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PJ Washington and Nick Richards talk Kentucky recruiting

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Every year just as spring reaches full bloom, Kentucky coach John Calipari always loses multiple players to the NBA Draft; yet, every year he reloads with another sensational recruiting class ready to contend for a national title. Next season will be no different.

Anticipating that most of his fabulous freshmen—Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo (albeit Adebayo has not yet signed with an agent)—would bolt Kentucky to turn pro, Calipari knew he had to reload in his annual quest to contend for an NCAA title.

It’s nothing new. This is what Calipari does every year. He’s used to it

After reeling in the No.2 class in the country (according to 247 Sports) last year, Calipari one upped himself this year, as he secured the No.1 class. It includes early enrollee and five-star stud Hamidou Diallo and four other five-star recruits: Nick Richards, P.J. Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt and Quade Green. The class also included two four-star recruits: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jemarl Baker.

When you factor in that Kentucky is expected to retain the services of Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones, as well as the possibility of adding more elite prospects (Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox being the big fish), it is no coincidence why many pundits are predicting the Wildcats to be the No. 1 team next fall.

Before they matriculate at Kentucky next fall, four of Calipari’s class of 2017 studs participated in the annual Jordan Brand Classic in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center last Friday. All enjoyed some measure of success in the game. Vanderbilt (17), Washington (11) and Richards (10) all scored in double figures, while Green paced everybody with 10 assists to go with six points.

For Richards and Washington, who spoke with FanRag Sports after the game, they are excited to carry on the lineage of the great Kentucky freshmen before them.

“Just to be in position to go there (is great)” Richards said after the game. “I want to get better and win a national championship. That’s all that’s on my mind”

For Washington, the game and the activities leading up to it was a great way to bond with his future teammates. He used the time to get to know them on a personal and playing level.

“We’re all studying each others game and trying to build off each other,” Washington said. “We’re basically getting ready for next year.”

Richards added that his future teammates each bring something unique to the table.

“Jarred brings a lot of energy, P.J. is a great all-around player and Quade is an incredible athlete and a great point guard,” Richards said. “We’re going to be real good next year.”

Washington also made it a point to say that he wants to help out Calipari on the recruiting trail.

“We’re talking with recruits Mo Bamba and Kevin Knox and we’re trying to get them to go (to Kentucky) and be able to win a national championship next year and be part of something special.”

“We’re always recruiting,” Washington added. “Everyday I’m talking (to Kevin and Mo) and I feel like that’s what makes it all fun. Honestly, no other school does it (recruiting) the way we do it. They would be great (at Kentucky).”

Richards and Washington bring a tantalizing set of skills to Kentucky that makes winning a championship in their freshmen years quite feasible.

Richards is a tall (6-foot-11, 235 pounds), athletic big man who excels on defense and playing well above the rim. In many ways, he is similar to ex-Wildcat Willie Cauley-Stein. Meanwhile Washington, a 6-foot-8, 229-pound power forward, is a rugged forward who can both face up and mix it up inside.

While the Fox-Monk backcourt did much of the heavy lifting for this past season’s Wildcats—a squad that came ever so close to making it back to the Final Four—expect next year’s Wildcats to be more diverse and balanced. Anticipate  more player sto be involved in the offense next season.

Any way you want to characterize Calipari’s method of recruiting “one-and-done” players, which was recently the focus of an ESPN 30-for-30 documentary, it certainly works for him and Big Blue Nation as they continue to win at an extraordinary pace.

Next year will be more of the same. Richards’ and Washington’s beliefs in winning a championship is reflected at the top with Calipari inspiring that kind of confidence. Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Expect Richards, Washington and the other 2017 freshmen to be the newest critical parts of Calipari’s ongoing success story.

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