Washington’s ‘motor’ key to Kentucky basketball success


Kentucky sophomore forward PJ Washington looks for a pass during the game against the Virginia Military Institute Keydets on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, at Rupp Arena, in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 92-82. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Motor. It’s a term passed around basketball at all levels, and it’s usually defined as a player’s ability to have a lot of energy on the court no matter the situation.

UK sophomore forward P.J. Washington’s motor has come into question in the past. In early season press conferences last year, head coach John Calipari said that Washington needed to improve his “motor” and keep a strong post presence throughout a game.

The head coach’s vision for Washington is a Draymond Green-type player; at least that’s who he’s compared his forward to before. He wants Washington to consistently get rebounds, make plays for others and play strong defense.

Green was an integral part of the Golden State Warriors’ four seasons in which they won three NBA Championships. Before Washington ever pushes for that level, however, he must first play with a consistent motor.

Against Virginia Military Institute on Sunday, Washington took a step in the right direction for what his coach asks of him. He snagged a career-high 18 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive glass, to help propel the Cats past a team that hit 19 three-pointers. He pulled down nine boards in each half, meaning he helped close the door on a VMI team that was approaching furiously.

“If I’m P.J.– because what it shows is motor,” Calipari said after the game.

Calipari said that Washington should strive to be a player that every team has to plan and account for on the glass, and that he should try to be selfish about his rebounds.

“So if I’m P.J, I’m rebounding against nine players, their five and four of ours,” Calipari said. “That’s just me. And what a great thing to be selfish about, wouldn’t you say? Go get every one.”

Washington admitted after the game that he often tried to outrebound his teammates.

“I know if I don’t get the rebound, I feel like Reid [Travis] is going up, or E.J. [Montgomery] is going up, or Nick [Richards] is going up, so I just try to get more than them,” Washington said.

Against VMI, Washington played his highest number of minutes (33) since the NCAA Tournament loss to Kansas State last season, when he played all 40. In that game, he grabbed 15 rebounds to go with 18 points. His rebounding total was a career high before the game against VMI.

The formula is simple for Washington: The more minutes he’s able to keep his “motor” going, the more mind-boggling stat lines he’ll put out. The matchup against the Keydets was a time they needed it running, and Calipari will try to keep it running all the way through March.