UK Men's Basketball

PJ Washington’s father has message for UK fans: ‘Just relax’

Coach Cal: If I felt ‘relieved’ to win, it’s time to retire

Kentucky Coach John Calipari explains why he didn't feel relieved to beat Wofford in the NCAA Tournament.
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Kentucky Coach John Calipari explains why he didn't feel relieved to beat Wofford in the NCAA Tournament.

How it might impact a future NBA career will not be a factor in determining when — or if — PJ Washington plays for Kentucky in this year’s NCAA Tournament, the player’s father said Monday.

Paul Washington said he was offended by speculation that his son did not want to jeopardize his NBA career by risking further injury playing again for Kentucky. PJ Washington has not played since spraining his left foot against Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals on March 16.

During a telephone conversation, Paul Washington read an exchange his son had had with a fan on social media.

“Better not quit on your brothers for money,” the elder Washington said the fan posted. “You’ll regret that (decision) your whole life.”

To which, PJ Washington posted a reply. “What’s wrong with some of you all?” his father read.

His family does not put PJ Washington’s chances for playing in the NBA above all other considerations, the elder Washington said.

“I have a good job,” he said. “We live in a great house. We’ve always lived in the suburbs. I mean, we’re middle class. We’re not hurting for anything. . . .

“I respect people who have to (make an NBA team) for their family. But PJ can graduate from college and never play again, and we’ll be OK.”

Several mock drafts have Washington on the border of being a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He entered his name in last year’s draft, then decided to return to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

“Washington improved everything about his game,” CBSSports.com said in putting the UK player at No. 15 in its mock draft. “None more important than his shooting”

The website said Washington has transformed his three-point shooting from suspect into a strength.

For those who question PJ Washington’s willingness to play at less than 100 percent, Paul Washington pointed out that his son played despite a hand injury in the 2017-18 season.

“Where were these same people when he played from January to March last year with a broken finger?” he said of fans who question PJ Washington’s willingness to play now. “Where were these people saying he wasn’t tough? He laid his health on the line then.”

Paul Washington cautioned against drawing any conclusions from the medical treatment his son has received. PJ Washington initially wore a protective boot, then switched to a hard cast, then saw a specialist and then rode a scooter in moving about at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena during the NCAA Tournament’s first two rounds last week.

“It’s like looking at that cup,” he said. “Either it’s half-way full or half-way empty. The water level is at the same level. . . .

“Tell people to just relax. PJ will play when his body says he can play.”

The player’s father echoed UK Coach John Calipari by saying his son wants to play in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The hard cast protecting his left foot is supposed to be removed sometime this week, UK said. Then a determination will be made about whether PJ Washington can play.

PJ Washington is UK’s leading scorer and rebounder. He has also been the go-to guy when adversity occurs.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said PJ Washington’s return is key to Kentucky’s chances of winning a national championship.

“Is this a Final Four/national championship team without PJ?” Bilas said. “No. It’s not. With him, it is.”

Bilas saluted Kentucky for beating Wofford in Saturday’s second round with Washington sitting on the bench and watching. UK advanced to this weekend’s Midwest Region semifinals against Houston late Friday night in Kansas City.

“I thought the win they had against Wofford without him was extraordinary,” Bilas said. “Because I thought that was going to be a game you could easily lose. Winning it, I think, said a lot about the other players.

“But it gets way harder because the teams they play going forward are way better than Wofford, and Wofford’s really good.”

Next game

No. 2 seed Kentucky vs. No. 3 seed Houston

What: NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal

Where: Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

When: About 10 p.m. Friday

TV: TBS

Records: Kentucky 29-6, Houston 33-3

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