INDIANAPOLIS – To watch Nick Richards play defense, as if his life depends on it, is to know just how competitive the 7-footer is. That makes Kentucky’s simple recruiting pitch to one of the best big men in the Class of 2017 especially effective.
“They just told me if I come to their school, I’m going to be on the biggest stage in college basketball (and) if I’m not ready for it, I shouldn’t go there. They’re giving me the real,” Richards said. “I’m not scared of anything. I like challenges. I’m up to that challenge.”
Even so, he is a long way from picking a college. Richards, who plays at The Patrick School in Queens, N.Y., has only visited Connecticut and Villanova and isn’t sure where he’ll go next – or when. He figures a commitment won’t come until after his upcoming senior high school season.
“It’s wide open,” said Richards, who is ranked as high as 12th overall nationally (by ESPN) and no lower than 21st (by 247Sports). Kentucky is “the same level as everybody. All the colleges to me are just the same. Nobody’s higher right now.”
Kansas, Indiana, UCLA, Syracuse and Pittsburgh are among his other suitors. Richards has averaged 11.9 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.9 blocks through seven games on this year’s Nike Elite Youth Basketball League tour, which stopped in Indianapolis last weekend.
There, Wildcats coach John Calipari saw him play defense with the passion he’s come to expect from UK’s big men – a la Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns.
“I just want to do something different,” Richards said. “I see nobody in my class really playing defense.”
After last season’s unusual interior issues, that must be music to Calipari and the Cats’ ears.
Kyle Tucker can be reached at (502) 582-4361. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .