UK freshman forward PJ Washington starting to feel more comfortable on the court

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By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

PJ Washington admitted his first seven games at Kentucky didn’t start off with a bang, but the freshman forward is optimistic he can build on recent performances against University own Illinois-Chicago and Troy going into Saturday’s contest against Harvard.

“I started off pretty slow, but I feel like I’m picking it up,” Washington said Thursday. “I’m just trying to pick it up a little bit more.”

Washington has taken advantage of the team’s six-day break — the longest of the season — by simply spending more time in the gym, working on all phases of his game, especially defense and rebounding.

Kentucky’s PJ Washington makes a move in teh post during a game earlier this season. Washington is starting to feel more comfortable on the floor (UK Athletics Photo)

“I”m just getting in the gym and working on my game,” Washington said. “It’s getting in the gym, getting shots up and just getting better with my teammates every day.”

Overall, Washington said Kentucky coach John Calipari’s main emphasis in practice has been improving on the defensive end.

“(We’ve been working on) just talking, getting rebounds and just trying to stop other teams from scoring and then (getting) out on the fast break and transition. Defense (has been) the big topic all year. I feel like if we get good on defense, there’s not a lot of teams that can beat us.”

Washington, considered one of the top prospects in the current freshman class, admitted the transition from high school to college is somewhat harder than he originally envisioned. Washington said in high school, “you can do whatever you want” and at the college level “They’re not letting you get by with that.”

“It’s harder than what I expected,” Washington said. “But, everything is about what I thought it would be. The biggest adjustment (has been) playing with great guys like this every day. In high school, you don’t get a chance to do this unless you’re on an all-star team of something like that. All (my teammates) are great and they have a very bright future.

“You’ve got to just basically bust your tail every day and work hard.”

Although one of the team’s most consistent players, Washington is seeking more drive on both ends of the floor.

“(Coach Calipari emphasizes) my motor, and bringing it on both ends of the floor every time, with every possession and just fighting,” Washington said. “It’s definitely an adjustment because in high school you can really do what you want. And then on the college level, they’re not letting you get by with that. You got great players. You gotta just basically bust your tail every day and work hard.”

In order to help his players attain higher goals, Calipari has one-on-one individual meetings with his team, including Washington.

“He tries to have meetings with everybody.” Washington said. “We’ll have a day off and he’ll just meet with everybody. He’s done that a couple times.”

Washington said the meetings are beneficial.

“The best thing I took from it is he’s always on my side and he wants me to do good, he said. “Basically, he said he’s there for me as long as I do what he says.”

Although the grind of a long season has just begun, Washington said the team’s goal remains unchanged.

“(The goal is to) win a national championship,” he said. “That’s the main goal for us and we just have to get better each and every day.”

Gametracker: Harvard at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, 98.1 FM, WBUL, Lexington.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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