PJ Washington's parents instilled basketball into his life
Don’t tell anyone, but PJ Washington passed along some delicate information about how both his parents played for Middle Tennessee State.
“My mom was a little bit better than my dad,” he said before adding, “but my dad will never admit that.”
The facts are on the side of the Kentucky freshman and his mother.
His mother, then known as Sherry Tucker, made the All-Ohio Valley Conference first team as a senior. She still ranks 14th on the Middle Tennessee women’s career scoring list. She scored 1,452 points, and averaged 20.8 points in her senior season of 1994-95.
When asked if he had seen film of his mother or father play, Washington said, he hadn’t. “But I played a lot of H-O-R-S-E games with them,” he said. “My mom could really shoot it. I could tell she wasn’t lying about (her ability).”
In her four seasons for Middle Tennessee, Sherry made 182 three-point shots. Her high school retired her jersey.
As for Washington’s father, whose name is Paul, he played two seasons for Middle Tennessee State. He averaged 8.3 points as a junior and 7.3 points as a senior. He was a versatile player, getting time at every position except center, during a time when the men’s program was in a rebuilding phase.
“He’s a bit of a bruiser,” Washington said of his father. “From Day One, they instilled basketball in my life, and I’m just happy they did that. Happy to call them my parents.”
Washington — his name is Paul Jamine, but he goes by the initials PJ — came to Kentucky with a reputation for being a smart, fundamentally sound player. He has been likened to Chuck Hayes, who played for UK from 2001 through 2005. This comparison is a mystery to Washington.
“Honestly, I’ve never seen him play,” he said of Hayes. Upon reflection, Washington said he did a facsimile of Hayes playing on a video game.
Hayes contributed in multiple ways. He scored 1,211 points for UK. He also led the Cats in rebounding three separate seasons (the only other UK players to do that are Sam Bowie, Rick Robey, Dan Issel and Cotton Nash).
Hayes, a member of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame, also gave his teams a steadying presence on the court and a player who mastered defensive positioning.
When asked to describe his playing style, Washington said, “I feel like I’m versatile. Like I can do a lot of things on the court. I’m aggressive. I love to win. I love to get my teammates involved. And I do anything a coach wants me to do to win.”
UK Coach John Calipari cautioned against putting too much faith in the Washington-Hayes comparison.
“Chuck had a bigger body, just a wide frame kind of guy,” Calipari said.
UK lists Washington at 6-foot-7 and 236 pounds. It was another measurement that apparently made an impression on Calipari.
“You know your arms are supposed to be the same as your height . . . ,” the UK coach said. “His are a plus 8 inches. It is so ridiculous. Around the goal, it’s a basket. But we’ve got to prepare him for more than that. Running the floor. Being an initiator. If he rebounds it, bring it up. Be the point guard.”
Washington played a version of point guard at the Las Vegas-based Findlay Prep.
“I was the 3-man,” he said, “but pretty much I brought the ball up. Sometimes I ran the offense, and sometimes I played the post. I just tried to basically be a leader for them.”
The Findlay coach was Washington’s father.
“I’m a coach’s son . . . ,” Washington said. “So I know the ins and outs. So I just try to be smart on the court.”
Where and how Washington will contribute this coming season is to be determined. Calipari said that Washington and Hamidou Diallo playing for his U19 team this summer gave the coach a “better picture” of “where I need to go with them.”