UK Men's Basketball

Former NBA star Penny Hardaway impressed by ‘unselfish’ UK recruits

John Petty was the first recruit from the class of 2017 to receive a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky.
John Petty was the first recruit from the class of 2017 to receive a scholarship offer from the University of Kentucky.

Two of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2017 could end up playing together at the University of Kentucky, and they’ve spent the past few weeks teaming up on the Nike circuit.

Those two prospects — John Petty and P.J. Washington — have made quite an impression on their AAU coach, former NBA star Penny Hardaway.

“They’re both just special,” Hardaway said. “They’re special players in their own rights and their own positions. P.J.’s an outside-inside guy. John does it all. Both of them are very unselfish. They put winning before their own individual accolades. That’s what I really like about both of them.”

The duo helped lead Team Penny to one of the best records on the Nike circuit this spring, then took the squad all the way to the Peach Jam semifinals, narrowly missing out on the championship game with a 66-64 loss to PSA Cardinals on Saturday night.

Petty — a 6-foot-5 wing from Alabama — joined Team Penny midway through the Nike regular season.

“There were no growing pains,” Hardaway said. “When he initially came to us, right away you could just tell that he fit with the team. He was very unselfish. He made plays for himself, he made plays for his teammates. And he’s a great person. So, that all matched for us.”

Washington — a 6-7 power forward from Findlay Prep (Nev.) — has been with Team Penny for awhile and was one of the few players to average a double-double (17.4 points and 10.9 rebounds) during the Nike regular season.

The 232-pound prospect is a savvy frontcourt player who knows how to use his 7-2 wingspan and regularly causes mismatches for defenders. He’s also working on his perimeter game.

“P.J. is a problem,” Hardaway said. “I know they always talk about ‘tweeners’ and ‘3s’ and ‘4s’ or whatever. He’s just a ballplayer. You can’t put a tag on a ballplayer. And he’s able to play against a 7-footer, a 6-10, a 6-5 or whatever, and he’s still able to do whatever he needs to do.

“If he’s out on the perimeter, he can get around a guard or a small forward. If he gets on the post, he can post any big man. His reach really helps him out a lot.”

Petty’s recruitment is expected to come down to UK and Alabama. The four schools recruiting Washington the hardest are UK, Arizona, North Carolina and Texas.

Peach Jam champs

UK Coach John Calipari was in South Carolina to watch top point guard target Trae Young help lead Mokan Elite to a 93-65 victory over PSA Cardinals in the Nike Peach Jam championship game Sunday afternoon.

Young was 6-for-10 from three-point range and tallied 28 points, 11 assists and three steals in the victory.

UK targets Quade Green (nine points and six assists) and Mohamed Bamba (eight points and six rebounds) played for PSA Cardinals in the title game.

No contact

Top-10 recruit Billy Preston — a 6-10 power forward in the class of 2017 — told the Herald-Leader that he has not heard from Kentucky since his recent announcement that he was leaving API (Texas) to play his senior season at Oak Hill Academy (Va.).

John Calipari has not recruited any players from API, which has close ties to defunct Prime Prep, since his pursuit of point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, and the program has drawn scrutiny from the NCAA.

Preston’s top four schools are Arizona, Kansas, Maryland and Southern Cal, the perceived favorite.

Ben Roberts: 859-231-3216, @NextCats