It was of no surprise that PJ Washington, along with Jarred Vanderbilt and Wenyen Gabriel, tested the NBA waters last month. With the new rule in place allowing players to enter once without an agent, it’s a no-brainer for kids to use the opportunity to get evaluated by NBA scouts. Washington was viewed as a late 2nd round pick and wasn’t thought of as being a serious candidate to actually leave.
PJ really helped his stock at the combine, raising NBA GM’s eyebrows with his performance in the scrimmages. Washington has 14 points and 13 rebounds in one game and displayed a nice pick-and-pop game in another. NBA personnel were impressed with his mid-range consistency and rebounding, to go along with his ability to guard the 4 & 5 spots and switch onto wing players. He was considered one of the 10 players who helped their stock the most in May, but was only still considered a mid-second round pick.
Early in the process, PJ’s father said that his son would only stay in the draft if he was guaranteed a first round pick. A couple weeks after that statement, things changed to where he would stay in if he was guaranteed a first or early second round pick. As they always do, tensions grew high in Lexington about who would return and who would bolt. Some people were already beginning to bash PJ for the thought that he might be gone.
It’s May 30th, the day that PJ’s family said he would decide. PJ is coming back after not being guaranteed a first round selection. The Washington family has kept their word from every statement they’ve made and everyone should be thankful for that. Kentucky is returning a player who was hitting his stride the last half of the season, and a kid who was loyal to the fan base the whole time. To reiterate what Jeff Drummond said earlier, the Kentucky fan base needs to have PJ’s back through all of the ups and downs next season.
Washington, who averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman, was the key component of Kentucky’s team next year. His return makes the Wildcats’ squad the title favorite as of today. His production is going to increase quite a bit with another offseason under Coach Cal and Kenny Payne, and a bruising big man is just what the doctor ordered to go along with Kentucky’s incoming freshmen next season.