Washington’s leadership needed in order for UK to take the next step


Freshman forward PJ Washington shoots a layup in traffic during the game against Texas A&M on Tuesday, January 9, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

Phillip Hawkins

In was a hard fought battle on Tuesday night, the Cats beat Texas A&M in a close game 74-73.  One of the key players for Kentucky against A&M was freshman forward P.J. Washington.

Washington finished the game with 16 points, four rebounds and three assists. Now sixteen games into the regular season and with SEC conference play beginning, Washington is catching his stride at the perfect time. The Cats will need him to keep up his strong play as they get ready for a two-game road trip starting with Vanderbilt on Saturday. 

Recap: Cats win nail-biter against Texas A&M

Toughness and leadership were head coach John Calipari’s talking points after the win over A&M. In particular, Calipari was talking about Washington being the leader of the team. 

“He has to take the leadership of this team, he has to do it now,” Calipari said. “He’s the toughest guy, and if a guy’s not doing what he has to, you have the ability and the right now to tell him.”

Leading by example is exactly what Washington has been doing the past few games. The win over Texas A&M marked Washington’s third straight game finishing with double figures in points. 

It’s not only what Washington brings to the offensive side of the ball that makes him tough; he is a good player defensively as well. Washington finished the game with two steals and four rebounds against the A&M offense. 

He also had three steals and two blocks last game against Tennessee before leaving with a left leg cramp. The Cats will need Washington to continue his presence on defense, because without him on the floor, they are a completely different team. 

Hamidou Diallo referred to Washington as a “bulldog” while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander called him a “good leader, always positive, always encouraging guys.”  Gilgeous-Alexander also said Washington is a “leader by example.”

Leading by example is exactly what this young team needs from one of its emerging young freshman. In four of his last five games, Washington has scored in double figures and helped carry the team. 

Calipari likely hopes that Washington can maintain his leadership role Saturday night when the Cats travel to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt.