UK Men's Basketball

Five-star basketball recruit already feels ‘family’ bond with UK coaches

P.J. Washington talks about recruitment, feels love from UK fans

Five-star recruit P.J. Washington talks about playing alongside John Petty, his recruitment and John Calipari from Team USA camp.
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Five-star recruit P.J. Washington talks about playing alongside John Petty, his recruitment and John Calipari from Team USA camp.

The University of Kentucky’s on-again, off-again recruitment of five-star basketball prospect P.J. Washington is back on again, and in a big way.

Washington, who listed UK prominently early in his recruiting process, didn’t hear much from the Wildcats during his junior year at Findlay Prep (Nev.), but that changed right around the end of the season.

That’s when Washington — a 6-foot-8 forward from Texas — got a visit from John Calipari and Kenny Payne, and an assurance that he did indeed have a scholarship offer from the Wildcats.

“I’ve just been talking to KP a lot. I’ve been talking to Coach Cal sometimes,” Washington said. “And they really like my dad. My dad talks to them a lot. It’s like family there.”

The Cats jumped back into Washington’s recruitment at just the right time.

Few players have been better on the spring AAU and camp circuit.

I love it. It’s a great city. The fans are ridiculous, and I just love the atmosphere.

P.J. Washington, five-star recruit on UK

Washington averaged 17.4 points and 10.9 rebounds during the Nike regular season with Team Penny, which has one of the best records in the league.

He’s spent the past few days at Team USA U18 training camp here, often competing against older players who will be playing college basketball this coming season.

While he lacks the height of some of his frontcourt competitors, Washington has a long frame and knows how to use his body on both ends of the court. He also hasn’t been backing down from bigger opponents.

“He’s been awesome this spring,” said’s Evan Daniels. “Terrific rebounder. Active, kind of a versatile guy that can play some on the perimeter and some inside. He’s improved his offense. He can make jump shots.

“The thing about him is you know you’re going to get defense and toughness and rebounding, and a lot of stuff that translates to the next level. You can use him in a variety of ways.”

Washington is one of those players who can fill several roles on a team. Whatever his coach needs from him — be it defense, scoring or rebounding — he can provide at any given time. In that sense, he’s similar to fellow UK recruiting target John Petty, a versatile wing player and now one of Washington’s teammates on Team Penny.

“Dominant player,” Petty said of Washington. “Just a great player all around. He has a nice touch. He’s one of the best power forwards in the country, in my eyes. It’s great playing with him.

“It takes a lot of stress off of me, just to know that he can do a lot.”

Washington is ranked by as the No. 2 power forward and No. 14 overall prospect in the class of 2017, and some recruiting analysts say that UK has a great shot at landing his commitment.

He told the Herald-Leader this week that he definitely wants to take four of his five official visits to UK, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, and he’s still entertaining interest from other major programs.

Washington will be in Lexington for Big Blue Madness in October, though his father told the Herald-Leader that trip will be an unofficial visit, and the family will return later for an official visit at a less hectic time on the recruiting calendar. Washington has already been to town once, taking a trip to UK before the season started last year.

“I love it. It’s a great city,” he said. “The fans are ridiculous, and I just love the atmosphere.”

Washington, who said he will likely wait until next spring to make a college decision, also talked up his relationship with Calipari. He likes the coach’s winning mentality and the “family atmosphere” that he oversees at Kentucky.

There’s another Calipari trait that Washington has noticed, too, and it could help the Cats close the deal come decision time.

“He’s a smooth talker,” he said. “It’s hard to tell him no.”

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats