The Kentucky Wildcats looked mighty impressive in their 90-61 win over Louisville, and a big part of it was the play of PJ Washington.
The starting forward has had an up-and-down freshman season for the 10-2 Cats. He’ll look like a star in the making one game, then look like a high school junior the next.
That’s to be expected of freshman, but with UK having so many freshman hit the ground running in Lexington, it’s easy for expectations to be too high for certain players.
That’s not the case with Washington, at least based on what John Calipari is expecting. After UK’s win over Louisville, Calipari made a bold statement about what he’s expecting from his talented forward.
"PJ, at his best, will emulate Draymond Green,” said Calipari. “If he's open, he's shooting threes, he's making free throws. Draymond has a spirit about him that drags everybody else.
“And I’m just telling PJ to be that guy.”
We saw a glimpse of that against the Cardinals, as Washington finished with 16 points on 5-of-10 shooting to go with seven boards, two assists, a block and hit all six free-throw attempts.
Washington also made a strong impact on defense, helping UK limit Louisville to 24-of-69 shooting (34.8%). He’s in the mold of the modern stretch four that we’ve seen take over college basketball in recent years.
Back in 2016, 247 Sports’ Jerry Meyer actually wrote about Washington, then a high school senior at Findlay Prep, fitting that mold.
At around 6-foot-7.5 and 230 pounds, but with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Washington isn’t quite a small forward. And he lacks the ideal height for a power forward. But his body and length allow him to defend both spots, while he’s a tough cover for a traditional three, or a traditional four.
“I even think he could play some center in college, if his team wanted him to,” Meyer said. “P.J.’s a basketball player. He’s got long arms, great athleticism in traffic and power and explosiveness. There are guys who are 6-foot-11 who aren’t as good in traffic — he ends up playing bigger, and more athletic than them.”
If you watch Draymond play in the NBA for the Warriors, his impact is very similar to what we saw from Washington today. Great defense, efficient offense and doing a little bit of everything in the box score is what makes Green one of the best players in the NBA, as well as one of its most complete players.
That’s a high bar for Washington, but we’ve seen enough potential to think it’s possible at the collegiate level.