Abilene Christian says Kentucky is ‘bluest of the blue bloods’
PJ Washington is expected to play in Kentucky’s opening game in the NCAA Tournament, Coach John Calipari said Wednesday.
Washington being sighted wearing a protective boot this week inflamed social media. Speculation that Washington might not play in Kentucky’s game against Abilene Christian on Thursday night reached new heights when he did not accompany the team to Thursday’s public workout in Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
“We sent him to a specialist to make sure he can’t harm himself,” Calipari said. “But we expect him to play.”
Washington, UK’s leading scorer and rebounder, sprained his left foot against Tennessee in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinal game, Calipari said.
An X-ray and MRI examination showed no serious injury, the UK coach said.
“He wants to play,” Calipari said. “But if you know me, I’m, like, wait a minute. Let’s go get one more level (of medical opinion).”
Abilene Christian Coach Joe Golding acknowledged how Washington figured prominently in his team’s game plan.
When asked how Washington could impact the game, Golding said, “Well, if he shows up to play in a walking boot, and Coach Cal lets him play in a walking boot, we might have a chance. . . . If he takes the walking boot off, we’ve got a problem. He’s really good. He’s talented. He’s one of eight problems we have on their roster.”
On Tuesday, SEC Network analyst Jimmy Dykes said Washington was central to Kentucky’s hopes to advance deep in this NCAA Tournament.
“I can make the case that Tyler Herro is the most important player going forward, almost equal to PJ,” Dykes said. “But PJ is a sophomore. And because of the position he plays. His post-up presence is so important. As good as Tyler Herro is and has been, he can’t give you those low-block scoring and-ones, back-to-the-basket post-ups. That really makes Kentucky hard to guard.
“Any coach in the SEC will tell you when you start trying to defend Kentucky, you have to deal with PJ on the block and Tyler Herro coming off screens.”