Coming into the Gophers’ program touted as New York’s Mr. Basketball, a top-100 recruit in the nation, and a four-star point guard — not to mentio
half a million Instagram followers, Isaiah Washington has had trouble adapting to the college game.
With two Gophers starters out — Reggie Lynch suspended and Amir Coffey injured — Washington has had more opportunities to display why so much hype has been generated around his name.
But with such high expectations, Washington shot just 32 percent from the floor and a team-low 18 percent from three-point range through the first 20 games of his freshman season.
Head coach Richard Pitino compared Washington’s situation to the gophers’ season two years ago when young players had to step up and get minutes.
“I equate it to when Nate [Mason], Dupree [McBrayer] and [Jordan Murphy] two years ago were in the game,” Pitino said. “And as painful as it was at times it was helpful to them in their growth.”
Washington played only two minutes in the Gophers’ win at Penn State on Monday after starting the game before. Freshman Jamir Harris got his first start and tallied a career-high 16 points — 10 of those points coming in overtime — in the Gophers’ first win in four games. Washington only recorded a turnover and personal foul in the stat sheet at Penn State.
In the 81-47 loss against No. 5 Purdue, Washington led the team in scoring, though it was just 11 points. It was the first time Washington had led the team, as Mason struggled to find his game.
“These are all great learning experiences for [Washington]. He’s just a freshman. [Harris] same thing. [Michael Hurt], just a sophomore,” Pitino said. “So they’re getting some good quality reps in difficult play. They’ll learn from it, and I think [Washington] will. He’s got a long way to go.”
The Harlem native is the co-creator of the JellyFam movement: a group of young basketball players from the same area in New York and New Jersey who do the signature JellyFam layup — a fancy layup with a finger roll. There is also a clothing line of the same name inspired by the group.
Washington and his group have attracted national media attention as people have become infatuated with the move, the group and the swagger they brought to the New York/New Jersey basketball scene. But even with near celebrity status, the young player has had to adapt to the new game.
“I think he’s doing a better job making plays. I think that as the season went on he’s done a good job maturing his mentality and his mindset just making sure trying to make the right plays, make the right shots,” Murphy said.