamba and Hamidou Diallo. Still, Washington was chosen to start every game, managed to score 10.0 points per contest and shot a team-best 61 percent from the field.
While some other top recruits in recent years have opted to go to a college where they can be the go-to guy, Washington is already used to fitting in with other stars.
Where he goes next is still up in the air, but Scout.com national analyst Evan Daniels told the Herald-Leader recently that he saw Washington as UK’s most likely commitment for 2017.
Arizona, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Texas and UNLV are the others on his list, and a final decision could be coming soon.
“That’s up to PJ,” his father said. “He could wait until April or he could do it in November. There’s no pressure. It’s just whenever he feels comfortable.”
Expected visitors for Big Blue Madness
- Quade Green (2017)
- Kevin Knox (2017)
- Nick Richards (2017)
- PJ Washington (2017)
- Trae Young (2017)
- Immanuel Quickley (2018)
- Romeo Langford (2018)
- Christian Brown (2019)
- Ashton Hagans (2019)
Big Blue Madness
7 p.m. Friday (SEC Network)