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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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Monday / May 20.
  • The 2016-17 college basketball season is upon is and it could well turn into the Year of the Fabulous Freshmen.

    Twelve of the top 14 projected picks in the 2017 NBA Draft according to DraftExpress.com are freshmen.

    Duke, Kentucky and Kansas — the top three teams in The Associated Press preseason Top 25 — all feature projected one-and-done lottery picks coming to a television near you. (Interestingly, No. 4 Villanova and No. 5 Oregon do not feature any projected one-and-dones.)

    And all of the freshmen hype, of course, has engendered NBA Draft Tank Slogans such as “Lose like hell for Markelle.”

    Washington’s Markelle Fultz, the 6-foot-5 guard who led the USA U18 basketball team to a gold medal this summer, is the projected No. 1 pick. Even though he plays in the Pac-12 on the West Coast, he may be worth staying up late for.

    P.J. Washington, the 6-foot-8 forward from Frisco, Texas and Findlay Prep (NV), committed to Kentucky over North Carolina and UNLV on Thursday on ESPNU.

    “Just the way [Coach John] Calipari uses his players and gets them to the next level,” Washington said. “And I thought that would be great for me.”

    Washington is Kentucky’s second Class of 2017 commit, following 6-11 big man Nick Richards of The Patrick School (N.J.), who committed earlier Thursday. Those two can slot in in the frontcourt in case Bam Adebayo or other frontcourt players head to the NBA.

    ESPN now ranks Kentucky with the No. 5 recruiting class in 2017.

    Washington said Calipari compared him to other former Wildcats now in the NBA.

    “He told me he’ll use me like Trey Lyles and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, play me with no positions and just dominate the game,” he said.

    Washington attended Kentucky for an official visit in September, and was at Big Blue Madness in October along with fellow Class of 2017 stars Mohamed Bamba, Quade Green, Trae Young and Kevin Knox.

    Collin Sexton, the 6-foot-2, 182-pound guard from Pebblebrook (GA) High School, committed to Alabama Thursday on ESPNU.

    He also considered Kansas, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

    “Next year I will be going to Alabama,” he said. “I felt like Coach Avery Johnson, he was just a great coach. Everybody down there had very great energy, communication was great and they were on me for a long, long time.”

    Sexton joins forward Alex Reese, wing Herb Jones and forward Galin Smith in coach Avery Johnson’s 2017 class. Alabama also landed a commitment from 5-star wing John Petty on Thursday

    Gary Trent Jr., the 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Prolific Prep (CA), committed to Duke over Michigan State and UCLA on Thursday on ESPNU.

    “In the fall of 2017, I will be attending Duke University,” he said. “The thing about Duke University, the brotherhood behind it, Coach K, there’s so many things about it that are top-tier, there’s no way you could turn it down.

    “Just from how the practices are run to how they play together. Everything about it was just top of the line and I just loved everything about it.”

    Prolific Prep coach Billy McKnight said Trent Jr. is on track to be in the NBA soon.

    “Gary gets a lot of credit for his scoring ability and for good reason,” he said. “He’s a fantastic shooter from deep and can score from all three levels. What’s really impressed me is his ability to read the floor and make the right play. His unselfishness and passing ability to create for others really stands out. His father (Gary Trent Sr) and previous coaches have done a great job of teaching him how to play.

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

    But his life changed forever when, in the summer of 2013, a New York City basketball scout named Andre Ricketts discovered Richards at a basketball camp in his home country.

    “He found me in Jamaica and he brought me up here,” the 6-foot-11 Richards told me.

    At that stage, Richards never imagined he could earn a Division 1 scholarship based on his raw basketball abilities.

    “No, when I was there that never really came across my mind,” he said. After initially landing at St. Mary’s High School on Long Island, Richards didn’t realize basketball could get him to college — and maybe beyond — until “probably like the beginning of my junior year.” By that stage, he had transferred to New Jersey power St. Patrick’s, now known as The Patrick School.

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