Head coach Shaka Smart of the Texas Longhorns shouts to his team in the first half against the Northern Iowa Panthers during the first round of the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena on March 18, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Men's Basketball

Top 2017 hoops recruit P.J. Washington will visit Texas

UT coach Shaka Smart eager to get some recruits off the Under-18 team to consider playing for the Longhorns

Posted July 12th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Washington, the nation's 16th-best prospect in 2017, is expected to visit Austin this fall.
  • Matt Coleman, a guard, has more than a dozen offers, but is expected to narrow his choices soon.
  • Smart: 'Working for USA basketball, you’re still the head coach at Texas, too.'

HOUSTON — P.J. Washington was born in Louisville, grew up in St. Louis, moved to Chicago, spent time in Frisco and now lives in Henderson, Nev. So how would he technically classify himself?

“A Texan,” he said.

Washington, a 6-8 forward, left North Texas for Findlay Prep School during his sophomore season, but college basketball recruiters still track his every move. He’s one of several top-flight recruits participating in the Team USA Under-18 tryouts at Houston Strake Jesuit.

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Texas coach Shaka Smart can’t talk specifically about certain recruits, many of whom are 2017 signees. But he’s eager to get some out of their red-white-and-blue jerseys and into burnt orange ones.

“Working for USA basketball,” Smart said, “you’re still the head coach at Texas, too.”

Considered the nation’s 16th-best recruit in the 2017 class, Washington said he’s considering the Longhorns and will make an official visit to Austin this fall. On Tuesday, he listed his top schools as Texas, Arizona, Kentucky and North Carolina.

Currently, the Longhorns have only one player committed for the 2017 recruiting cycle — Aldine Davis forward Royce Hamm.

Asked specifically about UT, Washington said, “I like the facilities. I like the way they develop their players. I like the coaching staff; they’re all cool with my family. I just like what they’re doing with the whole program.”

Washington is getting extensive face time with Smart, but he’s now got an exhaustive résumé with Team USA, too. Washington has worked with the national program for three straight years.

“Oh, he’s a great coach,” Washington said of Smart. “He’s great on and off the floor. He bonds well with everybody, and he’s just a wonderful human being. I love playing with him. He’s just very passionate about what he does and just wants to win. So I love it.”

Guard Matt Coleman from the noted Oak Hill Academy in Virginia is also high on UT’s wish list. Oak Hill also produced future NBA stars Carmelo Anthony and Rajon Rondo. Kevin Durant also spent one year at Oak Hill.

Coleman is rated the nation’s 39th-best player, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. He was part of the 2014 Team USA junior national team and a third-team high school All-American last season.

The 6-2 guard lists Chris Paul as his favorite Team USA player, and Coleman wants to be a business major in college. Coleman also has a strong relationship with Briante Weber, one of Smart’s best players at Virginia Commonwealth.

Multiple recruiting services say Coleman has more than a dozen offers, including one from Texas.

“I said I’ll probably cut a list after I come back from Chile,” said Coleman, who is projected to make the final 12-man U18 roster. “I’ll have time to clear my mind. I’ll be away and have time to talk to my mom and dad.”

Playing for Smart has been an eye-opener, Coleman said.

“It’s different,” Coleman said. “You’re actually getting a first-hand look at a college coach’s style of play. With Shaka, coach (Kevin) Ollie and coach (Mark) Turgeon, how they talk to their guys and how they coach. It’s fun and at the same time, it’s like, ‘Wow, I could actually play for one of these guys.’ So you’re getting a little taste.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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