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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 / October 23.
  • LeBron documentary shows Kentucky’s Nick Richards wanted to be one-and-done, Kentucky was his ‘dream school’

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    A new HBO documentary produced by LeBron James and Maverick Carter reveals that Kentucky sophomore big man Nick Richards had hoped to be one-and-done with the Wildcats before he committed to the school in the fall of 2016.

    STUDENT ATHLETE, which airs Oct. 2 at 10 p.m., provides behind-the-scenes footage of Richards’ conversations with his family about why he chose Kentucky and his goals of being a one-and-done.

    In one scene filmed before he committed, Richards, then a senior at the Patrick School in Hillside, N.J., is shown in his living room talking with his mother, Marion Tenn, and his sister, Shanique Richards, about his impending college decision and he says he’s planning on committing to Kentucky.

    “I like Kentucky,” his mother says. “The atmosphere there is nice. And the ride is shorter than going all the way down to Arizona. I’m not flying four and-a-half, five hours. But I think you can do it in a year.”

    “I can do it in a year,” Richards, seated on a couch while playing with his nephew, quietly tells his mother of his NBA plans.

    “I’m hoping that he really gets to the league, he goes in and out within the year,” Tenn later says on camera. “I’m hoping that for him.”

    Shanique Richards tells her brother: “My biggest advice to you is just stay focused because you know what you want. Do it.”

    The Richards family came to the U.S. from Jamaica to help Nick pursue his dream of basketball.

    “I’ve seen him work really hard so I really hope that he accomplishes that dream,” Shanique says on camera. “The entire family has given up a lot. So we moved here, everybody packed up to ensure that Nick gets to the NBA so I really hope that he gets there.”

    The 6-foot-11 Richards, whom Wildcats coach John Calipari targeted early on and was long considered a Kentucky lean, committed to the Wildcats over Arizona, UConn and others in November 2016. That year he helped lead the Celtics to the prestigious New Jersey Tournament of Champions title, a journey that we profiled in this Fresh Focus Sports mini-documentary.

    “We joke around about it,” Richards says on camera of his college choice. “Some of my family say I should stay home [at] St. John’s. Some say I should go far away. Some say I should go to Kentucky, some say I should go to UConn, some say I should go to Duke.

    “Kentucky was my dream school. I was like 12, I was a younger kid, the color blue was my favorite color, that’s why I chose it. Two or three guys every year from Kentucky goes to the NBA.”

    Richards did not end up being a one-and-done after his freshman season, but based on his play during Kentucky’s trip to the Bahamas in August, his stock is rising with NBA scouts as he enters his sophomore year. Along with fellow sophomore P.J. Washington and freshman wing Keldon Johnson, Richards should attract a ton of NBA scouts throughout the upcoming season.

    “I think he helped himself immensely,” an NBA scouting director told me last month for this FloHoops.com story. “When I went down there and scouted that event, I thought he was by far the most pleasant surprise from the standpoint of how much better he’s gotten. I think the light came on for that kid between the end of last year and this year. Last year I didn’t think the kid looked like he belonged. You couldn’t see that kid on an NBA court last year.

    “Now, you’re like, that guy’s a starting center in the NBA. I kind of wish he was a bit of a better shot-blocker than he is, but against Mega [Bemax], he was great. He’s made fantastic progress. Fantastic.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, 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.