CRAWFORD | Draft decision: Washington returning, Kentucky reloading
The forward's return to Kentucky gives Calipari his most seasoned returning group since the 2014-15 team that went 38-1.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – P.J. Washington is coming back. The University of Kentucky sophomore forward who was arguably the team’s backbone at times last season gives coach John Calipari something he badly needed – another experienced leader opting for a second season rather than chasing the NBA Draft.
Washington, projected as a second-rounder at best, made good on a pledge to return to Kentucky if he wasn’t convinced he could be a first-rounder.
He announced his decision via Twitter video, with the final frames showing his picture, signature and the words, “I’m back.”
“The plan all along was to get all the information that was out there to make the best decision for me and my family,” Washington said in a statement released by UK. “I’ve always had a list of goals that I want to accomplish in my life, and one of the most important ones is making it to the NBA. That hasn’t changed at all. But another one of my goals is to win a national championship in college, and that’s what I want to do next season at Kentucky. I believe with who we have coming back and who we have coming in that we can do that.”
Washington returns to a team that already is loaded. From his class, guard Quade Green and center Nick Richards are returning, and Calipari has his usual blockbuster class of recruits on the way, including Tyler Herro, Keldon Johsnon, EJ Montgomery, Zan Payne and Immanuel Quickley.
Washington will be Kentucky’s top returning scorer and rebounder, at 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. He played his best basketball at the end of the season, averaging nearly 13 points and 7 rebounds over the Wildcats’ final 12 games, while shooting 57.6 percent from the field.
“This is what the NBA Draft rules are in place for,” Calipari said in a statement released by the school. “PJ was able to test the waters and get all the information that was available to him to make the best decision for him and his family. Whatever PJ decided we were going to support, but I’m really happy with the decision he’s come to because I really want to coach PJ for another season. I know how good of a player he is and think he showed it at times last season, but I’m looking forward to seeing him grow and build on it. What I love most about this decision is why PJ is doing it. He told me he wants to come back to be a leader, to grow and to drag his teammates with him as we try to do something special.”
According to UK sports information, independent of any other decisions on the draft (and forward Wenyen Gabriel has now decided not to return to Kentucky), the Wildcats will bring back at least 32 percent of their scoring and 30.5 percent of their rebounding.
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