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Duke visiting Kevin Knox because Duke is no longer in the tournament

Coach K is making the most of his new free time by hitting the recruiting trail to check in on Kevin Knox, one of the last remaining top prospects in the 2017 class.

While Duke’s competition for Knox continues to play in the tournament because they didn’t lose to a No. 7 seed in the second round, Duke will try to get a leg up in the chase.

Mike Krysyekjksjekskwskafski is scheduled to meet with Knox later today, according to Knox’s father.

Kentucky and North Carolina will have to wait to pay a visit to Knox, because they didn’t lose to a No. 7 seed in the second round.


Washington fires Lorenzo Romar; Where will Michael Porter Jr. go?

More coaching moves, this time from the West Coast, where Washington has fired head coach Lorenzo Romar. Romar has been the coach at Washington since 2002, but the last few years have been horrendously bad for the Huskies, who went 9-22 this season despite having the projected number one pick in the draft, Markelle Fultz.

More importantly, one of the top recruits in the 2017 class, Michael Porter Jr., signed with Washington. Not only is Porter’s father on the staff, but his Romar is his godfather. Presumably, Porter Jr., considered by ESPN the best player in the 2017 class, will request a release and look to take his talents elsewhere. Porter’s one heck of a small forward and was at one time a Calipari recruit. Would Calipari go after him? Or, could Porter (and his dad) land at Missouri, which was one of his final five schools and has a new coach in Cuonzo Martin?

Interesting. Very interesting…

 


Shai Alexander and Nick Richards named to World Team at the Nike Hoop Summit

It looks like four future Kentucky Wildcats will be playing in the Nike Hoop Summit on April 7 in Portland, Oregon. Today, Shai Alexander and Nick Richards were named to the World Team, which will compete against the US Team, which includes Quade Green and Jarred Vanderbilt. Shai of course, is Canadian, while Richards was born in Jamaica.

Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox are also on the US team, and if you listened to today’s radio show, you may have heard Matt mention some scuttlebutt that the Cats currently lead for both. Bamba’s my priority, but the team may need Knox’s shooting more. Can you imagine if they both came to Kentucky?

Regardless, get to know the guys we do know will be coming to Kentucky in our “Next Man Up” series:

And enjoy this video featuring highlights of all five guys, plus Hamidou Diallo:


WATCH: Perry County Central’s Damon Tobler throws down crazy dunk at Sweet 16

WATCH: Perry County Central’s Damon Tobler throws down crazy dunk at Sweet 16

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If you’re not at Rupp Arena for today’s Sweet 16, then you missed this insane dunk by Perry County Central senior and David Ortiz lookalike Damon Tobler. Ultimately, the bucket didn’t count because the refs called a charge, but my goodness:


(Video by @HLPreps)

Some more looks:

Hopefully this will help Tobler land a scholarship somewhere. He’s certainly got the hops.


Tremont Waters asks for release from Georgetown

And now, for an interesting recruiting nugget: four-star point guard Tremont Waters has asked to be released from his National Letter of Intent to Georgetown. Waters was a Kentucky recruit before committing to the Hoyas in October, but Georgetown has been so bad this season that he wants to play his college ball somewhere else.

Kentucky already has two point guards in the 2017 class in Quade Green and Shai Alexander and a shooting guard in Hamidou Diallo, but would Calipari be interested in picking up Waters if Georgetown grants his release? He’s got a reputation as a good shooter, and Kentucky will be in desperate need of those next season. Prior to signing with Georgetown, Waters also had UConn, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, and Yale on his list.

Something to keep an eye on…

 


Calipari officially named head coach of the USA Men’s U19 Team

Calipari officially named head coach of the USA Men’s U19 Team

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The news leaked out weeks ago, but today, USA Basketball officially named John Calipari the head coach of the 2017 USA Basketball Men’s U19 World Cup Team, which will compete in the 2017 FIBA U19 World Championship July 1-9 in Cairo. For the first time, Calipari was able to speak publicly about his new role, which those around him know he’s coveted for years.

“Being a part of USA Basketball is special,” Calipari said in a release. “What Jerry Colangelo has done, along with Jim Tooley and Sean Ford, to not only build the national team but also build a winning culture with all the teams, has been incredible to watch. This gives me an opportunity to give back to the game that has been so good to my family and me as well as a game that I love. It is an honor to be asked to coach.”

Calipari will oversee the direction of the team, starting with training camp, June 18-25, at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, Calipari and his staff will select the 12-member USA U19 World Cup Team before heading to Egypt for the biennial FIBA World Championship, July 1-9. Several future and current Kentucky players are expected to participate, including Hamidou Diallo, Quade Green, PJ Washington, Jarred Vanderbilt, and anyone else Calipari wants to bring along. Colorado head coach Tad Boyle and Wake Forest head coach Danny Manning will serve as assistants. Calipari was an assistant at Kansas (1983-85) during parts of the careers of Boyle and Manning.

Great move for Cal, and great move for Kentucky basketball, which will get a crucial head start with the core an especially young squad this summer. And, oh yeah, recruiting.


NEXT MAN UP: Shai Alexander ready to share Kentucky’s backcourt

NEXT MAN UP: Shai Alexander ready to share Kentucky’s backcourt

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[Ed. note: This is the final installment in a series about Kentucky’s 2017 class. Be sure to check out our other features on Jarred VanderbiltNick Richards, PJ Washington, and Quade Green]

Of all of the players in Kentucky’s 2017 class, Shai Alexander is the one we know the least about, so it’s fitting that going to watch him play was a bit of an adventure. With only a few weeks left in the season, my only opportunity to see Alexander in a game was in the NACA National Championships in Dayton, Tennessee, about a two and a half hour drive from Nashville. After making arrangements with his coach, I loaded up the car and headed for the foothills of the Smoky Mountains between Chattanooga and Knoxville. “Foothills” is an understatement; the last hour of the drive consisted of white-knuckled hairpin turns on a tiny two lane road. Finally, I made it to Fort Bluff, the church retreat hosting the tournament. A bit queasy, I found the gymnasium, paid for a program, and sat down on the bleachers to wait for Shai. A quick glance around told me I was the only person there not playing, or related to a player, which shouldn’t have been surprising considering it was the middle of a workday in the middle of nowhere.

The NACA (National Association of Christian Athletes) National Championships is a tournament for the best Christian teams in the region. In the opening round, Shai’s Hamilton Heights Hawks from Chattanooga were up against the Dawson Christian Eagles from Georgia, and within the first few minutes, it was clear that Dawson was outmatched. Aside from a pretty crafty little guard, the Eagles had no answer for the Hawks, specifically Alexander. At 6’5″ 185 lbs., Shai had a considerable size advantage and made the most of it, driving the lane with ease. While he brought the ball up the court most of the time, he would play off it at others, giving a nice preview of what we can expect next year when he’s playing alongside Quade Green. As Shai told me afterwards, his height increases his versatility.

“I can play on or off,” Alexander said. “My height makes it easier to play off the ball.”

Shai and Cal in December

Shai and Cal in December

With a dearth of experience in the backcourt next season, bringing in a second point guard was essential for John Calipari, and Alexander came around at just the right time. After moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee from Hamilton, Ontario in 2015, Shai quickly committed to Florida. As his stock rose in 2016, he realized his ceiling might as well. Alexander decommitted from Florida on October 17, 2016, at which point, he became a hot commodity.

“I think it was nothing that Florida did,” Alexander said of his decision to reopen his recruitment. “It was more personal, getting to where I want to get to, the goals I want to achieve, as quickly as possible.”

That’s where Kentucky came in. Calipari watched Alexander play on October 31 and offered him a scholarship on the spot. Four days later, Shai visited Lexington, where he was floored by the “professional” atmosphere around the program.

“It was really professional. The dorm is not even two minutes from the gym, so the guys get to work hard, extremely hard. They get to class and the classes are really professional. It prepares the guys for the next level.”

(By the way, Shai said he thinks Kentucky’s dorm is really nice. “A lot of schools have tried to copy them,” he pointed out.)

After visiting Texas, Shai decided he had seen enough and committed to Kentucky on November 14, two weeks after he got an offer from Calipari. Clearly, Cal made an impression.

“He’s a genuine guy. Good sense of humor, very straightforward,” Shai said of Cal. “He’ll tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter if it’s harsh. He’s just trying to get you better and make you a better you so he’ll tell you the truth no matter what.”

So, what should fans expect from Shai? He finished with 35 points, 5 assists, and 6 steals in Hamilton Height’s 93-53 win over Dawson, but as the score indicates, it’s not like he was playing against the best competition. In fact, Shai sat a good portion of the second half, but I saw enough to come away impressed. As mentioned earlier, it was promising to see him look just as good playing off the ball as he did playing on it considering he’ll share the backcourt with Quade next season. On a team where he’s clearly the best player, he exhibited a nice balance of being a pass-first guard while not passing up on easy plays in front of him. Although Shai may not possess John Wall or De’Aaron Fox like speed, he still has an incredible ability to get to the rim, using his size and speed to bully through defenders. What would Shai say his biggest strengths are?

“Ability to get to the lane, get to the basket, my vision, my height obviously — I’m bigger than a lot of point guards — my leadership and I’m a good teammate.”

While Shai’s game speaks for itself on the court, off it, he’s polite, maybe a bit reserved. We talked in a quiet hallway after his game, where he told me about adjusting to life away from home (his parents are back in Ontario, so he stays with his coach, a “funny guy” who’s made the transition easy). He misses his family, friends, and, of course, the Canadian comfort food poutine. He lights up when I ask about fellow Canadian hoopster Jamal Murray, who had just won the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend.

“He’s big,” Shai said of Murray. “Nobody really expected him to do what he’s doing now.”

Did Murray’s success at Kentucky help open Shai’s eyes to Calipari and the Kentucky program?

“Yeah, it did. To see how Coach Cal really changed his game to make him into a definite pro, that was big.”

Shai got his first taste of the Big Blue Nation at the Marshall County Hoop Fest in December and raved about the experience.

“It was crazy. I couldn’t even count how many autographs I signed, how many people came up to me. That’s what I realized what I was going to go through.”

Shai’s considered a four-star by the major recruiting services, which may mean he’s in Lexington for more than one season. What does he like to do besides play basketball and eat poutine? This question really made Shai think.

“If I’m not playing basketball with my friends, I’m watching basketball, watching film, trying to get better,” he said after careful contemplation. “Really, everything’s basketball for me.”

He’s headed to the right place then.


Next Man Up: Quade Green and his coach talk Kentucky on Senior Night

Next Man Up: Quade Green and his coach talk Kentucky on Senior Night

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On the south side of Philadelphia, hidden among the brick row houses along 10th and 11th streets where it is impossible to find a streetside parking spot, there is Saints John Neumann & Maria Goretti Catholic High School, a private Catholic school in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Neumann-Goretti was created in 2004 by a merger of Saint John Neumann High School and Saint Maria Goretti High School, and it proudly calls itself a co-ed college prep school that focuses on inspiring young men and women to achieve academically and to exhibit high character and moral integrity.

But on a cold and rainy Friday night in early February, Neumann-Goretti was more than a south side private school; it was the place to be for fans of Philly high school basketball.

It was Quade Green night.

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Neumann-Goretti was hosting St. Joe’s Prep, where Phil Martelli once coached, in the final home game of the regular season.

The final home game of 2016-17 marked the final home game for Quade Green, one of John Calipari’s prized signees in Kentucky basketball’s Class of 2017.

Green was escorted to the court by his mother, Tameka Johnson, while wearing a USA Basketball t-shirt.

Adding more pageantry to Green’s final game, a representative from the Jordan brand was in attendance to present him with his “DREAM Championship” plaque, in recognition of his inclusion in the 2017 Jordan Brand Classic, at halftime.

Green changed into a Kentucky shooting shirt for the Jordan presentation.

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Along with the DREAM plaque, a banner hung on the gym’s back wall to commemorate Green’s achievement as Nuemann-Goretti’s All-American point guard.

Like I said, it was Quade Green night.

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As for the action, Green played a decent game but didn’t have to assert himself too much against the struggling St. Joe’s team. He got off to a slow start in the first quarter, which he attributed to senior night jitters, and went on to finish with 14 points in a runaway win for the Saints.

