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What PJ Washington’s return means for Kentucky

Kentucky forward PJ Washington is officially back, and the Big Blue Nation is celebrating accordingly.

After going through the draft evaluation process, the newest Wildcat sophomore decided to come back to school to up his draft stock and win a national title.

Here is what Washington’s return means for Kentucky going forward:

No worries about the frontcourt

Before Washington’s decision, Kentucky only had two players locked in for the 2018-19 frontcourt: Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery. With Sacha Killeya-Jones and Tai Wynyard transferring out of the program, the uncertainty behind Richards’ development, and Montgomery being a freshman with zero experience, there were obvious concerns.

At various points of the process, all three of Kentucky’s potential NBA guys were rumored to leave. Obviously John Calipari would’ve found a replacement on the grad-transfer market, but had all three left, leaving an extremely thin frontcourt to chance was a bit scary.

With Washington back, you can breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a guarantee in the frontcourt to anchor the middle, no matter who else stays or goes. A darn good one, at that. And with teams as young as Kentucky’s year after year, constants are absolutely beautiful when others experience growing pains.

Beyond Washington, Richards, and Montgomery, if Reid Travis joins (as expected), the Cats will have two absolute bullies in the frontcourt to work with.

Sounds like a whole lot of flexin’, to me.

The frontcourt looks great right now. Get one or both of Vando and Travis, we’re talking about one of the most loaded rosters in college basketball.

Guarantees a Final Four-caliber roster

To build off of the previous subheading, Washington’s return guarantees a loaded roster absolutely capable of making a run to the Final Four next March.

And it was a big reason why PJ decided to come back for round two.

“One of my goals is to win a national championship in college, and that’s what I want to do next season at Kentucky,” he said. “I believe with who we have coming back and who we have coming in that we can do that.”

When you go down the list, he’s pretty spot on.

This is what Kentucky’s roster looks like as of now:

Ashton Hagans, Quade Green, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Jemarl Baker, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and PJ Washington.

Elite guard play? Check.

Shooters? Check.

Skilled frontcourt? Check

Experience? Check.

Depth? Check.

And there’s a strong chance the Cats will add one or two more to that list.

We talked before about Stanford transfer Reid Travis and how Kentucky is the runaway favorite to land him. As a First-Team Pac-12 player averaging 20 points and eight rebounds a game last season, he’d almost certainly start from the get-go. He’s a superstar. Add in Jarred Vanderbilt, and you can go ahead and pencil the Cats in as preseason No. 1.

SEC Player of the Year candidate with tournament experience

Most people focus on Washington’s devastating 8-20 performance from the line against Kansas State in the Sweet 16. Though it stung and likely kept the Cats from finishing off a run to the Final Four, it doesn’t tell the entire story of just how impressive Washington was to end the year.

The Kentucky sophomore was finding his groove in a major way, proving to be one of the team’s most consistent scoring and rebounding threats on the roster. To finish out the season, Washington finished in double-digits in 11 of Kentucky’s final 12 games, to go with at least five rebounds in each of those 11. He averaged 11 points and six rebounds throughout the season, but ended the year averaging 13 and seven in the final 12 contests, including performances of 18-15, 14-8, 18-7, and 13-10.

When Washington took advantage of his size and strength last season, he was unstoppable. If he can continue to develop that killer instinct in the post, along with show off an improved jumper, Washington has the potential to take home SEC Player of the Year honors.

There will be more experience next season, but the freshmen will need guys to take them under their wing and show them the ropes. Washington’s return will allow them to find their way with little pressure to tip off the season.

On that note… Bring on Duke.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

40 Comments for What PJ Washington’s return means for Kentucky

  1. Han
    7:06 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    Really excited to have him back, but we still need at least one more big. Also need Hagans to successfully reclassify. Hopefully no hangups there but he’s not on the roster til he’s on the roster (same with Travis or Vando).

