The boys basketball player who enters the season with the most buzz this season was not an All-Western New York selection last year — not even an honorable mention. He also didn’t start for his team.
But Howard Washington of Canisius enters his sophomore campaign with six Division I scholarship offers following a standout season of summer basketball.
Washington, a 6-foot-2 point guard, has offers from Virginia, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Boston University, Canisius and the University at Buffalo.
All the attention not only caught Western New York high school basketball fans off guard … it was a surprise to Canisius coach Kyle Husband and even Washington himself.
“It was a surprise, for everybody, the whole family,” said Washington, who attracted major attention while playing for arguably upstate’s top offseason program, the Albany City Rocks. “I had a couple of big tournaments and a bunch of coaches got to see me. … I got home after the last AAU game of the season, and got a bunch of calls. The first offer was from Virginia Tech.
“I was blown back – I was in tears. It was a shock … I’ve been working since I’ve been young, so it’s almost expected, but it is a shock.”
Every year, more and more scholarship offers are made to younger players in many college sports. However, having a player who had just completed his freshman season to get scholarship offers to play Division I basketball is unprecedented locally.
“I think there had to have been for everybody, right?” Husband said when asked if it was a surprise. “None of us have been around quite that level of recruiting and attention. But once it started, I think we all expected and knew it was going to keep coming, because of how well he was playing, and how much he developed. The whole process catches on, it was like a snowball effect.”
That snowball is likely to keep getting bigger. Washington has been scouted by bigger programs, including Villanova, and he is in no rush to verbally commit to a school.
“We’re just hoping for a great season” at Canisius, he said. “Hopefully then another good AAU season, and we’ll figure it out from there.”
What attracts Washington to college coaches is a combination of his size, scoring and distribution ability and his poised approach to the game.
“It’s his all-around game,” said Husband. “He’s not selfish, but he can score. He’s got a great attitude — with his teammates and about the game. He loves the game. I think coaches and myself see a kid who has that type of ability, and truly cares about the game and the people around him, and that’s a pretty special combo.”
Washington’s impressive summer helped earn him a spot at September’s invitation-only New York State Top 24 camp in Watervliet, where scouts had players run through various drills.
An espn.com writeup called him the “purest point guard”: “He utilizes a well-developed skill set and extremely high basketball IQ without wasting any motion. Simply put he’s the type of guy all coaches are looking for to run their team.”
Rivals.com listed him as one of the camp’s top players: “Once he fills out and continues to pick up confidence on the court, he has a chance to be a high-major player. A traditional point guard with a high IQ who can score, Washington gets his teammates involved and does a good all-around job of controlling the tempo of the game.”
The attention is understandable, as is the fact that Washington didn’t play much last year. Canisius won its third straight Manhattan Cup last season and finished tied with McKinley for The News large school poll champion with a team that included four players now playing in college: Adam Weir (Canisius), Matt MacDonald (Fairleigh Dickinson), point guard Aaron White (Brockport) and Jamel Mosely (Oswego).
Washington transferred to Canisius last year from City Honors, where he began to turn heads while playing varsity as an eighth grader. His minutes took an expected downturn at Canisius.
“It wasn’t super-tough,” said Washington, who has scored 11, 20 and five points in helping lead Canisius to a 3-0 start. “It was expected, I knew that talking to the coaches before I came here — his exact words were: It’s not going to be the minutes that you want. It was tough with the minutes, but it was an obviously a learning experience playing behind Aaron and Adam and Matt. … I think it did benefit me.”
Husband said Washington handled last year as well as he could, conveying that “you know how much you’re learning playing against these guys every single day, and competing and seeing what we do, and the talent level.
“For a 14-, 15-year-old, I’m sure it was extremely difficult for him, but he handled it great, and now you see what’s happened.”
And what will keep happening.
“He knows what he wants and he’s going to keep working and growing,” said Husband. “He knows he’s not a finished product either. … He’s got tons of room to grow. He’s going to keep working and keep getting better.”