IU basketball recruiting: Jalen Washington speaks well of Indiana, but UNC shows force

CARMEL — Jalen Washington is diplomatic the way top-level players tend to become when they’ve had to give enough interviews. The Gary West Side power forward speaks well of every program showing interest and can list at length the attributes that make each one enticing.

That includes Indiana. The Hoosiers have stayed in pursuit of the five-star recruit and No. 19 player in the Class of 2022, and he says he has been impressed by what the program has done so far in its first few months under coach Mike Woodson.

“They’re very much still in touch,” Washington said Saturday at the IBCA/IHSAA Team Showcase in memory of Charlie Hughes. “Coach (Dane) Fife has been recruiting me since he was at Michigan State. Pretty much the week that he got the job, he let me know that IU and he would still be recruiting me as he was at MSU. I’m really interested to meet Coach Woody. He’s an excellent basketball mind and human being and it would be great to meet him. A lot of the guys from the Knicks organization, everybody loves him. I just want to get to meet him to see how he is personally.”

He also speaks well of Purdue, which is one of those closest programs to him. He has a visit coming up with the Boilermakers starting Monday. He’s been there a few times, but said it should be good for a refresher on their facilities and the personalities of their players.

“They’re saying that they have what’s best for me and they’re not too far away from home,” Washington said. “Keep it close, keep the family and friends coming to the games. It’s not too far just in case I get homesick. That could be the best for me, a close spot.”

But a show of force by an out-of-state school at Saturday’s event made it clear what program at least perceives itself as the favorite to land Washington’s services. North Carolina sent four coaches to Carmel — head coach Hubert Davis and assistants Sean May, Jeff Lebo and Brad Frederick. They watched Gary West Side’s game against Lawrence North together in one corner of the gym by themselves while other coaches were aligned on the baseline on the opposite side. The group of coaches seemed to disperse simply because of their presence. Purdue’s Matt Painter and Indiana’s Kenya Hunter, who was also there to see IU commitment C.J. Gunn of Lawrence North, stuck around, but by game’s end there weren’t many others.

Washington said he didn’t expect to see all four coaches in attendance, and that he was impressed.

“It shows me how down-to-Earth they are,” Washington said. “They let me know when I got cleared (from) injury that they were going to coming to the game, and they just came out to show support.”

Washington visited North Carolina earlier this month and also visited Stanford. Along with them, Indiana and Purdue, he also has reported offers from Alabama, Michigan State, DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Louisville, Maryland, Oklahoma and Penn State.

Washington has missed several weeks with injury, but still showed impressive inside-outside game in a loss to Lawrence North. He’s an excellent 3-point shooter for his size but also has touch around the basket and length that helps him on the defensive end.

“This was my first game back in a few weeks,” Washington said. “I’m just used to getting a feel back for the game. That’s the biggest thing.”

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