    • Robkycats54
      2:46 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Kentucky is the only school where guys leave because of incoming talent…. & don’t even get drafted, I’m really shocked, I am one biggest fans ever, in my life I havent missed a kentucky game, but guys like WG & JV leave with a chance neither gets drafted is mind boggling… I love big blue but those 2 leaving… think about if you had a car and one the mechanics just started skool learning how to fix cars (Wenyen) & the other had no feet pun intended (JV) u would be a fool to let them fix your car…. the NBA as they say there Dream lol is not drafting either 1 of these maybe JV but that not clear. IDC what no thinks but these guys arent even premier players in college, what do you think you can do in the nba… I agree with dick vitale if you are a guaranteed 1st round pick leave but this is my first time in my life where 2 guys didn’t compete at the nba Combine, stayed in the draft & neither are consensus lottery picks smh Although like I stated b4 I wish these guys the best of luck in there future endeavours no ill will towards either but Coach Cal has to be better with these kids, Every yr now guys at the end our leaving for the nba, Transferring or simply running out of town smh if this is a players first program tell these kids the truth or recruit sum of these kids back, Starting the yr with all freshman is hard & the reason we lose to K-State because of inexperience…. I hope we win this yr or get us Brad Stevenson.. Glad big time pj came back!!!

    • 3Goggles
      8:21 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Wow that is some serious word vomit. Just complete mouth diarrhea

  2. mashburnfan1
    7:21 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    Guarantees a Final Four-caliber roster
    This is what Kentucky’s roster looks like as of now:
    Ashton Hagans, Quade Green, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro, Jemarl Baker, Keldon Johnson, EJ Montgomery, Nick Richards, and PJ Washington.

    Really? Looking at this I see PJ who overall had an average year at the college level. Nick who, this far, has shown he can’t compete at this level. Quade who was below average but, IMO, not given a real chance. All the rest have never played at this level. To you that, and I quote, GUARANTEES a F4 caliber roster. WOW talk about looking through blue glasses. I really hope all the FR are as good as projected but even if they are this young group is not guaranteed anything. Now if we add Travis that changes alot but we would still need at least 3 FR to be as good or better than expected. Most thought last years roster was F4 caliber in October, again not knowing what the FR would do just based on expectations. Well they were not very good and neither were we. Face it as long as we turn the roster over every year we won’t know what we have till December or so, unless we get some that stay like Lamb and Jones did and maybe have a great 4 yr guy like Miller. All new players equals all new wait and see how good they actually are.

    • Alex90
      7:30 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      Then tell me who has a better roster?

    • Jiminy Crickets
      9:18 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Villanova, Kansas and duke have better “rosters”. Mich st, Florida, Arizona and UNC will be legit as well.

    • Megan
      7:49 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      Alex makes a good point. You can’t say whether Kentucky is a Final Four caliber team in a vacuum. You have to look around ask how many other teams look as good or better.

    • ukmcky
      8:14 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      Only freshmen who were disappointing to me were Richards and to a lesser extent Green. Baker and Vanderbilt were injured. The other three either met or exceeded expectations, and we nearly made a run with NO experience. Even by your insane logic, our odds look pretty darn good.

    • Jiminy Crickets
      9:09 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Nearly made a run, which was historically easy according to seeding, and couldn’t because of no experience. There you go, I fixed it for you. Every year we talk about “how good the roster is” and every year (except 3) we see an average pre and regular season, and pray by January they gell enough to make a March run. The OP is exactly right, we MAY have a FF roster, but PJ, nick and quads plus a bunch of freshmen, and an 11th grader hopefully reclassifying has a lot to go before even talking FF

    • BossDawg
      8:21 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      I’m with you mashburnfan1. I think Jack Pilgrim writes from a starry eyed 12 yr old UK lover perspective. That’s who we all are deep down inside, but to write for a website with this much readership should require a little more tempered response to news such as PJ’s return. Hopefully Jack will mature and become an accomplished blogger/writer someday but as of right now i’d have to say he just don’t get it in the broad scope of things.

    • ukkatzfan
      8:55 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      So tell is how you are a starry eyed 12 year old. I ain’t one. Why don’t you go follow justin bieber like a good little ksr hater ?

    • KentuckyFan232
      10:00 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      You are a joke

    • CalsBurnerAccount
      9:05 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      I changed my name. Not a gimmick, just a joke to give the haters something to run with. Hope you like it

    • KentuckyFan232
      9:59 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      You are a joke as a Kentucky basketball fan

    • CalsBurnerAccount
      10:11 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

      ? Jeez, harsh words. Can’t think of anything I’ve said that makes me a joke as a Kentucky basketball fan. Oh yeah, because apparently everyone who likes Cal is a bandwagon fan, right?

    • bigblue2284
      9:14 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      A hate when people say “final Four Caliber”. There is zero to suggest this team is FF caliber, zero. No returner is elite and freshman are freshman and John Wall isn’t walking through that door. We will be a good team and fun to watch mid season maybe, expect ugly basketball early on.

