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Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington has a bright future, but needs improvement

Fans should have a positive outlook on the freshman despite his current shortcomings.

NCAA Basketball: Harvard at Minnesota Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The college basketball landscape is one that is dominated by players leaving early to pursue professional dreams. This has been well documented and is by no means a “bad” thing in my opinion. A player is entitled to make their own assessment as to how NBA ready they are. However, players who leaves college early usually require some molding. Leaving professional scouts with the age-old question: Do we want a player with raw potential or one who will contribute to our team right now?

Barring something unforeseen, Minnesota’s Isaiah Washington is a player who will stay and develop his game in college. He will do this in hopes of becoming one of those “contribute right now” assets. Washington no doubt has the talent and skill to become a professional, but he does have several areas of his game that need some shaping. Yet, Golden Gopher fans have to be giddy when they see the Harlem guard play. With a future that is relatively uncertain program wise, Washington gives hope to Minnesota moving forward.

As Nate Mason moves on from the team after this season, one has to assume Washington will be the one to take over the point guard duties. He has been given the opportunities to showcase his skills as Mason and Dupree McBrayer have missed time due to injury. The results, though inefficient, are certainly fun to take in. In Minnesota basketball history, never have we seen a player with this amount of flashiness and excitement to their play. Sure, Mychal Thompson and Kevin McHale were great Gophers, but were they as exciting as Washington is? The answer is no.

On a more concrete base, the sticking point in Washington’s game is shooting efficiency. Going into tonight’s game against Illinois, the freshman is shooting 34 percent from the field and a weary 15 percent from three-point range. That is not for a lack of attempts either as Washington hoists up close to three long range shots a game. All together, his efficient shooting percentage sits at 36 percent, the second worst on the team. Those percentages have to improve if he wants to adequately fill-in once Mason is gone.

To add on to that, Washington is playing around 20 minutes per game coming off the bench for Minnesota. It is customary for young players to be rather trigger happy, and these numbers prove that in Washington’s case.

There are positives to Washington, most notably his passing ability. He currently assists on 21 percent of the team’s baskets while he is on the floor. On the other hand, he is third on the team in total turnovers with 22. While this usually gets rectified over time, it is semi-alarming given that Washington possess the ball so often.

The turnover issue is also cause for concern considering Richard Pitino uses Washington so often when he is on the floor. He has a near 26 percent usage rate even though he only plays half the game (going by minutes). This means he plays less minutes, but still turns the ball over at the same rate a starter would.

It’s hard to not be excited for Washington’s Minnesota career as it seems he will be around for at least two more years. As Big Ten play gets into full swing, one has to assume the Harlem native will experience some growing pains, but that is natural in the development of a player. Whether or not he builds off those struggles is yet to be seen. However, given the body of work we have seen from the young Gopher, there is no reason to get too concerned yet.