This post was originally published on this site





Either Kentucky or Duke has finished with the No. 1 recruiting class in each of the last four years, with the last three cycles featuring the two schools ending up 1-2 in the rankings.

Yet they entered this early signing period with a combined one commit — and zero five-stars.

On Thursday, both schools made their moves, with Kentucky landing five-star frontcourt prospects Nick Richards and P.J. Washington, and Duke bringing in No. 1 shooting guard Gary Trent Jr.

John Calipari made Richards (No. 12 in the ESPN 100) and Washington (No. 16) priorities very early in the recruiting process. Richards chose the Wildcats over Arizona and Syracuse, while Washington had trimmed his list to Kentucky, North Carolina and UNLV recently.

Kentucky was pegged as the favorite for both players, and nothing changed this fall. In fact, Richards took just two visits in the past couple of months — both to Kentucky. He took his official visit to Lexington in late September, then returned on an unofficial visit for Kentucky’s “Big Blue Madness” in mid-October.

Washington joined Richards on the second Kentucky visit, and took his own official visit in mid-September, while also going to North Carolina and nearby UNLV.

“The reason is that I wanted to play at the highest level and Kentucky always said that they are the highest level in college basketball,” Richards told ESPN.

“Just the way Coach Calipari uses his players and gets them to the next level,” Washington said on ESPNU. “I felt that would be great for me.”

Richards, a 6-foot-11 post player from The Patrick School (New Jersey), is better on the defensive end of the floor at this point in his development, using his length and athleticism to impact the guy on the glass and by blocking shots. A native of Jamaica, Richards’ offensive game is improving, and he’s a good finisher around the rim. He averaged 12.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks on the Nike EYBL circuit for the Expressions Elite AAU program.

“[Coach John] Calipari and the coaching staff basically told me that they’ll be in the gym with me everyday, working on my game,” Richards said.

Washington is a more versatile frontcourt weapon, with the skill to make shots from the mid-range and the perimeter, as well as run the break or finish in the paint. The Findlay Prep (Nevada) product averaged 17.4 points and 10.9 rebounds on the Nike EYBL circuit with Team Penny, while shooting 61.9 percent from the field.

“[Calipari] told me he would use me like Trey Lyles and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With no positions, and just dominate the game,” Washington said.

Duke countered with the addition of five-star Trent Jr., one of the best pure scorers in the country. Trent has received high-major offers since 2013, but eventually trimmed his list to Duke, Michigan State and UCLA before taking official visits to all three schools and picking Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils.

“The thing about Duke University, the brotherhood behind it, Coach K, there’s so many things about it that’s top-tier, there’s no way you can turn it down,” Trent Jr. said on ESPNU. “From how the practices are ran to how they play together, everything about it was top of the line. I just loved everything about it.”

Trent, a 6-5 Minnesota native who attends Prolific Prep (California), is ranked No. 8 overall in the ESPN 100. He has consistently put up points at a high clip at both the high school and AAU levels, averaging 26.4 points for Apple Valley High School (Minnesota) last season and then scoring 22.2 per game for Howard Pulley on the Nike EYBL circuit. The son of former NBA veteran Gary Trent, Trent Jr. also won two gold medals with USA Basketball.

With Grayson Allen and Jayson Tatum likely leaving for the NBA draft after this season, Duke will count on Trent Jr. right away for scoring from the perimeter.

“Coach K just emphasized, he wants me to come in, be who I am, play my game, come in with my ego, bring my whole package with me,” Trent Jr. said. “Be able to play. Be ready from day one.”

Trent, who played with Tyus Jones at Apple Valley High School (Minnesota) before transferring out West, is the second commitment for Duke in 2017, joining ESPN 100 shooting guard Alex O’Connell (No. 88). The Blue Devils are expecting to add several more players to the group, with top uncommitted big man Wendell Carter (No. 3) their biggest target left on the board. Five-stars Mohamed Bamba (No. 4) and Kevin Knox (No. 7), along with four-star point guard Matt Coleman (No. 27), are also priorities for Coach K and his staff.

The SEC was the big winner overall Thursday, as Alabama and Georgia also had significant commitments. Five-star guard Collin Sexton committed to Alabama, while four-star forward Rayshaun Hammonds picked Georgia.

Sexton was one of the biggest risers over the last seven months, going from unranked to a top-10 prospect after a stellar performance in the spring and summer. Nearly every high-major school was interested, but Avery Johnson and Alabama had been involved before Sexton became a household name and remained in the driver’s seat even after the talented guard took visits to NC State, Kansas and Oklahoma State.

“I felt like coach Avery Johnson, he was just a great coach,” Sexton said on ESPNU. “Everybody down there had very great energy. The communication was great. They were on me for a very long time.”

The 6-3 Pebblebrook High School (Georgia) product is ranked No. 10 in the ESPN 100. Sexton is the first five-star prospect to pick the Crimson Tide since power forward JaMychal Green (No. 6) committed to Alabama in 2008.

Sexton is perhaps the most explosive offensive player in the 2017 class, setting scoring records on the Nike EYBL circuit with the Southern Stampede AAU program. He averaged 31.7 points in the spring and summer, while also making a league-leading 181 free throws in 14 games — more than double the number of made free throws by the second-place finisher. Sexton also showed his playmaking ability with USA Basketball for the Under-17 World Championship team, topping it in scoring (17.0 points per game) and assists (4.2) while leading them to a gold medal.

Sexton joins a recruiting class with three frontcourt players: four-star power forward Alex Reese, three-star wing Herb Jones, and center Galin Smith.

Hammonds is Georgia’s highest-ranked commit since Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, ranked No. 24, picked the in-state Bulldogs back in the 2011 class.

Hammonds, a 6-8 forward from Norcross High School (Ga.), is No. 38 in the ESPN 100. He chose Georgia after visiting Athens last weekend. He also took visits to Memphis and Miami, and was a target of Alabama and Texas earlier this fall.

“I kind of knew it,” Hammonds told ESPN. “It was the best fit for me. I liked everything about it. I’ve been there so many times, on unofficial [visits], I can help their team. Coming in as a freshman and starting and playing big-time minutes.”

Mark Fox’s first commitment in the 2017 class, Hammonds was one of the most productive forwards on the EYBL circuit last spring and summer. He averaged 18.1 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Alabama Challenge AAU program, notching four double-doubles.

“It feels great. Just bringing another top recruit to Georgia, helping them, making a brand,” Hammonds said. “It’s going to be hot. We’re going to try to make a deep run in the tournament. Bring Georgia back to what it used to be.”

Five-star guard John Petty (No. 25) will announce on Thursday evening, choosing between Kentucky and Alabama.