LAFAYETTE — Don’t expect to always get a basketball-related answer when asking someone associated with the Cajuns basketball program about freshman forward Bryce Washington.
It’s not that Washington hasn’t availed himself on the court — he’s shown plenty of promise through his first 24 games as a collegian. But there’s a level of polish to Washington that seems to intrigue people more than his ability to play basketball.
That feeling struck Cajuns Associate Director of Athletic Training B.J. Duplantis one day while he was taping Washington up before a practice.
“I was taping him and I said, ‘You know, I think you could be president of the United States one day,’” Duplantis said. “He looked at me and he said, ‘You know, you’re the fifth person that’s told me that?’”
People who know Washington will talk about how he carries himself or his innate leadership ability. But above all, they’ll talk about his brain.
“He’s one of the good ones, you know?” Duplantis said. “He’s very intelligent.”
How intelligent? Washington was a member of the National Honor Society while in St. Augustine High School, a national organization established to recognize high school students not only for their scholarly pursuits, but for being the complete package as leaders and productive members of the community.
Washington smiles sheepishly when the honor society is brought up. His cover blown, he lets in on a few other achievements as well.
“A lot of people don’t know that about me, but yeah, I was National Honor Society, I was No. 2 in my class and graduated salutatorian, and I was the senior class president,” Washington said.
He was also a standout forward for a St. Augustine team that lost by one point in the state semifinals to eventual 5A runner-up Scotlandville. Through almost a full season with the Cajuns, Washington has shown he’s just as comfortable playing basketball as he is in the classroom.
Washington is averaging 5.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. And he has started each of the past four games, where he’s shown a diverse skill set, hauling in eight or more rebounds twice, scoring in double digits twice, and blocking multiple shots twice.
He said versatility has always been a part of his game, and this is where his brain comes back into play. He watches and learns from everybody, whether it’s star forward and rebounding machine Shawn Long or reserve forward Aaron LeBlanc, always looking for something to incorporate into his own game.
Washington also knows that he can use his intelligence to his advantage on the court, even if he may be at a physical disadvantage.
“I’m not going to be the guy that jumps highest, I’m not going to be the guy with the most quickness, I’m not going to be the best shooter on the floor, I’m not going to be the best passer on the floor,” Washington said. “But I believe every game I play, I’m always going to be the guy with the highest IQ, even though I’m a freshman.”
Coaches recognized Washington’s other gifts early and, despite his age, encouraged Washington to seize a leadership role on the team. Washington didn’t need much prodding.
When people are telling you that you’re going to be president one day, you should at least be able to lead a basketball team.
“I embraced the responsibility the coaches have put on me,” Washington said. “They have a lot of confidence in me, and I have confidence in them for putting me in the right position.
“I just try to put everything together, put together everything the coaches say so I can learn more and become a better player.”