LEXINGTON, Ky. – After helping lead the Kentucky men’s basketball team to a No. 2 seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament and a 26-win regular season, sophomore forward PJ Washington (pictured) opened awards season on Monday with selection to the Sporting News All-America Third Team.
Washington is the first Wildcat to earn All-America distinction by the publication since Malik Monk was a second-team choice in 2017. The Sporting News is one of the four “major” NCAA-recognized All-America teams that the NCAA uses for its consensus All-America teams. The other three are the Associated Press, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The Dallas native, was joined on the Sporting News All-America Third Team by Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga), Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Kyle Guy (Virginia) and De’Andre Hunter (Virginia).
Washington is the 11th player under John Calipari to earn All-America honors by one of the four major organizations. He joins John Wall (2010), DeMarcus Cousins (2010), Anthony Davis (2012), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012), Julius Randle (2014), Willie Cauley-Stein (2015), Karl-Anthony Towns (2015), Tyler Ulis (2016), Jamal Murray (2016) and Malik Monk (2017) in earning All-America distinction by either the Sporting News, AP, USBWA or the NABC.
The dynamic sophomore has been the catalyst to UK’s success in 2019. He’s among the candidates for two national player of the year honors as one of 15 candidates for the Wooden Award and one of 10 semifinalists for the Citizen Naismith Trophy. He’s also one of five finalists for the Karl Malone Award, which honors the nation’s best power forward.
Washington has been on a tear since the calendar flipped to 2019. He’s scored 20 or more points in eight of the last 14 games and has been at the center of Kentucky’s national surge. The Wildcats have won 16 of their last 18 and are firmly in the discussion for a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Washington is averaging 18.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks over the last 14 games. During that stretch, he’s shooting 52.8 percent from the floor and 45.2 from 3-point range. That span also includes three straight double-doubles vs. then-No. 9/10 Kansas, at Vanderbilt and at Florida.
Overall, Washington leads the Wildcats in both scoring (14.9 points per game) and rebounding (7.5 rpg). After mulling a decision to turn pro after last season, Washington is enjoying career highs in virtually every statistical category in his return sophomore season, including a team-high seven double-doubles.
For the season, Washington is shooting 52.1 percent from the floor and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. A year after hitting just five 3s in 37 games at a 23.8-percent rate, he's already drained 30 this season.
He’s one of just four players nationally standing 6-foot-8 or taller averaging at least 14.5 points, shooting at least 50 percent from the field, at least 42 percent from 3-point range and with at least 30 made 3-pointers.
Perhaps the truest indicator of Washington’s worth this season is his impressive play vs. Kentucky’s best competition. In UK’s eight games vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams, Washington is averaging 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds while shooting 52.9 percent.
Notable games include a recent 23-point game vs. Auburn that featured a career-high five 3-pointers, 23 points in the home win over then-top-ranked Tennessee, and a 29-point, 12-rebound game vs. Seton Hall.
Washington was named the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week on Feb. 19 and is a two-time SEC Player of the Week pick this season.
Kentucky begins postseason action at the SEC Tournament on Friday. The Wildcats will take on the winner of Ole Miss and Alabama at 7 p.m. ET on Friday inside of Bridgestone Arena in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals. The game will air live on the SEC Network.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught