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To Reach Its Potential, Kentucky Needs More Consistency From PJ Washington

On Saturday afternoon, Kentucky lost to Alabama. The good news was that this wasn’t one of those “the sky is falling, Kentucky is screwed beyond belief, just go ahead and cancel the rest of the season” kind of losses. Instead, it was more one of those “Kentucky is everyone’s Super Bowl, if they don’t come to play every single night on the road, they can get beat,” games instead.

No, the Alabama loss isn’t about doom-and-gloom, but it did once again spotlight some weaknesses for the Wildcats that seem to show up every now and again. For one, Reid Travis can at times struggle against other team’s length down low, and it happened again this weekend. Kentucky’s three-point shots don’t always fall, and they certainly didn’t Saturday in Tuscaloosa (the Wildcats finished 5 for 18 from beyond the arc). And most nights, you Kentucky really just has no idea what you’re going to get from P.J. Washington.

More than anything, that last one would be my biggest concern if I were a Kentucky fan. And it’s something that John Calipari absolutely has to get figured out: What’s up with P.J. Washington? And why does no one– including seemingly P.J. Washington himself – have no idea what he will bring to the court on any given night?

It is the single most important question surrounding Kentucky in my opinion. And if the Wildcats want to reach their potential as a national championship caliber team (a run I still believe they’re capable of making), they will need to figure out an answer to the question.

Now I already know what some of you are thinking: “Aaron, this feels like the wrong time to bring up P.J. Washington since, you know, he was arguably Kentucky’s best player on Saturday against Alabama. He finished with a team-high 15 points and chipped in seven boards as well.”

Fair, but to anyone who watched the game, you know that of those 15 points, nine came late in the final seven minutes right? And they came at a time when Kentucky was down double-digits and Alabama was (for lack of a better term) in a prevent defense. It also highlights exactly what I just said above: You really never know what you’re going to get from P.J. Washington this season. A near 30-point performance? Eight points and no energy at all? Somewhere in between? No one knows. Including, again, Washington.

The only consistency is inconsistency, and a sad, mopey face doing it. And the numbers back me up, as here are Washington’s stat lines in the last four games:

Alabama: 15 points, seven rebounds, 0 blocks
Louisville: 5 points, eight rebounds, four blocks
North Carolina: 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assistants
Utah: 9 points, four rebounds
Seton Hall: 29 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, four blocks

Mercy. This dude is more inconsistent than summer weather in Florida.

The sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Washington has proven that he can be consistent, and that he can play with a chip on his shoulder. He did it last year, when – to his credit – he brought it every single, darn night. He wasn’t always great, but did always hustle, play hard, crash the boards and do all the little things to win.

This year he’s been the exact opposite: He’s shown a much better all-around game, but again has no real consistency. Some nights he plays with the fire in his belly he had last year – though if we’re being honest, I really can’t think of too many instances where that has been the case. Instead, he has spent most of this season moping around like his puppy just got run over by a car. And if this really is about impressing NBA scouts, well, here is a quick warning to Washington: NBA scouts watch everything you do. Believe me, I talk to them all the time. And while part of “impressing the NBA folks” is about showing off a more complete game, stepping out and hitting three’s, all that stuff, you know what else it is about? Effort and attitude. Yes, the NBA cares about stuff like that as well.

And right now the right attitude isn’t there and neither is the effort – at least most of the time. What’s especially maddening is that it can be, when Washington decides he wants to show it off. Anyone else besides me remember that Seton Hall game, when Washington caught the ball on the block time and time again, and the Pirates couldn’t do anything? How they had no answer for him? I watch a TON of college basketball and can tell you that it was one of the best performances I’ve seen by anyone, all season.

I’d also add that even during that game though, the announcers Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson even mentioned that Washington himself admitted that he can be difficult to motivate at times. That his dad knew how to push his buttons when he coached him in high school, but that it was different in college.

Well P.J. here is a quick heads up: Want to get angry? Want to get fired up? Well, you’re going to be plenty fired up when your NBA Draft stock falls because you’re not showing enough consistency.