Meanwhile, Green’s teammate, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, a Villanova commit, handled most of the scoring with 27 points inside. At one point he was overheard yelling, “He can’t guard me,” which was clear to everyone in the gym. Green mostly deferred to Cosby-Roundtree the entire night.

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Afterwards, Green was kind enough to step aside from his busy, special night to chat with me about his upcoming move to Lexington to be the next point guard under John Calipari, who he credits as the deciding factor in the decision to attend Kentucky.

“What made me decide Kentucky was Coach Cal because he was honest with me,” Green told KSR, when asked why the Cats over Syracuse, the heavy favorite in his recruitment until the very end. “I think Coach Cal can really develop me and help me. He told me, ‘If you want to come here, you have to work,’ and that’s what I want to do. I want to be around good people I can play with so when the games come it’ll be easy.”

Green also said he has had conversations with Tyler Ulis, the Harrison twins, and John Wall about what it is like to be in the Kentucky backcourt under Calipari, but he doesn’t plan to follow their exact footsteps, despite some early comparisons to Ulis.

“I’m going to be my own point guard, my own version of me,” he said. “That’s what Cal explained to me and that is what I am going to do for myself.”

Green’s head coach at Neumann-Goretti, Carl Arrigale, says Kentucky is getting a competitor with all the ingredients to be an elite point guard.

Coach Arrigale told me, “You’re getting a super, super competitive kid. He might have some growing pains early, like a lot of them do, but he’s no quitter, he’s a fighter, and he’s a good player. He wants it and I think Cal will get it out of him. I’m expecting him to go there and do well.”

When I asked about any weaknesses in Green’s game, Arrigale gave me a complete breakdown of what Kentucky is getting: “If he’s going to be a guard at his size and at that level where he wants to end up playing — it’s not Kentucky, he wants to play in the NBA — he has gotta be in tiptop shape and he’s gotta be able to be a better on-ball defender. I know he can do it. He’s gotta be able to do everything, and with so many good players around him, you’ll see his passing skills are off the charts. And he’s really a good shooter. He doesn’t get enough credit for what a good shooter he is — he is a high-40s three-point shooter in high school. And he’s a great closer, at the end of games he shoots 90 percent from the line. He’s got all the ingredients to be a leader and a great point guard with the right group of guys.”

Of course, I couldn’t leave South Philly without asking Green’s mother if she is excited about joining Big Blue Nation. She said she can’t wait for her son to get to UK and she plans to attend every game, as her son “develops into a good player and a good person into his adulthood” within the Kentucky program.

And Green’s excitement for life in Lexington?


Calipari is on the recruiting trail today

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John Calipari has no time to sit around sipping the victory champagne after his team closed out the home schedule with a tough win over Vanderbilt last night.

No, John Calipari took to the skies this afternoon on a recruiting trip to Lakeland, Florida, where he will watch one of his two remaining targets in the 2017 recruiting class, in Florida’s Class 5A state semifinals.

Kevin Knox, the five-star wing and missing piece to next year’s offense, has a 4 pm game and Calipari is expect to be on hand, along with North Carolina’s Roy Williams and members of Florida State’s coaching staff.

There are no days off in the pursuit of Knox, who has said he will announce his decision sometime between April 1 and April 15.


Quade Green: “I’m talking to Bamba everyday”

Quade Green: “I’m talking to Bamba everyday”

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Mohamed Bamba is currently on his official visit to Duke (Boooooooo!) where he was in attendance for the Blue Devils’ win over No. 15 Florida State last night. The Duke trip is the final official visit for the highly sought-after center; he has already taken officials to his three other finalists: Kentucky, Michigan and Texas.

There is still a long way to go before Bamba makes his decision, if he stills plans to do it in April, but one of Kentucky’s biggest recruiters is going to be in his ear the entire time.

Quade Green, the Cats’ point guard from the 2017 class, is very close to Bamba and he’s been very open about how hard he is recruiting him to join the next crop of talent moving to Lexington this summer.

Green recently told KSR, “I’m talking to Bamba everyday. We need him.”

Bamba’s close friendships with Green and Hamidou Diallo are a big reason why many are predicting he will pick Kentucky in the end, and why UK currently holds 63 percent of the vote in his Crystal Ball prediction.

And now that I think about it, I’m so confident in Bamba to UK, I’m going to go add my prediction right now and move that needle a little more.