    7:22 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    Of the 3 late deciders, his was by far the most important, IMO. The kid reminds me of a cross between Terrance Jones and Darius Miller, minus the 3-pt shot. He’s got that “dawg” in him, and is way tougher on the block than anybody his size, and can handle himself against those that are much bigger. If he develops a mid-range…and works to get better at FTs…he will be lethal, and likely a lotto pick next year.

  4. TateD
    7:24 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    Feel as if this article has no meaning until the roster is filled out (Vando and travis) more so Vando

  5. Daddyof3Ballers
    7:31 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    Will we see a platoon system again? If Reid or Vando is on the roster you have two really good players at each position…I know Cal said never again but that’s what I said after my first kid lol

  6. Not Dan Issel
    7:48 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    It means we are in good shape.

  7. Megan
    7:51 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    TJ Walker’s gut still refuses to believe that PJ is coming back to Kentucky.

  8. CombatMedic_98
    7:58 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    Well Gents, it just depends what refs get “slotted” to red the Cats games…makes a world of difference when you play the 5 on the four and the three in the zebra stripes!

  9. Jesus H. Chrysler
    10:29 pm May 30, 2018 Permalink

    What about Brad?

    • ukkatzfan
      12:17 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Brad will prob start all games in the #1 coach’s son position. But with a second one there too. He will be platooning also.

  10. wyatts1
    2:10 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    Glad all this circus BS is behind us. It’s a good thing he got his feedback but the wait was kinda theatrical lol. I wish Vanderbilt was the one stating but it is what it is. Can’t wait til the rnba rules changes but until then it’s the world we live in. Now let’s get it going for next season, and I’m curious is Reid the only player that’s gonna be grabbed for this year’s team? Or are they anyone else that may legitimately reclassify for this season. Besides maybe maxey.

  11. JohnnyCheeseSticks
    6:52 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    Jeff Goodman looks like a piece of celery. Fire Eddie Gran.

  12. kjd
    8:05 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    It means he didn’t get first round guarantee.
    We won’t have the youngest roster (maybe).
    It means PJ has to improve his game for us to be a contender and him a first rounder.

  13. 3 fan
    8:27 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    Vanderbilt let his handlers and his mangina make his decision. Good luck kid, you are gonna need it.

    We had two OAD’s who did absolutely nothing in Diallo and Vanderbilt. Terrible.

    • mdroz999
      8:55 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      What exactly are you implying by the term “his mangina”? I had to look up the word, never heard it before…

    • Wade
      10:15 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Man with a Gina not nuts!

    • mdroz999
      2:57 pm May 31, 2018 Permalink

      Ah, because when I looked it up, this is what I found: mangina (slang, derogatory). A man with a pronounced feminine side, or a weak masculine side.

  14. mdroz999
    8:41 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    If Reid Travis does come to UK, I hope it’s as the player he’s been up to this point at Stanford – an inside banger. Desperately needed, as the other potential banger on the roster – Nick – can’t stay on the court as his MO is to get 2 quick fouls and retire to the bench for the rest of the game. The reason I say I hope it’s as the player Travis has been up to this point at Stanford is the video I watched on him last night where he’s looking to develop his outside game, i.e., 3 point shooting. That could take him away from the inside game he’s been so successful at up to this point.

  15. bigblue2284
    9:10 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    I wasn’t excited about any of the three returning. Washington is up and down and I find his game boring in general, he plays below the rim for a guy 6’9. Gabriel averaged 6 points a game was an awful ball handler and streaky shooter at best. Vanderbilt was the best of the three but couldn’t stay healthy or shoot outside of two feet and even two feet may be stretch. I just didn’t care for the team last year in general, not compared to other teams in the past.

  16. ukdave62
    9:13 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    Travis would be the first grown man both physically and mentally we’ve had in a long time. I think we really need him to make a deep run.

  17. Wade
    9:36 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    I’m sur cal told vando come back and wenyen came play nba later go overseas and provide cal does great and understands he’s the son of immigrants. We’re gonna be real good this yr be happy. I understand u a bit it’s the Kentucky pride lets gooo!

  18. Shooter Flatch
    10:12 am May 31, 2018 Permalink

    What does having PJ Washington back mean for Kentucky? It means now he won’t be in the game at the end