Men's Basketball: Marlin on UL leader Washington - 'He loves to rebound'
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, March 9, 2018
NEW ORLEANS — He heard the knocks during his days in high school. He’s heard the knocks throughout his Ragin’ Cajun career. He’ll undoubtedly hear the knocks if he tries to play pro ball.
But Bryce Washington, no joke, didn’t just open the door when he heard knock, knock.
Rather, he’s been busting through them since shortly after his arrival at UL — so much so that the product of St. Augustine High in New Orleans will leave the Cajuns, whenever their ongoing 2017-18 season is done, as not only a 1,000-plus-point scorer and 1,000-plus-board rebounder, but also the No. 2 rebounder in school history.
“He wakes up with that,” teammate and close friend Johnathan Stove said of the proverbial shoulder chip Washington carries.
So just what has been the rap on 6-foot-6, 245-pound Washington, who returns to his hometown to lead 26-5 Sun Belt Conference regular-season champion and No. 1 seed UL into its opening quarterfinal-round SBC Tournament game against No. 9 seed Texas State on Friday morning at Lakefront Arena here?
Allow Washington himself to reel off the list.
“I wasn’t the fastest; I wasn’t the most-athletic; I wasn’t the tallest; I wasn’t the biggest; I wasn’t none of that,” he said.
With the second of his 14 boards in UL’s regular season-ending overtime loss to Little Rock last Saturday night at the Cajundome, Washington quietly passed the late Roy Ebron (1,064 from 1970-73) and moved into second place on the Cajuns’ career rebounding leaders list.
With 1,077 now, Washington trails only former teammate Shawn Long, who pulled down 1,447 at UL from 2014-16, appeared in NBA games with the Philadelphia 76ers last season and currently is toiling in the G-League.
Washington also became the No. 3 rebounder in Sun Belt history earlier this season, settling in — despite not starting his freshman year, and despite playing alongside Long for two years — behind leader Long and No. 2 Augustine Rubit of South Alabama (1,183).
“When he comes to practice, he has a chip on his shoulder,” Stove said. “Anytime he comes to play, (the same).
“You know, when he was in high school, he wasn’t really heavily recruited — and he felt like he was better than a lot of the guys that (were) ahead of him.”
Washington averaged a 13.5-point, 11.2-rebound double-double last season, and this season — playing for the first time alongside Missouri-transfer JaKeenan Gant, a 14.7 points-per-game scorer — he is averaging a 10.6-point and Sun Belt-leading 10.7-rebound double-double.
No other SBC player averages more than nine boards per game.
Earlier this week, Washington picked for the All-Sun Belt first team along with teammate Frank Bartley IV while Gant, named to the third, won both SBC Newcomer and Defensive Player of the Year honors.
More: Marlin named Coach of the Year; three Cajuns honored
“So I understand where he’s coming from,” Stove said.
“With him being 6-6, not the most athletic person, (but) someone who actually changed his body, worked hard to get where is, he takes pride in that.
“He uses it as motivation, for sure. A lot of people told him he wouldn’t be all-conference, he couldn’t play college basketball,” Stove added. “So he takes that into consideration every time he steps out on the court.”
UL coach Bob Marlin, however, was one willing to give Washington a chance.
Wow is he ever glad he did now.
“Here’s a guy that doesn’t quite have the athleticism JaKeenan (Gant) has,” Marlin said.
Yet, the Cajun coach hastened to add, Washington is “a guy who has got great hands, great feet, great heart and a great mind.
“And loves to play. He loves to compete. He loves to rebound,” Marlin said. “How can you not love a guy that rebounds the basketball the way he does?”
It’s not the less-than-optimal-athleticism knock, however, that bothers Washington as much as it is the one on his size.
“A guy can be 7-foot, and doesn’t have the basketball IQ,” he said. “But guys with talent who know how to play the game, and maybe don’t fit the description of a ‘basketball player’ — I hated that coming out of high school.
“I hated listening to it every day of my high school career, (people) saying I don’t have a basketball body; I won’t do this, I won’t do that. Even throughout college.
“You can’t cut out a person’s heart and measure your heart,” Washington added. “I always say that, and I always wish people would pay attention to that.”
That really is, as Stove suggested, the attitude Washington has each day he rises.
“I wake up every morning and just look at myself in the mirror,” Washington said, “and I always ask myself, ‘Who do you want to be?’
“That’s one thing I take personal, and it carries on through school, through my social life, spiritual life and on the court.”
The crazy thing about his morning routine, however, is that Washington never walks out the door with a response in tow that truly satisfies him.
“I always ask that,” he said, “and I can never really answer myself, because I don’t know the answer.
“The person I want to be won’t be said in one day. It’s a whole lifetime.”
That is why though Washington treasures the rebounds he hauls in even more than the points he scores, there is something trumping that by far.
It is the legacy as a leader he will leave at UL.
Before his senior season started, Washington asked Marlin for the reins to a team that returned not only fellow seniors Stove and 2017-18 scoring-leader Bartley, but also transfer starters Gant, Marcus Stroman and Malik Marquetti.
Marlin indeed awarded them to Washington, who was the salutatorian of his graduating class at St. Augustine and UL’s Student-Athlete of the Year last school year.
Now Marlin is being paid back with a team that has a bona fide shot at winning the Sun Belt Tournament and making the NCAA Tournament for what would be the first time in Washington’s career.
Foote column: Washington fitting leader of this team
“He continues to impress me on a daily basis. He continues to motivate me,” said Marlin, who took UL to the NCAA Tourney the season before Washington arrived. “I’ve coached a few special young men in my career, and Bryce Washington is one of ’em. He’s the total package student-athlete.”
Marlin said he regularly is first-hand witness to “the respect (Washington) commands,” as evidenced one time recently by visit the coach paid to UL’s student union with several Cajun players.
“The students — not just the fraternity members (Washington belongs to the same fraternity as Stove and Bartley) and the teammates, but students — were following Bryce around the like Pied Piper over there,” Marlin said.
“So, he has a tremendous way to lead. He has something about him. He’s got a bright future.”
As much as he appreciates what Washington does off the court, though, it’s what he’s done on it that can be quantified best.
“(He) can rebound the ball with anybody,” Marlin said. “He just has great knowledge, great determination and great will to go in and rebound the ball in traffic.
“He’s got great hands … and great feet, and he’s got a nice body and he knows how to use it.”
Washington, whose rebounding has exceeded even Marlin’s own initial expectations, also derives motivation from outside sources.
Perhaps the biggest comes from a sign in the Cajun locker room.
It’s one Marlin said he first saw as a kid at Mississippi State, his alma mater, and that he’s had with him at every stop he’s been a head coach, including Pensacola Junior College, Sam Houston State and now UL.
It reads, according to Marlin: “You can shoot too much, you can dribble too much, you can pass too much, but you can never rebound too much.”
Washington has taken the words to heart.
“It’s something every coach loves: a guy that can go fetch it,” Marlin said.
And there’s no knocking that.
No. 1 seed UL (26-5) vs. No. 9 seed TEXAS STATE (15-17)
WHAT: Sun Belt Tournament quarterfinal-round game
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Friday
WHERE: Lakefront Arena, New Orleans
RADIO: KHXT 107.9 FM/KPEL 1420 AM with Jay Walker
UL LEADERS: Frank Bartley IV, 17.4 points per game; JaKeenan Gant, 14.7 points, 6.2 rebounds per game and 2.5 blocks per game; Johnathan Stove, 10.6 ppg; Bryce Washington, 10.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg; Marcus Stroman, 6.4 assists per game