Images via USA Basketball

Future Cats will play in the Nike Hoops Summit

Images via USA Basketball

Images via USA Basketball

USA Basketball announced point guard Quade Green and small forward Jarred Vanderbilt will play for Team USA in the 20th annual Nike Hoops Summit.  The future Wildcats have been a part of the USA Basketball program before and could potentially play for them this summer under John Calipari.

Calipari’s two top remaining targets, Mo Bamba and Kevin Knox, will also play for Team USA.  Team World has not yet been announced, but Canadian Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will likely be in the mix.  The all-star game will be played at 10:00 p.m. on April 7 in Portland, Oregon.

Just a few former Cats have played in this prestigious game:

  • Anthony Davis
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Enes Kanter
  • Julius Randle
  • Michel Kidd-Gilchrist
  • Isaiah Briscoe
  • Nerlens Noel
  • John Wall

That’s just the tip of the iceberg — 15 more Wildcats are on this long list.


Calipari is Hosting a Five-Star Point Guard on an Unofficial Visit

Mark Stoops isn’t the only one using today’s matchup with Florida to recruit.  The third-ranked point guard in the 2018 class, Ja’Vonte Smart, is taking an unofficial visit to Lexington today, according to Evan Daniels.  The five-star point guard is the No. 13 player in the class of 2018 in the 247 composite rankings.

From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Kentucky’s coaches have made it a point over the last two years to see Smart play every time they’re in town to play LSU, but John Calipari has not yet extended a scholarship offer.  The Tigers are currently the favorite for the hometown kid.  Baylor and Kansas are also in the mix for Smart.

Below are highlights from Smart’s 40-point performance from last month.

Smart isn’t the only elite underclassman at today’s game.  According to T.J. Walker, Elijah Elliot, Kyky Tandy and Davis Johnson will also be at today’s game.

Elliot is a 6’3″ junior shooting guard who plays prep ball with API out of Dallas, Texas.  Tandy and Johnson are sophomore standouts from the state of Kentucky.  From University Heights in Hopkinsville, Tandy has already visited Louisville a few times.   From Trinity High School, Johnson is also on UofL’s early radar.


Andy Lyons | Getty

PJ Washington’s mom says criticism of Wildcat Lodge is out there, but she doesn’t understand it

Andy Lyons | Getty

Andy Lyons | Getty

While in Marshall County last weekend to interview PJ Washington, I spent some time with his mother, Sherry. Sherry and PJ’s dad Paul met at Middle Tennessee State, where they both played basketball, and she’s done her best to remain impartial during her son’s recruitment. I asked her what she thought of the Wildcat Coal Lodge without mentioning Trae Young’s family’s comments about it (although it appears those may have been in jest). Sherry admitted she had heard bad things about the Lodge before PJ’s official visit in September, but once she saw it for herself, she couldn’t understand the criticism.

“You know what, I’ve heard a lot of people say that the dorms are not that good. And of course, I heard that before seeing it, so when we went in, I told my husband, what were they expecting? This is perfectly fine. All he needs is somewhere to lay his head, somewhere to brush his teeth, get his clothes, and then get to the gym. So, I thought it was great. Maybe I’m biased, I don’t know. It looked fine to me. I don’t see where — and then, the downstairs lounge area? I wish they had that kind of stuff when I was in school.”

Last week, Calipari responded to some of the criticism of the Lodge, telling reporters that when it was built in 2012, it was the first of its kind and therefore, subject to the NCAA’s strict policies against some of the things he wanted to include.

“The lodge was built the way it was built because the NCAA told us ‘no’ a thousand times,” Cal said. “Then Taj-Mahals were built and they said, ‘Well, those are fine, though.’ We were told ‘no.’ Believe me, I was in the middle of it. Joe Craft doesn’t want to hear that the lodge isn’t this and that. We built what (the NCAA) allowed us to build.”

It’s worth noting that in January 2016, Governor Bevin approved a $21 million proposal from UK to renovate the Lodge, but that money will actually be spent on an expanded eating facility connected or adjacent to the Lodge for athletes on the north side of campus. Additionally, the Joe Craft Center is set to undergo a $4 million renovation after ten years of wear and tear.

