Nick Richards, the No. 2 center in the 2017 class according to 247 Sports, will be playing basketball in Lexington next season after committing to the Kentucky Wildcats over Arizona and Syracuse.
Most experts had predicted Richards to the ‘Cats with his 247 Sports Crystal Ball showing 100 percent Kentucky leading up to the commitment, which came at a ceremony at St. Patrick High School on Thursday.
There has been mutual interest from Richards and Kentucky since the beginning of the recruiting cycle. Richards was among the first 2017 recruits to earn a scholarship offer from John Calipari. For a period of time, it was thought that Richards would wait until the spring to announce his commitment and sign a National Letter of Intent, but last Thursday, Richards announced his final three schools and set his decision date for today.
Richards will be a defensive anchor for the Wildcats next season. The 6’11 Richards is known for his defense and rebounding. With his long arms— listed as having a 7’3 wingspan— he fits Calipari’s ideal paint protector with the ability to block and alter shots in the paint.
“He’s a defensive presence, a guy that rebounds in and out of his area,” said Scout.com’s Evan Daniels. “He contests shots. He gets up and down the floor fairly well; decent athlete.”
To be successful, teams need a guy that is willing to do the non-glamorous aspects of the game in order to help the team win. They need guys who will fight in the paint for rebounds, play tough defense, and not cause drama if they do not feel like they are scoring enough points. That is what Richards will provide. He prides himself on defense and rebounding, and is not concerned about scoring a ton of points.
His biggest area for improvement is his offensive game. Primarily, he has scored most of his points on putbacks, lobs, dunks, and simply being physically overwhelming for his opponent. However, he is improving his post-game and working on his offensive skills to become a threat on the offensive end of the floor as well. Most big men today need to have a respectable mid-range jump shot, which Richards is not exactly known for. Improving on that end of the floor with his post moves and a jump shot will be vital for Richards to find success at Kentucky and in the NBA.
Defensively, he will be ready to contribute from Day 1, but his lack of offense could prevent Calipari from playing him major minutes from the start unless forced to. However, he will be a key player for the Wildcats next season, as he continues to grow and develop this year.
Here is an excerpt of Richards’ ESPN scouting report:
Strengths: Richards is a long, athletic and strong center that is a big time finisher and rebounder on both ends of the floor. He runs the floor extremely well. Richards scores with power drop steps through contact and quick short turn shots right over defenders on the block or along the baseline with excellent touch and footwork. He rebounds at rim level with two hands and gets his share of block shots. He has a great motor and plays with tremendous energy and effort.
Weaknesses: Richards will need to.continue to add strength. Offensively, Richards is still very raw. He has shown the ability to utilize the drop-step move and he is surprisingly quick. His ability to get to the rim quickly (fairly quick 2nd jump) is impressive considering his size. On the other hand, he needs to improve his fundamentals (play wider/bend knees/keep the ball high) and develop a go-to move (jump hook) to take his game to another level.
Welcome to the Big Blue Nation, Mr. Richards!