Last week, Coach Cal started his 2017 recruiting class off with a bang, signing five-star prospects Nick Richards and P.J. Washington. On Monday, four-star guard Shai Alexander pledged his commitment to the Cats, as well, moving Kentucky in sole position of the top recruiting class in the nation.
Though we’re still a year away from seeing these guys suit up in blue and white, let’s take a look at what they bring to the table and why the BBN should be excited about the additions:
Center | 6-11 | 235 lbs.
Manhasset, NY | St. Patrick’s
AAU: Expressions Elite
|ESPN||No. 12 | 5 C||Top247||No. 15 | 2 C|
|Rivals||No. 19||Scout||No. 17 | 7 C|
- Defensive specialist
- Elite rebounder
Richards is one of the most athletic big men in the nation, with the ability to run the floor and make plays on both ends of the court. Richards is a defensive-minded center, with an elite ability to block/alter shots at the rim, a characteristic that certainly separates the Queens native from the rest of the class. UK fans have loved defensive guys in the past, with Nerlens Noel, Anthony Davis, and Willie Cauley-Stein as the prime examples. Richards will be able to step right in and make a similar impact on that end of the floor.
- Limited offensively
- Very raw
- Needs to put on weight
Outside of putback dunks/layups and alley-oop finishes, Richards is very limited on the offensive end of the floor. He makes a lot of highlight-reel plays strictly from inside the paint, but will need to develop touch from a few feet out when he gets to Kentucky. He has ridiculous upside, and I think the offense should come with time. Just don’t expect to see any Karl Anthony-Towns-esque post moves from day one.
Willie Cauley-Stein/Tyson Chandler
Power Forward| 6-7 | 225 lbs.
Dallas, TX | Findlay Prep
AAU: Team Penny
|ESPN||No. 16 | 2 PF||Top247||No. 16 | 6 PF|
|Rivals||No. 17 | — PF||Scout||No. 14 | 1 PF|
- Elite rebounder
- “Positionless” player
- Work ethic/passion for the game
Washington will play a good bit at both the three and four next season under Coach Cal, as he’s extremely versatile. He’s a powerful athlete, attacks the basket with the best of them, and is great at finishing at the rim. Similar to Julius Randle, Washington was able to bully his way through defenders in high school, and will be able to do this at the college level. He’s a tremendous rebounder, runs the floor well, and simply knows how to get buckets. His work ethic is off the charts, as he’s never content with his current state; he’s always trying to get better and improve his game. He has fan favorite written all over him.
- Ball handling
Many analysts consider him a “tweener,” as he’s a bit small for a PF, but too big for a SF. UK has had guys with major success that came in considered “tweeners,” so I’m not really worried about that on the college level. His shooting has shown improvement, but he’s still extremely inconsistent from beyond the arc. He sometimes gets sloppy with the ball, coughing up turnovers periodically when he puts the ball on the floor.
Combo Guard | 6-4 | 170 lbs.
Chattanooga, TN | Hamilton Heights Christian Academy
AAU: Team Portis Wings Elite
|ESPN||No. 44 | 10 PG||Top247||No. 43 | 2 CG|
|Rivals||No. 53 | —||Scout||No. 46 | 12 PG|
- Attacking the rim
Though Tyler Ulis was certainly the outlier, Calipari loves his bigger point guards. At 6’4 (and growing), Alexander fits that mold perfectly, and will find great success in transition and attacking the basket. He sees the court extremely well, and knows how to find his target no matter where they are on the court. He’s raw, but after turning heads with impressive play on the summer circuit, he’s bound to have a ratings boost as he progresses in his senior campaign. He may not be the highest rated guard to come through Kentucky, but he’s proven that he belongs.
- Three-point shooting
- Limited offensively
Though he’s extremely explosive and gets to the rim with the best of them, his shooting from beyond the arc needs a lot of work. He has a nice pull-up jumper from midrange, but anything further back is extremely hit and miss. Depending on who you talk to, Alexander’s weight is anywhere from 160 lbs. to 175 lbs. Regardless, the dude needs to hit the weights his senior year and when he gets on campus. Against elite athletes, he’ll be overpowered and won’t be able to get to the rim as easily, which really limits his game on the offensive side of the ball.
We’re only three signees into the 2017 recruiting class, but it’s already looking like yet another top 1-2 class for Coach Cal. With guys like Quade Green, Mohamed Bamba, Trae Young, and Hamidou Diallo still undecided, the potential is there for yet another elite Kentucky team, regardless of who leaves after this season.