So, criticism of the Lodge is clearly making the rounds in the recruiting world. Hopefully all parents are as level-headed about it as Sherry Washington.


PJ Washington repping Kentucky on UCLA's campus back in 2011

NEXT MAN UP: PJ Washington meets the BBN in Marshall County

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[Ed. note: This is the latest installment in an ongoing series about Kentucky’s 2017 class. Be sure to check out our other features on Jarred Vanderbilt and Nick Richards, and stay tuned for Quade Green and Shai Alexander.]

Halfway through my conversation with PJ Washington, I look up and notice we have an audience. A crowd of 20 or 30 Kentucky fans has quietly filled in around us in the lobby of the Marshall County High School gym, waiting to get PJ’s autograph or picture. Knowing my place, I step aside and let the fans meet the future Cat, who politely and patiently grants each request. While the concept of signing autographs is still new to the five-star power forward, this group is nothing compared to the one who surrounded him the night before; after nearly getting a triple double in his first game at the Kentucky Lake Showcase, PJ spent almost an hour signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.

“Oh my goodness, it was at least 50-70 people last night,” PJ says, smiling. “This is my first time playing in Kentucky in a while and a lot of the Big Blue Nation was here. It was just great.”

For PJ, the weekend in Marshall County was a preview of what’s to come when he suits up for Kentucky next fall, the culmination of a childhood dream.


PJ Washington remembers the exact moment he knew he wanted to play for Kentucky: when he saw John Wall do the John Wall dance at Big Blue Madness in 2009.

“Ever since John Wall went to Kentucky, I just fell in love with the program,” PJ says. “I remember the John Wall dance and everything.”

We’ve said it for years, but that dance was also the exact moment that Kentucky became a cool program again. Even though they were in Dallas, Texas, PJ said his entire youth basketball team loved the Cats because of Wall.

“I was in Dallas and I was playing on my dad’s team and that’s when Kentucky had the tight jerseys and the long shorts and everybody wanted to do that, so my team did it as well. We just wanted to be like them,” PJ says. “At that point, everybody was Kentucky fans and everybody just fell in love with John Wall’s game and the way he played at Kentucky, it was just a big dream for me to come there.”

PJ Washington repping Kentucky on UCLA's campus back in 2011

PJ Washington repping Kentucky on UCLA’s campus back in 2011 (Photo via Paul Washington)

PJ loved the Cats so much that when his dad, Paul Washington, took him to visit UCLA in 2011, he wore a Kentucky shirt. His dad snapped a picture of PJ with the Bruin Bear sculpture on campus and years later, showed it to Steve Alford when Alford started recruiting his son.

“He was fine,” Washington Sr. says of Alford’s reaction. “He just smiled and said, ‘Send it to Cal, he’ll post it on his Instagram.'”


Fast forward a few years to when PJ picked up the coveted offer from Kentucky. Early on, he turned heads as a strong scorer and rebounder around the rim, but as time went on, his game expanded and his calling card became his versatility. Last weekend in Marshall County, he nearly had a triple double on Friday night, putting up 23 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. On Saturday, his numbers weren’t as flashy — 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists — but Findlay Prep was up by so much that he spend a good portion of the game on the bench. Even though he’s listed as a power forward, PJ occasionally brought the ball up the court and spent most of the game trying to create opportunities for his teammates rather than looking to score himself. At 6’8″ 235 lbs., PJ was comfortable operating from any spot on the floor, looking every bit the “positionless” player that John Calipari covets.

“I try to do everything on the court, passing, rebounding, scoring, and really, just trying to get my team involved,” PJ says afterwards. “I just play with everything I have, play with my heart every game and just try to win.”

After growing up as a Kentucky fan, you might think Washington would have committed to Calipari on the spot when he got the offer, but his parents made him promise to go through the process. He did, taking official visits to Kentucky, North Carolina, and UNLV, but to anyone who was paying attention, it was obvious Kentucky was the favorite. PJ was actually born in Louisville, and although his family moved to St. Louis shortly thereafter, his mother Sherry likes to joke that her son has the Bluegrass in his blood.

“He was born in Kentucky so he always had it in him,” Sherry says. “He always wanted to play for Kentucky.”

