- The No. 14 overall freshman in this year's class according to the recruiting rankings, power forward P.J. Washington brings his versatile game to Lexington as part of yet another talented Kentucky freshman class.
It should come as no surprise to college basketball fans that freshmen have come to possess a significant portion of the star power in the sport. Just look at this year’s NBA draft, where the first upperclassman was not selected until Duke sophomore Luke Kennard with 12th pick. So while some returning players will undoubtedly have a major impact in 2017–18 season, it’s important to get to know the new faces who may come to occupy the spotlight.
With that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top 25 incoming freshmen in college basketball and breaking down the impact those players could have this season. We move to Kentucky’s P.J. Washington, the No. 14 overall recruit.
What he means for Kentucky’s recruiting class
Washington, a 6'7" power forward out of Henderson, Nev., is the actually the second highest-rated player at his position in Kentucky’s class—which is insane considering he’s the No. 14 overall player in RSCI ratings. (Jarred Vanderbilt immediately precedes him in the rankings.) Washington was one of the Wildcats’ earliest commits, announcing his choice last November, and he forms the backbone of their 2017 recruiting class. As is the case with the rest of Kentucky’s top recruits, Washington matters because he’s expected to play big minutes immediately and fill the void left from graduation and NBA draft departures, likely on his way to joining the ranks of the one-and-dones.
How he fits
Washington is a versatile forward, and he’s probably the best rebounder in Kentucky’s class. He’s also a solid defender, and he’ll be in the mix for plenty of playing time in the frontcourt. Washington will likely compete with fellow freshmen Vanderbilt and Nick Richards, along with sophomores Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones for frontcourt minutes, and the fact that he can play away from the basket will work in his favor.
Kentucky may feature the most talented roster in all of college basketball next fall, but it will be young. Replacing four starters will be a tall task, but with this recruiting class, it doesn’t look quite so daunting. In fact, Kentucky will have eight former five-star recruits on its roster come fall, and the decision of Hamidou Diallo (who enrolled in January and declared for last spring’s draft) to play a year of college ball figures big. There’s no question that Calipari’s team will be at the top of the SEC, and yet again, it should come as no surprise to see it go far—or even all the way—come March Madness.