Richard Pitino and Minnesota basketball is spoiled rotten this season. They already have a plethora of talented players coming back from last season’s 24-10 campaign. Most notably, their talent lies in the backcourt with All-Big Ten sureties Nate Mason and Amir Coffey. However, what is most impressive and perhaps most important about this Gopher team is their fabulous freshman point guard Isaiah Washington.
In only two exhibition games, Washington has proven himself to be an able reliever for Nate Mason. More importantly, he has shown he has the talent and ability to take the reigns from Mason once he graduates at the end of this season. It certainly allows Minnesota fans to breath easier, knowing they have a player that can produce just as Mason does.
In the Gophers 106-58 rout of Division II Concordia-St. Paul, Washington’s stat line did not jump out to the common fan. In 20 minutes of action, the freshman scored nine points and dished out four assists. He did all of this on three of eight shooting, a below average clip. However, this play is what had people talking:
This flashy style of play (with his signature “jelly” finger roll) has epitomized Washington’s game ever since his high school days. While at St. Raymond in the Bronx, Washington was named New York’s Mr. Basketball in his senior season. His 26 point, six assist averages led to him garnering a four-star recruiting rating. Lucky for the Gophers, they got him, beating out schools like DePaul and Rutgers, among others.
Along with the fancy lay-ups, Washington’s Harlem roots show up in his ability to pass. This passing capability was seen in the Gophers intrasquad scrimmage. There were also a few instances in Minnesota’s exhibition with Wisconsin-Green Bay where Washington doled out a few no look passes. Here were just a few highlights from that contest:
Ultimately, he finished that game with 24 points and six assists in just 22 minutes. The Gophers also coasted to a 115-86 victory.
You can make the case that exhibition games do not necessarily mean anything, and you may be right. However, it is hard to deny the talent that Washington has. His vision and passing ability make him a prime candidate to be one the leading floor generals in the Big Ten. Not only that, his scoring ability, coupled with that unselfish nature may translate to him becoming one of the best guards in college basketball.
That is more big picture talk, I suppose. Obviously, it is hard to not get excited about his future with the Gophers. In the scheme of 2017-’18, he may turn out to be one of Minnesota’s top bench options. Outside of the “big three” guards (Mason, Coffey, and Dupree McBrayer, the Gophers are somewhat thin in terms of guards.
Therefore, they will need solid production from Washington and their other freshman, Jamir Harris. Harris cannot be completely relied upon to be a consistent contributor yet, but Washington should be. Both will no doubt get their opportunities, but it is Washington that may take advantage more often. Especially in times where Nate Mason is not on the floor.
Ideally, I would like to see Washington and Amir Coffey play together as much as possible in 2017-’18. Coffey is the future star of this team, at least for the coming two seasons. To play those two together would translate to success next season. If I am Richard Pitino, I want Coffey and Washington to be my dynamic duo, and they are certainly capable of that.
Given what we have seen in only 42 minutes on in-game action, it would not be so far-fetched to say that Washington will be an All-Big Ten Freshman team selection. One thing is for sure, Isaiah Washington is destined for greatness at Minnesota.