The Washingtons eventually settled in Texas until PJ’s sophomore year, when his dad got the job as the head coach at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas, DeAndre Liggins’ alma mater. Despite all the moves, Washington Sr. confirms his son “has been a Kentucky guy from day one.”

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(IG: PJ_Washington)

PJ took his official visit to Kentucky in September, but his dad knew his son would want to come back for Big Blue Madness in October, so he started saving up for an unofficial visit (on the family’s dime) last summer. After seeing the spectacle that is Madness up close, PJ couldn’t wait much longer. He committed to Kentucky on November 10.

“Just seeing the fans and the crowd, it was way different than everyone else,” PJ says of his reaction to Madness. “The brotherhood was amazing. Everyone came back for Big Blue Madness and we’re just a family and we want to be a part of it.”


PJ Washington and his family after his commitment

PJ Washington and his family after his commitment (IG: PJ_Washington)

Ten days after committing, PJ signed with Kentucky, making the decision final. In his remarks about Kentucky’s early 2017 signees, John Calipari set the bar high for his future forward.

“P.J. Washington is an alpha dog,” Cal said. “I’m not trying to hype him up because I don’t do that, but he’s a combination between Trey Lyles and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He’s not quite as big as Trey and shoots it a little bit better than Michael, but he’s that kind of player. He’s a physically strong player. I want him to come in here and lead and be an attack dog. In the same sense as Nick, he’s not close to where he’s going to be. He can shoot it, you can throw it ahead to him in the break and he can bully a player that’s not big enough to guard him. He’s an outstanding player.”

How powerful is PJ? I got an up-close view on Saturday:

Basically, PJ Washington is a player we could really use this year.


After it became official, PJ pretty much turned into a walking advertisement for Kentucky Basketball, sporting a UK shirt in warmups of his games and, according to his mother, practically living in UK knit caps. Although Quade Green seems to have taken the lead role on recruiting Mohamed Bamba and Kevin Knox to Kentucky, PJ says he never misses an opportunity to put in a good word about the BBN.

“I talk to them all the time,” PJ says of Bamba and Knox. “I get at them on Instagram, Twitter, everything. Every time they post something, I’ll get on their photos talking about BBN. I mean, it’s just all love, and I feel like we’re in a good place with them.”

How does he sell Kentucky to Bamba and Knox?

“It’s the best place for you to get ready for the next level. It’s the best place for you to get ready to play with great players on the same team and it’s the best place for you. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the best college in America.”

Washington won gold with the 18U National Team last summer, and hadn’t planned on playing with the 19U squad this year until he heard that Calipari would be the coach. That changed everything.

“I really wasn’t planning on doing it this year until they said he was going to do it, so I feel like it’s a great thing for me to do since I’ll be able to be coached by him before the season,” PJ says. “It’s going to give me a good head start because some of the guys that are going to be on our team are going to Kentucky as well, like Quade Green, Hamidou [Diallo], maybe Mo Bamba. It’s just going to be a lot of fun playing with those guys and playing for Coach Cal.”

For now, PJ keeps in touch with his future teammates via a group text, which he says blows up during UK games, specifically, “every time we see Hamidou on TV.” Speaking of Diallo, you can tell PJ’s a little envious that his former 18U squad teammate is already in Lexington.

“He’s lucky, I wish I there right now. I’m glad he’s there, I’m glad he came. I’m excited to play with him next year.”


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Back to the lobby at Marshall County, where PJ is still signing autographs and taking selfies. The crowd keeps building, and when I ask his mom about it, she just smiles.

“It’s a proud moment to see him accomplish his dreams. I just sit back and smile when I see it all.”

PJ may be coached by his dad, but it’s clear the buck stops with mom, who asked Kentucky fans to help keep her son in line next season.

“I want Kentucky fans to know that PJ Washington is going to work hard. If he’s not, let me know. But he’s a great kid. If you see him out anywhere, he’s very approachable because he knows mom will get on him, and dad. And if I get any reports that he’s not…He’s a good kid, he really is. Very respectful. He knows right from wrong. If you see him out and he’s doing something he’s not supposed to, get on him. Get him back in line, straighten him up.”

If the weekend in Marshall County is any indication, so far, so good.