St. Patrick's Big Man Nick Richards Has Big Goals for the Season, College, and Potentially, the NBA | Zagsblog
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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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Friday / June 21.
  • St. Patrick’s Big Man Nick Richards Has Big Goals for the Season, College, and Potentially, the NBA

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    NICK RICHARDSELIZABETH, N.J. — It was approaching 2:30 on Wednesday afternoon and a group of high-major Division 1 assistant basketball coaches began assembling on the gym floor of the Mickey Walker Center, where the basketball team from The Patrick School was about to run an open gym on an unusually hot September day.

    Indiana assistant Chuck Martin, Georgetown assistant Kevin Broadus, Arizona assistant Book Richardson and Boston College assistant Scott Spinelli, along with Hofstra head coach Joe Mihalich, all came to devote an hour and a half to watching the loaded team from the school everybody knows as St. Patrick.

    Most of the coaches came especially to watch one young man: 6-foot-11, 235-pound junior center Nick Richards, ranked the No. 2 big man nationally in the Class of 2017 by 247Sports.com.

    The soft-spoken native of St. Andrew’s, Jamaica who now lives in Queens, N.Y., has only been playing organized basketball for three years, but may top out at over 7 feet.

    “I’m having growing pains right now so [I will] probably [grow] an inch or two,” he said.

    Asked if he pays attention to the steady stream of coaches parading through Elizabeth to watch him, Richards said, “Not really. Just try to get better every day.”

    Still, it must be hard to ignore. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim and assistant Adrian Autry were in the gym recently, and Richards also holds offers from the likes of Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana, Arizona, UConn, UCLA, Villanova, SMU, VCU and LSU. And Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel will come in on Wednesday to watch Richards in an open gym.

    Richards is still an ascendant, somewhat raw, talent to be sure. But as they watched him run up and down the floor, finishing, dunking and rebounding over his other extremely tall St. Pat’s teammates, the coaches continued to drop their jaws over him and what he might mean for their programs.

    “He is a pro,” one college assistant coach said.

    Nick 2A second coach, asked to assess Richards game, added a more in-depth scouting report.

    “He’s just a tremendous rebounder,” the second assistant said. “That’s the one thing that translates at the highest level and the next level after college. He rebounds out of his area. He runs the floor extremely well. He’s still developing offensively. The one thing he brings to the table is he’s a big-time rebounder and you don’t find a lot of big guys who take pride rebounding. He’s a high-level rebounder with an upside offensively that’s rapidly developing.

    “The thing that excites you is the energy he exhibits going after the basketball. I love him. He’s a bigger version of a [Kenneth] Faried. He can really rebound the basketball.”

    Make no mistake, Richards sees himself as a future NBA player, too.

    “I see myself as probably a basketball legend, that’s what I’m trying to be,” Richards said matter-of-factly.

    That’s pretty bold thinking for a kid who grew up playing soccer, volleyball, rugby and track and field in Jamaica.

    His life changed when his now mentor Andre Ricketts discovered him at a basketball camp there.

    Nick 3“I never really played ball that much,” Richards said. “This dude [Ricketts] from here saw me in Jamaica. He said he liked my game even though I never played ball before. I just came here [to the U.S.] to see what it’s like. He found me in Jamaica and he brought me up here.”

    Said Ricketts: “When I saw him play, I pretty much assured his mother that if she makes the commitment to get him here, that he will get a scholarship. I didn’t have a school in place at that point, but I pretty much knew once he got here he would be able to secure a scholarship.”

    Richards initially started out at St. Mary’s on Long Island, but then transferred before last season to St. Patrick. Now Richards is part of a storied basketball program that won multiple New Jersey Tournament of Champions titles under former coach Kevin Boyle and has produced a litany of NBA players like Kyrie Irving, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Harrington and Samuel Dalembert. 

    St. Pat’s assistant coach Todd Decker believes Richards can ultimately fulfill his goal of going following those guys to the NBA.

    “He’s got the size, he’s got the athletic ability that I think it takes to play at the next level,” he said. “I think big men develop later on in life and it’s just him continuing to get better every day, work on his low-post game, work on his hands, work on his strength and conditioning and work on his balance.”

    “He’s got pro potential, he’s got unbelievable potential,” St. Pat’s coach Chris Chavannes said of Richards.

    A year ago, the team was banned from the New Jersey state tournament  after five St. Pat’s players were ejected following an incident during a Dec. 29 game against Redondo Union (CA) in Torrey Pines, CA.

    “It definitely motivates us because we feel like we got robbed down there,” junior guard Jamir Harris said. “This year we want to come out and make a statement and show that we were missing out on the state tournament and now we have the opportunity to win it and we have the potential to win it. And I think we’re going to do it.”

    Now, Richards and his teammates — who include senior point guard Bryce Aiken, who is about to decide between Seton Hall, Harvard and Miami — can’t wait for the season to begin so they can get to work.

    “My personal goal is not just to win states, but to go undefeated,” Richards said. “That’s my personal goal, to go undefeated, and to be a national champion.”

    Due to a slew of transfers within New Jersey — and into the state from outside — there are a number of loaded teams, and once again most of them are in the Non-Public B bracket that also includes arch-rival St. Anthony’s and defending TOC champion Roselle Catholic. St. Joe’s-Metuchen, which plays in the Non-Public A bracket, also added Syracuse commit Tyus Battle.

    “It’s a challenge, but I’m going to accept the challenge,” Richards said. “I’m not scared. I think we’re a better team than them. We just have to execute when we play them.”

    “Oh yeah [going undefeated] is everybody’s goal,” Harris said. “I think we want to win the TOC.”

    Richards is focused more on his own development and his team than on recruiting right now.

    “I’m trying to get my conditioning up right now and hopefully get ready for the season,” he said.

     

    Still, college is only two years away and he is thinking about it. He recently took an unofficial visit to UConn and also likes Syracuse because of the proximity to home.

    Asked what schools were working the hardest right now, he said, “Probably Syracuse and UConn but I’m not really paying attention to all that.”

    He did enjoy the UConn visit, though.

    “Yeah, I took an unofficial visit to UConn recently, it was really good,” he said. “I like how [Coach Kevin Ollie] treats everybody as a family. Everybody is one.”

    Syracuse is also a strong contender.

    “Syracuse offered me since last spring,” he said. “I’m really thankful for that and blessed. I just like that it’s close to home. My mom can visit any time she wants.”

    Kentucky, meantime, has also offered.

    “I just like the style of play, it’s fast, they use everybody, it’s my type of ballgame,” he said of Kentucky.

    Still, he probably won’t formulate a list until his senior season in 2016-17. And you can expect a steady stream of coaching coming through St. Pat’s before then.

    “I haven’t considered my list yet but it will be soon,” he said. “I’ll probably cut my list to 10 by senior year. I’m trying to find a school that’s going to make me better.”

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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.

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