What did Kentucky freshman PJ Washington learn about John Calipari during this summer’s FIBA World Cup?
“He yells,” Washington laughed. “But itâ€™s crazy because he wasnâ€™t mad, but he was just yelling. I havenâ€™t seen anything like it.”
Yelling aside, Washington thoroughly enjoyed the sneak peek of his freshman season.
“It was great getting a taste of what [Calipari] does and how he coaches and getting to play with Hamidou [Diallo],” Washington said.Â “[Calipari] is everything I expected. I feel like he didnâ€™t lie to me at all in the recruiting process. Heâ€™s a player’s coach. As long as you fight for him, heâ€™ll fight for you.”
Washington is the only true freshman who has been coached by John Calipari in a game, which he acknowledges will give him a leg up once the season starts.
“I feel like it gives me an advantage because I know what he wants out of me. I know what he wants me to do. I just know how he coaches. I know his style. I know what plays he likes to run. Itâ€™s just great.”
Some players may treat that head start as a cushion, but Washington is using it as motivation. When asked what he’s enjoyed most about his time at Kentucky so far, he gave us an unique answer.
“I like the workouts. I like being competitive with these guys, pushing people to get better. Itâ€™s just a blessing.”
One of the most intense workouts this summer took place at the football training center, where the players ran stairs and did circuit training. Even Washington admitted he liked the end of that workout the best, but he’s pleased by how all of the extra work has helped his game.
“Iâ€™ve seen my game change a lot. Iâ€™ve seen my body change a lot. Itâ€™s basically motivated me. Iâ€™m happy to get better every day.”
Washington has been described as one of the most versatile players on the team, making him a perfect fit for Calipari’s positionless system. Speaking of, how much does Calipari love the word “positionless”?
“He says it almost everyday,” Washington said. “I honestly donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve heard him talk without saying it.”
In Washington’s case, the term fits. With a solid jumper, a nose for the ball, and endless hustle on defense, the 6’9″ forward has been compared to Chuck Hayes by some, but point guard Quade Green has a different comparison in mind: Charles Barkley.
“I love it,” Washington said. “[Quade] thinks I donâ€™t like it, but itâ€™s a great comparison and I love it. It gets me wanting to play harder when he says it in pickup games.”
Barkley was three inches shorter and about 40 pounds heavier than Washington while at Auburn, but the two may share another trait: an alpha dog mentality. Calipari has already singled Washington out as one of three alpha dogs on the team (along with Green and Diallo) and wants him to embrace that persona this season.
“[He wants me to] play like I did in Egypt. He expects me to be an alpha dog, play hard. Do anything he asks me to do to win and just be who I am.”
Check out our other preseason interviews: