Bryce Washington doesn’t obsess over the numbers too much, but he knows them and how important they are to his UL-Lafayette basketball team.
After all, he is an accounting major, and twice a member of the Sun Belt Conference’s Academic Honor Roll. Before that, he was salutatorian of his senior class at New Orleans’ St. Augustine High.
So trust him when it comes to figures, even those on the listed Ragin’ Cajun roster that show him carrying 255 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame.
“Y’all gotta get that right,” Washington said to a Cajun staffer after Wednesday’s practice. “I’m 245.”
Washington was grinning when he said that, a grin that never shows when he’s in a place he calls his “house.”
“That paint, I call that my area,” he said. “I can handle the ball outside the arc and everything, but I know my bread and butter is inside that paint. Coaches used to tell me to stay in my house, and I really didn’t understand it in my freshman and sophomore year.
“Last year I kinda got it, this year I really understand it. To be honest, I believe nobody can really stop me from rebounding the ball in the paint.”
The numbers that Washington has accumulated are a testament to that, and are part of the reason the Cajuns are 14-3 overall and a perfect 4-0 in Sun Belt play entering Saturday’s home game against UL-Monroe.
Washington went over the career 1,000-point career mark this year, but he has his sights set on another four-digit figure. Only three players in UL-Lafayette history — Shawn Long, Roy Ebron and Marcus Stokes — have grabbed 1,000 rebounds in their careers.
Washington entered the season 254 boards short of that mark. He’s now only 77 shy with almost half the season — at least 15 games — remaining. He won’t catch Long’s four-year 1,447 total, one that’s also a Sun Belt record, but he has his eye on the number two spot of 1,064 set by Ebron during the program’s “glory days.”
“Doing that would mean a lot,” said Washington, who enters the weekend averaging 10.6 points and 10.4 rebounds. “I don’t look at the box scores, but I set a goal to get 319 rebounds this year to get to that and I’m on pace for that.”
There are other numbers that Washington may or may not know. He’s fourth among active NCAA players in total rebounds with his 923 total, and tied for fifth nationally in career double-doubles with 34. He’s one of five Division I players to average a double-double in each of the past two seasons, joining Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame, Angel Delgado of Seton Hall, Alize Johnson of Missouri State and James Thompson IV of Eastern Michigan.
His fourth rebound against ULM will move him into fourth place on UL-Lafayette’s career list ahead of Dion Brown (926 from 1981-84).
That shouldn’t be a problem, considering in the Cajuns’ four-game Sun Belt win streak, he’s had 19, 11, 10 and 12 boards in the four games. He’s averaging 13 rebounds per game in league play, after averaging 11.2 and ranking fifth nationally in rebounding as a junior when he was also a top-five ranker in double-doubles (22) and led the Sun Belt for the second straight year in field-goal percentage (.603).
“He’s had stretches where he’s gotten all the ‘big-boy’ rebounds,” Cajun coach Bob Marlin said. “A lot of people don’t see all the things he does when he’s out there, but we do and our guys see them.”
Collecting those type of numbers is important for Washington this weekend, since he admits his last game against ULM’s Warhawks was the worst of his junior year. He played 30 minutes in Monroe but had only two points and five rebounds to go with three fouls and six turnovers. Those wounds were salved some by the Cajuns’ rally from seven points down in the final 54 seconds and Johnathan Stove’s 50-footer at the horn that provided an 85-84 victory.
“We all came out sluggish and it was a terrible game for me and everybody,” he said. “But coach is always saying to play until the horn and you have to find a way to win.”
A strong performance on Saturday is also important to Washington since it’s Reunion Weekend for Cajun basketball, with as many as 100 former UL-Lafayette players scheduled to take part. Washington is already looking forward to being part of the alumni group in future years.
“It’ll be sweeter if we get a ring this year,” he said. “I’ll remember the reunion game and being on the floor and we were on the road to a championship. I hope when it’s all said and done we got this championship and I leave some kind of legacy like some of the guys here this weekend did. I want them to think that Bryce Washington could play, he wasn’t the fastest or the most athletic or the strongest, but he got a thousand points and a thousand rebounds and they won a championship.”