Jalen Washington’s story to this point in his basketball career is as much about perseverance as anything else.
The Gary, Ind. product lost a significant portion of his freshman season of high school basketball with an injury, and all of his sophomore season with a torn ACL. The latter injury also cost him an entire spring and summer of AAU basketball in 2020, although with the pandemic in full effect then, what he lost did not resemble the typical high level shoe circuit competition.
Only now is Washington’s class of 2022 Nike EYBL Meanstreets team seeing some of the best of the best as large scale AAU events are becoming more commonplace once again this spring
Washington’s Meanstreets team played fellow Nike EYBL program Bradley Beal Elite a couple weeks ago, and this past weekend in Louisville they saw a full slate of games against high quality opponents at The Grassroots Showcase including EYBL peer Team Thad on Sunday afternoon in a hotly contested battle.
“It felt good, it was great competition,” Washington told The Daily Hoosier on Sunday.
Washington completed his junior season with Gary West Side without an injury, and he averaged 12.7 points while leading the Cougars to a 22-5 record and their first regional title in 16 years. He said he felt like he regained his feel for the game and got stronger as that high school season progressed, and now he is ready to put himself to the test against AAU teams stacked with college bound talent.
Irrespective of the injuries that have impacted his development, Washington knows it is an ongoing process with both strengths to fine tune and weaknesses to improve upon.
“I feel like I’ve gotten stronger but I can make more improvements finishing stronger around the rim, holding my place when I’m posting up and being strong with the ball,” Washington said. “But I feel like I’ve improved my jump shot a lot and definitely improved my touch and my ability to protect the rim.”
Although he is around 18 months removed from the knee injury, Washington still wears a large bulky brace which appears to limit him some. Perhaps as a result of the injury, the brace, or both, he doesn’t make explosive moves off the bounce often, something that would be expected if he were to play the four in college in Mike Woodson’s system. But Washington is 6-foot-9 and will likely have a sturdy frame that may allow him to play both the four and five at the next level. He certainly has the post moves and touch in the paint to play in the middle.
While he waits for the explosiveness and mobility to fully return and then expand, Washington has become a really strong shooter both in the midrange and out to the 3-point line. He has a high release and a soft touch that makes him an attractive prospect for teams like Indiana that want spread the floor and emphasize 3-pointers. On the defensive end, Washington has really good timing and instincts as a rim protector.
Washington is a 5-star prospect according to the 247Sports Composite. That outlet lists him as the No. 20 overall player in the class of 2020, the No. 4 power forward, and the No. 1 player in the state of Indiana.
IU is fortunate that it is able to recruit Washington with a familiar face despite overhauling its coaching staff. Former assistant coach Tom Ostrom was leading the charge for IU prior to the firing of Archie Miller, but the Hoosiers still have someone who has been talking to Washington for a long time representing the program in front of the coveted in-state target.
“Coach (Dane) Fife, a couple days after he had transferred in (from Michigan State) let me know that he was at IU and he was still going to recruit me and he wants me there,” Washington said.
Fife had been leading the charge for Michigan State on Washington before he joined Woodson’s staff. And the IU head man in charge has been in touch with Washington too.
“He called me about a week ago and we had a good talk,” Washington said of Woodson. “We’re just getting to know each other. The next time we talk we’re going to get into more basketball and what he thinks about me and my game.”
When it comes to providing input on his game, Woodson’s lengthy NBA coaching career has value to Washington.
“It means a lot,” Washington said of Woodson’s 25 years coaching professionals. “He has got a great mind with next level knowledge, and the next level is where I want to be.”
Washington isn’t ready to name a list of top schools or a timeline for making a college decision. For now he is just focused on putting together a strong spring and summer and fully understanding what his options are. To this point he’s been offered by IU, Louisville, Michigan State, Purdue, Stanford, Alabama, DePaul, Illinois, Iowa and Maryland.
“I’m just going to play it by feel, and keep communicating with my inner circle, and whenever I come to a decision, that’s when you guys will know,” he said.
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