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What TyTy Washington's commitment means for Kentucky

by:Jack Pilgrim05/12/21

2021 five-star guard TyTy Washington is a Wildcat, committing to Kentucky over fellow finalists Arizona, Kansas and LSU in an announcement on SportsCenter Wednesday evening.

Washington, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound point guard out of Phoenix, Arizona, is listed at No. 12 overall and No. 2 among point guards in ESPN’s latest player rankings, while 247Sports has him ranked No. 16 overall and No. 3 at his position. Leading up to today’s announcement, the five-star prospect was considered the No. 1 uncommitted point guard in the senior class.

What does his decision mean for Kentucky? How does he fit in with the other pieces on the roster? Let’s dive right in.

Calipari gets his point guard

Before we get into the specifics of who Washington is as a player and how he fits, we must first address the elephant in the room: Kentucky is no longer point guard-less going into the 2021-22 season.

Following Nolan Hickman’s decommitment from UK back on April 30, the program had zero point guards signed on for next season going into the month of May, leading to a bit of uneasiness within the fanbase. With freshmen slated to arrive on campus on June 1 and summer workouts set to begin not long after, the clock was certainly ticking for UK head coach John Calipari to add a lead guard sooner rather than later.

“During my recruitment, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to come in and play right away,” Washington told KSR. “Having multiple guards on there or no guards on there, the relationship I’ve built with the coaching staff, I’m trusting the words they’re saying. Like for me, they’re saying, “Come in right away and be our point guard.”’

Just under two weeks following Hickman’s decommitment, Kentucky found its guy in five-star point guard TyTy Washington.

Kentucky gets a “bonafide dog”

Washington just isn’t any point guard, either. According to those who know him best, the newest Wildcat is a player you want on your side when the going gets tough, a “bonafide dog.”

“His parents raised him the right way, he’s built tough. Like Ford tough, he’s built that way,” Washington’s head coach at AZ Compass Prep, Ed Gipson, told KSR. “He’s going to take what he wants, he’s not going to back down from anybody. He’s a dog, a bonafide dog.

“… He’s a guy you want in your corner. If you’re in a foxhole, you want TyTy Washington there with you. That’s what you need to know right there.”

Whatever it takes to win, Washington is going to put it all out there and put the team on his back.

“On the court, they’re going to be getting a point guard who is going to lead and do whatever it takes to win,” Washington told KSR. “Whether that’s me scoring, passing, guarding, taking charges, get a nosebleed, whatever, I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”

Shooters on shooters on shooters

Calipari has gone out of his way to add shooters this offseason, and Washington is no exception.

As a senior at AZ Compass Prep, Washington averaged 24 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds per game while shooting 48 percent overall, 41 percent from three and 88 percent from the free throw line. The newest Wildcat was undoubtedly the best shooter at the Iverson Classic this past weekend in Memphis, and he has the hardware to prove it, winning the event’s 3-point contest. He followed it up by finishing with a team-high 22 points and five 3-pointers in the official game.

Washington joins a roster that already includes CJ Fredrick, Dontaie Allen and Kellan Grady in the backcourt, who shot 47.4%, 40%, and 38.2% from three this past season, respectively, on a combined 13.2 attempts from deep per contest. UK already has one of the most lethal shooting trios in college basketball, and they just added another dead-eye sharpshooter at point guard.

https://youtu.be/QMh2v0N1GDI

More than a shooter

Drawing comparisons to the likes of Immanuel Quickley and Brandon Knight, it’s easy to assume that Washington is a shoot- and score-first point guard, but he’s plenty more. While he is a versatile scorer and boasts a fluid shot with unlimited range, he actually goes out of his way to create for his teammates and find open shots before looking for personal scoring opportunities.

This past weekend at the Iverson Classic, the Kentucky pledge started the official game simply looking to facilitate and make plays for his teammates, quickly getting the ball out of his hands and serving as a secondary and even tertiary backcourt option — he ran the three at various points, despite standing just 6-foot-3. You kept waiting for Washington to initiate and make plays for himself, but the only scoring opportunities he sought early on came off an open baseline floater, a drive from the top of the key for another short floater, and a catch-and-shoot 3-point make from the top of the key. For the first three quarters, his focus was entirely on getting his teammates involved.

Down going into the fourth quarter, though, a brand new side of the UK commit was unleashed, taking the game over as a scorer. After scoring just seven points in the first half, Washington exploded for 15 points in the second half and extended the ‘target score’ period – four makes from three and three free throws on a fouled 3-point attempt – to finish with 22 points in the game. As a ball-handler, initiator, facilitator, playmaker and shooter, Washington did it all, easily closing out the game as one of the top performers.

Building strength before the season

Standing 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Washington certainly isn’t tiny, but he’s looking to make sure his body is built for the college game in the months leading up to the season.

“Definitely my body. I’ve been hitting the weight room three times a week with a trainer, working with him three times a week,” he told KSR. “But also just tightening up my handle, adding more moves to my bag, sharpening up everything I’ve got in my bag already.

“… I know me being a starting point guard, young, as a freshman it’d be really hard,” he added. “I’d be a freshman playing against experienced guys, but I’d trust the coaches and their plan for me.”

What’s next?

Kentucky has now added one point guard, but they’re certainly not done at the position. UK continues to recruit 2021 five-star combo guard Jaden Hardy and Georgia guard transfer Sahvir Wheeler, along with monitoring other top point guards in college basketball that may enter the transfer portal in the coming weeks and months.

Will Hardy shock the world and commit to UK this weekend? Will Wheeler turn down Kansas, LSU and Oklahoma State to join the program in the coming days? Could, say, Jose Alvarado at Georgia Tech enter the portal and sign with Kentucky? Will Davion Mintz ultimately decide to return to UK?

One down, (at least) one more to go.

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