The Pacific Northwest has developed into a basketball hotbed in recent years and Princeton has reached out to that region with the verbal commitment late last week of high-scoring, muscular guard Mike Washington, Jr.
The 6'3" and 190 pound Washington, who models his game after that of fellow Emerald City native Brandon Roy, plays at Oak Harbor High School just north of Seattle and is coached by his father Mike Washington, Sr.
This evening I caught up with Washington, Sr. to discuss his son's commitment to Mitch Henderson's first recruiting class. Exclusive quotes and analysis plus links to player evaluations and seven videos can be found after the jump.
Watching clips on-line of Washington, Jr. after his pledge to Princeton was revealed, the first thing I was struck by was the size of his frame. Washington looks more physically developed than the players he is both playing with and playing against. His father confirmed my assessment. "He's physically strong," Washington, Sr. said.
In addition to his strength, Washington, Jr. is known primarily for his scoring ability.
"Mike is a good shooter," said Washington Sr. "He's a slasher. He works hard on both ends. He can run a little bit of point guard too. Going into Coach Henderson's system and his development of players, he'll become even better at being able to run the point."
As a junior Washington averaged 18.2 ppg for the Wildcats, who finished with a 7-16 record but made the district playoffs for the first time in 13 years and won a playoff game for the first time in 15 years.
"He can put it in the basket," Washington Sr. added. "I taught him how to post up in third and fourth grade so he can post up smaller guards. He's physically strong enough to do that. One thing that the scouting services don't say about him that often is he's a good passer too. He sees the court really well."
While most YouTube videos of Washington are from his freshman and sophomore years, a clip above of Washington throwing down a one-handed dunk off a steal in January is just a small part of one of his most impressive efforts.
"He had 40 in the game, a smooth 40 too," Washington Sr. said of the second-highest individual scoring output in Oak Harbor history. "Mike won't rush many shots at all."
Washington was first contacted by Princeton after being noticed by the staff on the Internet.
"Coach [Marcus] Jenkins emailed me one day," Washington Sr. recalled. "He saw Mike on a recruiting service site with a 3.98 GPA. He asked me about him and I said 'Yeah, that's my son.' I sent some videos and they really liked what they saw. They started following him this summer on the AAU circuit and liked him a lot. Princeton saw him in Las Vegas and in Phoenix."
Washington selected the Tigers over offers from Air Force, Seattle and American University.
Heading into his senior season, Washington Sr. looks for his son to improve his overall game.
"I want him to work on getting better defensively of course, becoming a better ballhandler - that's something Coach Henderson and those guys told him he needed to work on - and just helping his teammates become better," Washington Sr. said.
In fact, Washington's gaudy offensive numbers may not repeat themselves in 2011-12.
"This year he may or may not average that much. Coming from the type of program that we have, we haven't had a lot of other talented players to play along with him," Washington Sr. confessed. "Last year we lost three or four seniors that were pretty good players. This year, at least at first my goal for him is to get his teammates off. I think the more he gets his teammates off the more that will come to him. They're going to double and triple team him a lot."
Playing in the 3A division of the Western Conference, the Wildcats like to mix things up on both sides of the ball.
"Offensively we run a little bit of Dribble Drive and some open post with backcuts and screens," described Washington, Sr., who is in his sixth season coaching Oak Harbor. "On defense we like to run a 2-2-1 press back into a 2-3 zone and we also run a lot of man. It is probably 50-50 with man and zone."
It has been difficult for the elder Washington to balance being a father of a Division I prospect with being the coach of a Division I prospect.
"Oh yeah. It has been tough," Washington Sr. said. "I have another son who is a sophomore who is starting to come into his own as well. It doesn't stop for me."
In addition to success on the hardwood, Washington has been an accomplished wide receiver for Oak Harbor since adding the second sport as a sophomore. His explosiveness did not go unnoticed by local football coaches.
"He's gotten a lot of contact from football as well - Washington State, Idaho, University of Washington a little bit, Princeton too for football. He didn't want to play football in college though," Washington, Sr. said. "He just plays football because the coaches asked him to play a couple years ago. He enjoys being a wide receiver."
The day after he committed to Princeton, Washington caught a touchdown pass in his school's 53-33 win under the lights over Mount Vernon.
"He's just a good kid. He's always doing the right thing," Washington Sr. said of his son. "I really feel, as a coach not as a parent, that he's going to be a good player in Princeton's system. He's a system-type player anyway and I think he'll do really well."
Mike Washington, Jr. is wearing #13 is all above highlight packages.
Washington was voted second team all-WesCo as a freshman and sophomore and was leading vote-getter as a junior earning first team all-WesCo. He was also selected first team all-KingCo 4A.
West Coast Hoops Report has Washington on last fall's list of the Top 80 Juniors-To Be.
Washington Preps named Washington, Jr. the ninth-best junior in the state.
In November Seatown Sports said Washington was the state's 15th-best player regardless of class.
ESPN gives Washington a ranking of "76" and writes:
Washington has a physical frame for someone so young and it will be intriguing to see how it develops in the future. The bottom line with Washington is he can really score.
Full Court Press said of Washington as a sophomore:
Strong and skilled Northwest wing is a player that has nice potential to evolve into a solid D-I player.
After his sophomore year HoopScoop placed Washington as 41st on their list of west coast players in the 2012 class.
On the WaStateHoops.com message board, Washington is discussed in a thread about "good players that no one really talks about."
Off the court, Washington was part of a national championship DECA competition team for Virtual Business Sports.