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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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Tuesday / July 25.
  • His High School Career Now Complete, Nick Richards Looks Ahead to Kentucky

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    TRENTON, N.J.Nick Richards celebrated a New Jersey Tournament of Champions title by laughing, shouting and dancing with his Patrick School teammates inside a locker room at Sun National Bank Center on Monday night.

    He only managed 7 points and 7 rebounds while battling foul trouble in the 69-55 win over Don Bosco Prep but you wouldn’t have known that based on the size of his smile after winning the title with his teammates.

    “I thought the best thing they did was push Nick out of his comfort zone,” Patrick School co-coach Mike Rice said. “Over the last two months, Nick has been as consistent as I’ve seen him since I’ve been with him the last two years. He’s been incredible.”

    “But did you notice the smile on his face? It doesn’t matter. And sometimes in college, it matters because they’re mad, they’re angry. No, Nick was as happy as when he had 28 and 18 and that’s the purity and fun of high school basketball.”

    The 6-foot-11 Richards had just completed his high school career the same way two other Kentucky Wildcats had in reason years. Karl-Anthony Towns won the TOC in 2014 with St. Joe’s-Metuchen before going on to his one year at Kentucky and eventually NBA Rookie of the Year honors in 2015-16. A year after Towns won the TOC, Isaiah Briscoe won one with Roselle Catholic. Now a sophomore at Kentucky, Briscoe will lead the Wildcats into a Sweet 16 matchup with UCLA on Friday night in Memphis.

    Now here comes Richards, a Jamaican-born big man who has only been playing organized basketball for about four years.

    Richards said he spoke with Wildcats coach John Calipari after Kentucky won the SEC Tournament, and that his future coach had wished him good luck.

    “He told me to go out and get a TOC, I told him congrats for the SEC championship and go finish out the [NCAA] Tournament,” Richards told me inside the locker room.

    Richards and his teammates were planning a net-cutting celebration inside the small gym at their Hillside, N.J., school on Tuesday. The team features five Division 1 signees in Richards, Minnesota-bound shooting guard Jamir Harris, Monmouth-bound guard Marcus McClary and the Tulane-bound big men Bul Ajang and Buay Koka, as well as uncommitted point guard Jordan Walker, who went for 17 points and 5 assists in the title game.

    The team’s season-long mission to win the school’s sixth TOC title was documented in our short film, “The Patrick School: TOC or Bust.”

    With his Patrick School career now over, Richards looks ahead to a full slate of All-Star games in the coming weeks, starting with next week’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago, where he will join future Wildcats Quade Green, Jarred Vanderbilt and P.J. Washington as well as uncommitted players Kevin Knox and Mohamed Bamba on the East Team.

    After that, Richards will play for the World team alongside future Kentucky teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the Nike Hoop Summit on April 7 in Portland, Ore.

    He will wind things up with the Jordan Brand Classic on April 14 at Barclays Center, playing on the West team with Bamba, Knox and Washington.

    “I’m going to find somewhere to work out in between those games to try to get ready,” Richards said. “Right now I’m trying to get ready for those games, try to show out for the NBA scouts and try to get ready for college.”

    Between now and then he plans on watching his future Kentucky team, beginning with Friday’s tilt against UCLA, which will be the final college game for the one-and-dones of one of those schools.

    “I’ll definitely be watching that game,” Richards said.

    A year from now, Richards will be in the Kentucky frontcourt alongside Washington, Isaac Humphries, Tai Wynyard, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Wenyen Gabriel and possibly Bamba, too.

    He sees himself playing a role similar to what freshman big man Bam Adebayo is doing now, although Richards is two inches taller and not as solidly built.

    “Some of the things that Bam is doing now,” he said, “I do that here. I’m gonna see what they want me to do.”

     

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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 whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. 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.