P.J. Washington

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Kentucky’s PJ Washington plays through foot injury in gutsy Sweet 16 performance

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Kentucky advanced past Houston to make the Elite Eight on Friday night as sophomore forward PJ Washington was a huge reason the Wildcats rallied to win.

Missing the NCAA tournament’s first weekend with his foot in a hard cast, Washington came off the bench on Friday night as he scored 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Washington also added a huge block late in the game with the Wildcats trailing by two in the final minute. On a night where Kentucky’s offense struggled to produce quality looks, Washington’s ability to score on the block was vital for the Wildcats to escape with another win.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in the postgame interview that Washington didn’t go through the team’s shootaround on Friday as he was a game-time decision. Washington said his foot didn’t have much feeling after Friday’s win as his status remains uncertain for Sunday’s Elite Eight game with Auburn.

“It’s feeling good. I don’t feel no pain right now. A lot of adrenaline. It’s probably going to be hurting later so I’m going to go home and get some treatment. And get ready for the next game,” Washington said after Friday’s win.

If Washington is healthy enough to play, and give this kind of effort, then he’ll likely try to give it a go against the Tigers in the Elite Eight. Although Washington isn’t as springy as normal, he still did an effective job of letting his skills do the work in the post as he got position on the block and went to work against Houston. Kentucky’s best player in the Wildcats’ blowout win over Auburn in late February, Kentucky probably needs Washington to play, and be somewhat effective, if they want to reach another Final Four.

Washington and the Wildcats will be facing a hot Auburn team riding an 11-game winning streak as the Tigers look like a different team since the loss to Kentucky in Lexington.

Kentucky’s P.J. Washington ruled out for NCAA tournament opener

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Kentucky star forward P.J. Washington has officially been ruled out of Thursday’s NCAA tournament first-round matchup against Abilene Christian with a sprained foot.

Wildcats head coach John Calipari sounded optimistic that Washington would be able to play in the team’s NCAA tournament opener when speaking to reporters on Wednesday. But Calipari took to Twitter early Thursday to confirm that Washington was ruled out.

Placed in a hard cast for precautionary reasons after seeing specialists, Washington’s health for future rounds remains uncertain. Washington is Kentucky’s leading scorer and rebounder this season as he’s putting up 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Without Washington, the Wildcats should still be able to get by No. 15 seed Abilene Christian thanks to a deep collection of frontcourt players.

But the sophomore’s health is going to be one of the key storylines to watch this weekend as his availability could have a huge impact on Kentucky’s potential second-round matchup.

Kentucky’s P.J. Washington, Wenyen Gabriel, Jarred Vanderbilt make NBA Draft decisions

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Kentucky’s deep-and-talented roster is officially taking shape on Wednesday afternoon as forward P.J. Washington announced that he will return for his sophomore season while Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft.

The return of the 6-foot-7 Washington gives the Wildcats their most consistent frontcourt player from last season. Putting up 10.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, the springy forward has a chance to make a major leap during his sophomore season in Lexington.

Gabriel, a 6-foot-9 big man who just completed with sophomore season, is staying in the draft after an up-and-down career with Kentucky. A reserve for most of the past two seasons, Gabriel averaged 6.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 23.1 minutes per game last season. A former five-star prospect, Gabriel was never a consistent presence with the Wildcats, but he does have some tantalizing pro tools, including an ability to stretch the floor (39 percent three-point shooting this season).

After an injury-plagued freshman season, the 6-foot-8 Vanderbilt is also staying in the NBA draft. Playing only 14 games during the season, Vanderbilt averaged 5.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game for the Wildcats. Never fully finding a comfortable role in Kentucky’s already-established mid-season rotation, Vanderbilt officially ended his season before Kentucky started its postseason. With a history of injuries, and a crowded froncourt at Kentucky looming, leaving for the pro ranks might be the best option for Vanderbilt if he wants to maximize his potential career.

The major question becomes who Washington might play with in Kentucky’s potentially crowded frontcourt? Stanford graduate transfer forward Reid Travis is rumored to also be potentially going to Kentucky after pulling out of the NBA draft.

When you also factor in the Wildcats bringing in five-star freshman big man E.J. Montgomery, and the return of sophomore big man Nick Richards, and that makes for some intriguing lineup possibilities for head coach John Calipari in the frontcourt.

One interesting wrinkle for Washington could be his ability to play smaller, at the three, since Kentucky has so many potential big men. Although Washington only shot 23 percent from three-point range last season, he is quick enough to stick with some bigger wings while also providing plus rebounding from the position.

We’ll have to wait-and-see what happens with Travis and his transfer decision, but at the very least, Kentucky has Montgomery, Richards and Washington already in the fold for 2018-19.