Washington not letting past affect his future


Sophomore forward PJ Washington smiles during the game against Transylvania on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018 at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Since March 22, 2018, PJ Washington has watched that game once.

Once was enough for Washington.

“I watched it just to watch it,” Washington said. “I watched it with my family and we watched every little thing, we critiqued every little thing then after that we just said ‘We’re done with it.’”

That one game was Kentucky’s Sweet 16 loss to Kansas State last season. In that game, Washington was Kentucky’s best player, but what’s mostly remembered of Washington’s performance from that game was the missed free throws.

In 20 attempts at the free throw line, Washington only made eight free throws. In the final five minutes, with UK never trailing by more than one until the last 19 seconds, Washington missed three out of five free throws while Kansas State held on to secure the trip to the Elite 8.

“I feel like if I made a lot more free throws obviously we would’ve won that game, but there’s nothing I can do about it now,” Washington said.

The loss was one of the worst Washington had to endure in his career, and to make things worse, he didn’t receive much support from the fan base.

Of course there were uplifting messages in Washington’s notifications, but a majority of the responses to Washington’s free throw blunder was negative. Washington saw all the messages, but he isn’t letting them affect him.

“To this day they talk about it but I don’t let it get to me,” Washington said. “I know I just got to work on them and that’s what I’ve been doing so I’m confident.”

Free throws aren’t the only thing Washington has worked on, as he got loads of advice from NBA scouts in the offseason on how to improve his game.

Washington participated in the NBA Combine and worked out for numerous NBA teams before deciding to come back to Kentucky for his sophomore season. One of the things scouts told Washington was to work on his defensive versatility so he’s able to guard more than one position.

“I feel like at my size, a lot of people in the NBA do that,” Washington said. “People like Draymond Green guard one-through-five, so that was the biggest thing for me.”

Another thing Washington has been working on is his leadership. As a sophomore, Washington is automatically a veteran and a leader on most Kentucky teams, and this year is no different.

“I can see myself in them and I see that they’re going to be really good this year just because we have guys just leading them,” Washington said.

Between being a leader and improving aspects of his game, Washington said he believes he and his team are in store for a big season.

“I learned what I need to do this year in order for me to be successful,” Washington said. “Just trying to come out and lead these guys to a winning season.”