With a little over 13 minutes to go in Saturday’s game at Florida and the Gators on a 9-0 scoring run, PJ Washington had seen enough. He gathered his teammates after a dead ball and unleashed his frustration while the Florida student section chanted, “PJ’s angry!”
On Monday, Washington revealed what he said during the pep talk that changed the entire game. He told reporters, “I just said we gotta play together. That’s what got us here and that’s what’s going to get us past the hump. We gotta come out these last seven minutes, I think it was, and play together and play hard. If we play defense, they can’t beat us.”
Washington added that some of his teammates were playing selfish in trying to mount a comeback and he didn’t like it. And though he didn’t call anyone out by name, it’s clear Tyler Herro was one of the teammates who set him off.
Herro had just gotten beat off the dribble for an easy basket and then clanked a long jumper off the iron on the other end. Washington looked directly at Herro after the whistle and yelled, “PASS THE BALL,” before huddling the group together.
John Calipari, who has begged his team to become “player-driven,” watched on from the opposite end of the floor.
Cal’s facial expression didn’t show it, but you have to think he was smiling on the inside as his star sophomore, who is normally very reserved, became a vocal leader when adversity hit.
Washington admitted he now feels a lot more confident and comfortable in a leadership role.
Washington’s roommate, Reid Travis, said, “He has definitely been great for us over the last couple of games, you can just tell. Coach has talked about his energy and just the passion that he has had for the game. It’s just been great. It’s just propelling other guys. If he’s playing at that high of a level, everyone’s got to lift their game and play with the same energy. It’s been great for us to have him play that well.”
Travis also noted it’s not just Washington, but the entire team holding each other accountable.
“When we get in huddles, the players are mostly talking now just because we’ve got some games under our belt,” he said. “We know what’s expected, we know what we’ve got to do to finish games and win games. Now, we’re just holding each other accountable. I think that’s the biggest growth we’ve had this season. Guys are starting to hold each other more accountable, starting to get on each other, but also celebrate together, so it’s been good. If we’re player-driven, we can be a great team.”