Thankfully for Washington it hasn’t happened yet, and I will give him credit for one thing: Late in the Kentucky-Bama game, when the Wildcats were making their run and Washington was getting his buckets, he seemed to take on a more active, leadership role. As Kentucky battled back into the game, Washington was barking out instructions, telling guys where to go… all the things a leader needs to do.

Hopefully it was a positive sign of what’s ahead for Washington.

For Kentucky to reach its potential, they’ll need that attitude from Washington every night.

Article written by Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres is covering football and basketball for KSR this season after four years at Fox Sports. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_Torres, Facebook or e-mail at [email protected] He is also the author of the only book written on the Calipari era, “One and Fun: A Behind the Scenes Look at John Calipari and the 2010 Kentucky Wildcats.”

17 responses to “To Reach Its Potential, Kentucky Needs More Consistency From PJ Washington”

  1. secrick

    PJ played a great game against Louisville and North Carolina. Not sure i agree with you.

  2. binarysolo

    Raise your hand if you read “Aaron, this feels like the wrong time to bring up P.J. Washington since…” in that voice Aaron uses on his podcast when he’s making fun of someone. XD

  3. BallDontLie

    Its pretty simple. If he were a consistent player then he would play the same consistently. Its like asking why a baseball player cant hit .350 for an entire season because he did it for 10 games in a row when he shows over more substantial amount of time that he is really a .250 level hitter.
    I know this seems to be a mindset issue, but that is part of the player too. We watched poythress and said the same thing for 4 years. And there have been others. But its simple, if he was going to be consistently dominant then he would be, but he isnt, so he isnt.

    1. FanNotFanatic

      I think this is true, and Poythress is a good example. I doubt that PJ’s draft stock is much higher now than it was last June.

  4. BigolBlue

    Just not sure how he could fit into the nba without much of a consistent jumpshot. This will be his last year no matter what because thats how we roll now at UK. He will still make a very good living wherever he goes, just not seeing nba.

  5. channell

    When a five star recruit comes to UK, it’s for one reason. Get to the NBA after one year. Didn’t work for PJ. Maybe he thought it would be automatic. A scholarship player is playing on the publics dime. Free education, meals, you name it. Some players are not a good return on the investment. PJ may be one of those. He will probably transfer this year or end up in the d league or overseas. But he is not alone. UK has a 6’11” man on the bench that will be gone too. So much for the best 3 point shooting team ever. Laziness or playing when you feel like it is not an option when all is free.

    1. StuckinLville

      You do realize he’s projected in the first round and could have left last year, right?

    2. channell

      Yes I do realize he could have left last year in the second round and projected doesn’t mean he will go in the first round this year. This year he would have been a d league player. He doesn’t have the work ethic to be a NBA player yet. With his size he had better be a 3 point shooter in the NBA because he can’t play point or inside against dominant big men.

  6. StuckinLville

    PJ = Alex Poythress

    1. RealCatsFan

      Also reminds me a little bit of Terrence Jones. At times he seems more conscious about his image than his game.

  7. No more excuses cal

    No what ky needs to reach full potential is a coach and staff along with players that are not so full of themselves. More concerned about the program and winning than themselves and the June draft

    1. henderblue

      No? You mean know don’t you? Know more excuses??

  8. Smyrna_Cat

    “Washington has proven that he can be consistent” … if so, I don’t see us having this discussion, do you?

  9. Smyrna_Cat

    On consistency … you either are or your not. There is no “consistent sometimes.”

  10. VirginiaCat

    BallDon’tLie: I think you said it best. Essentially, what you see is what you get. Alex Poythress had moments of brilliance, but under performed for the most part. The same was true to a lesser degree of T. Jones. I would also put WCS in that category. He had immense talent and could dominate, but he sometimes disappeared, including the 2015 semi-final game. I would love to see PJ at his consistent best, but that doesn’t seem likely. If not motivated by potential NBA gold, I don’t know what it would take.

  11. UKfanman01

    PJ is very reminiscent of….. yes, Alex Poythress. PJ has the potential to be one of the better forwards to come through UK. He has practiced and finally learned how to hit outside shots. The problem with PJ is that he’s a ham. Hes a showboat. Hes too busy flexing and looking good.

  12. Ridge Runner

    I just think there are more inconsistencies than PJ.