The future of UK basketball becoming clear at FIBA U19 Championships


14 Pj Washington (USA) – Islamic Republic of Iran v United States of America, 2017 FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup (EGY), Cairo – Cairo Stadium Indoor Hall 1(EGY), Group Phase, 1 July, 2017.

Chris Leach

There is a lot of uncertainty that surrounds the UK men’s basketball team for next season.

What fans are uncertain of is how next year’s roster will shape out. The roster, made up of eight freshman, four sophomores and two juniors (both are walk-ons), is responsible for replacing 92.6 percent of the scoring and 76.6 percent of the rebounds from last year’s team.

John Calipari will have his work cut out for him coaching this young and new team, and it will likely take some time for the group to find its identity. However, watching Calipari coach two of his future players at the FIBA U19 Championships has provided a small glimpse of what next year could look like.

Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington have been stellar for team USA in their four games at the FIBA U19 Championships. With a roster filled with prized five-star high school prospects and great college players, Diallo and Washington have separated themselves as the best players on the team, which should excite UK fans.  

Washington leads team USA in points per game at 16, which also ranks him fifth against all FIBA U19 players. Washington also ranks first out of all players in field goal percentage at 67.5 percent.

Washington has lead team USA in scoring in their two most recent games, scoring 20 points and shooting over 75 percent in both contests.

Washington has done a good job shooting the ball, but he’s also done a good job filling up the stat sheet by grabbing rebounds and finding open teammates for assists. Washington has also had at least one steal or block in each of his four games played, in which he averages 17.5 minutes a game.

Washington’s excellent play should gives UK’s fans and coaching staff plenty of excitement as he is ranked as just the fourth best incoming freshman by, behind Kevin Knox, Jarred Vanderbilt and Diallo. To see one of the Cats’ freshmen already perform at a high level is a good sign for next season’s championship hopes.

As for Diallo, people already knew he was good since he was close to turning professional a little over a month ago. Diallo has backed up those beliefs by averaging 12.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists in just 18.5 minutes a game. Diallo has led team USA in scoring once and has compiled a list of highlight plays during team USA’s play.

Diallo and Washington have also proved that they work well together, as they often assist each other when the other scores. At one point during the third and fourth quarter in team USA’s game against Mali, Diallo and Washington combined for 13 consecutive points.

Away from team USA, Tai Wynyard has performed well for New Zealand’s U19 squad, averaging 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. However, New Zealand was eliminated from the bracket stage when they lost to Germany in the first round.

It is too early to declare Diallo and Washington the stars of next year’s team, or to estimate how many minutes Wynyard will get in a crowded front court, but it is exciting for fans to watch the future of UK basketball perform well on the national stage.

Pending a defeat, fans will have a chance to watch Diallo and Washington play three more times in the FIBA U19 bracket, starting with their quarterfinal matchup against Germany on Friday afternoon at 3:15 p.m.

The game can be seen in the video below, or on