PJ Washington keeps John Calipari’s UK lottery pick streak alive

The Charlotte Hornets selected Kentucky’s PJ Washington with the 12th overall pick in the NBA Draft in New York on Thursday night.

That kept Kentucky Coach John Calipari’s lottery pick streak alive. UK has had at least one player chosen among the top-14 players after all 10 of Calipari’s seasons as head coach.

Washington was the first former Wildcat chosen with teammate Tyler Herro following at No. 13 with the Miami Heat.

In an interview with the media after being drafted Washington said he was excited to get started with Charlotte.

”A lot of emotions right now. Just excited. Can’t wait to get to Charlotte, show what I can do, and just feel like I’m a very versatile player. Great locker room guy, and just willing to give anything for my teammates.”

Washington, who declared for the draft after his sophomore season, was a consensus third-team All-American for the Cats after leading the team in scoring (15.2 points per game) and rebounding (7.5) this season. He was voted first-team All-SEC by both the media and the league’s coaches.

“This place has been my home for two years and it’s hard for me to put in words how much I’ve grown in my time at Kentucky,” Washington said on April 9. “The staff challenged me from day one to become the best version of myself and to work hard to become one of the best players in college basketball. I feel like I’ve done that.”

Washington finished his UK career with 932 points, 475 rebounds, 120 assists and 74 blocked shots.

“I’m so proud of PJ and what he’s accomplished over the last two seasons,” UK head coach John Calipari said on April 9. “When he was in this position last year, he had to determine what was best for him. He looked at this and said, I want to come back and work on my game ... PJ transformed everything about his game. ... What I’m most proud of is how PJ developed into a leader. Every kid is on their own timetable, and the one that PJ followed — which was the best path for him — has put him in a position to do some special things at the next level.”

Washington shot 42.3 percent from three-point range as a sophomore, and after hitting just five threes as a freshman (at 23.8 percent) he made 33 this season.

Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak said it was like the “light went on” for Washington after deciding to return to Kentucky.

“He made a huge jump from his freshman to his sophomore year,” Kupchak said. “He is always in the gym and loves to work. So if he continues to make the type of jump that he made he will be a good player in this league for a long time.”

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