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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Thursday / October 19.
  • Kentucky-Bound Richards Following Former St. Pat’s Stars Irving, Kidd-Gilchrist Into McDonald’s Game

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    HILLSIDE, N.J. — Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Nick Richards loved competing in soccer, volleyball and track and field.

    He never thought much about the McDonald’s All-American Game until he landed on Long Island in the summer of 2013 ago to pursue his dreams in the game of basketball.

    “I knew what [the McDonald’s Game] was, I just didn’t think that I would get selected for it,” Richards said Wednesday in the gym at The Patrick School.

    Now playing in just his fourth year of organized basketball, the 6-foot-11 Richards proudly slipped on the McDonald’s All-American jersey in front of his mother, his coaches, his teammates and his schoolmates during a ceremony on the stage in the gym.

    “It’s a complete blessing, to be honest,” he said. “Most high school kids, this is what they dream of and only like 24 high school ballplayers get selected so it’s a complete blessing.”

    Of those 24 players selected, Richards may be the only one born in Jamaica. He’s also the only player attending a high school in New York or New Jersey, although fellow big man Mohamed Bamba of the Westtown (PA) School is a Harlem native.

    Asked if he’s trying to lure the uncommitted Bamba — who took an official visit to Kentucky this past weekend — Richards flashed a smile and played coy.

    “I don’t know what Mo’s doing,” Richards said. “Whatever he gotta do, he gotta do.”

    Bamba is considering Kentucky, Duke, Texas and Michigan and will likely take his final official visit to Duke Feb. 26-28.

    Richards is one of four Kentucky commits in the McDonald’s Game along with point guard Quade Green, small forward Jarred Vanderbilt and power forward P.J. Washington. All four are on the East Team for the March 29 game at Chicago’s United Center.

    “Yeah, we spoke about it,” he said. “When we get down there we gonna have fun, we gonna play together.”

    All told, Kentucky has had 60 McDonald’s All-Americans.

    Richards is also the sixth player from St. Patrick’s/The Patrick School to make the game, following in the footsteps of Shaheen Holloway, Al Harrington, Dexter Strickland, Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

    Holloway, now the associate head coach at Seton Hall, was the MVP of the 1996 game, while Kidd-Gilchrist, now with the Charlotte Hornets, was the co-MVP of the 2011 game.

    “Nick’s honor continues this school’s tradition that includes Shaheen Holloway, Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dexter Strickland and Al Harrington,” Patrick School principal Chris Chavannes said. “This can only be viewed as a testament to Nick’s talent, hard work and commitment to being better each day.”

    Because he’s only been playing ball for four years, Richards is still somewhat raw offensively and an evolving force on that end. Still, in just the last few years he has developed a nice baby hook shot and face-up jumper from 12-15 feet.

    “I’ve been working on my offensive game a lot throughout the summers,” he said of his time with the Expressions Elite on the Nike EYBL circuit. “I’m just trying to display it now in high school.”

    Said Patrick School assistant Ayton Branch: “He’s a tremendously hard-working kid and basketball is one of those sports, that whatever you give it, it gives you back. And today’s a true testament of what basketball has given him back up until this point in his career. He’s put the work in and here’s his reward, him being an McDonald’s All-American.”

    It is probably unfair to compare Richards to former Kentucky bigs Boogie Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, who also played his high school ball in the Garden State at St. Joe’s-Metuchen. Branch says Richards has his own skillset.

    “I think he just could be the best Nick Richards that he could be,” he said. “When guys make those comparisons, sometimes I think they’re fair, sometimes I think they’re unfair. But if he continues to work, the sky’s the limit for him. He could be the best Nick Richards he could possibly be.”

    Going forward, Richards¬† says he hasn’t thought much about the NBA, although that is his ultimate goal.

    “I haven’t really given the NBA much though,” he said. “When the time comes, me and my family will discuss it.”

    If that day does come, Richards will be in position to give back to The Patrick School the way Irving and Kidd-Gilchrist have. Irving pays the tuition of several students — including sick seventh-grader Spencer Joyner — and also donates equipment and gear to the basketball team, as well as Skullcandy backpacks and headphones to the entire student body.

    Kidd-Gilchrist, meantime, funded a new locker room and video room for the team that cost approximately $20,000. His high school and NBA jerseys on painted on the entrance to the locker room.

    “Yeah, he did the locker room,” Richards said of Kidd-Gilchrist. “Kyrie, he gives us shoes, he gives us uniforms, they both donate to the school however they can.”

    Asked if he might ever be in position to give back to the school like those guys, Richards said, “I’m not thinking about that yet. However I can put my stamp on the school and give back to the school, I’ll just do.”

    For the time being, his immediate goal is to help the Celtics win their sixth New Jersey Tournament of Champions title, and first at the Patrick School, come March.

    “The hope for the team is to get better each game,” he said, “and hopefully just win the TOC.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.