Washington used to the pressure | NevadaAppeal.com

Washington used to the pressure

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Darrell Moody

Jermaine Washington may be new to the Nevada basketball program, but he’s not a novice when it comes to playing in big games.

Washington, a 6-5 junior from South Carolina, played two seasons at South Plains College in Levelland Texas, and helped that team win back-to-back conferences which earned it a spot in the national junior college tournament.

So don’t expect Washington to have many butterflies when the Wolf Pack meet Michigan State Thursday at 4:30 p.m. at Seattle’s Key Arena in a first-round NCAA game.

“He has 70 games under his belt,” said Nevada assistant coach Josh Newman, who coached Washington in junior college. “He’d played against this type of caliber of player going into here (Nevada). He played against a lot of guys that were Division I basketball players. He had 10 Division I guys on his team at South Plains.

“This is really neat for him. He still amazes me everyday. He understands his role. He’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’s fit in well here.”

And, this was Washington’s first choice of schools. He was recruited by smaller D-1 schools like Southwest Texas, Louisiana-Monroe, Middle Tennessee and Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“I wanted to play at a big-time school and a winning program,” Washington said, alluding to the Wolf Pack’s improvement the last two years under coach Trent Johnson.

Washington averages 15.5 minutes per game with 4.3 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest. Not bad production from a role player, and he’s shown flashes of brilliance, and no doubt bigger things will be expected from him next year when he could step in and be a starter in place of Garry Hill-Thomas, who graduates in May.

“I’ve been kind of up and down,” Washington said Sunday after the NCAA selections had been announced. “I thought I’d do a little better. I came on strong at the end. It’s been OK. I don’t care how many minutes I get as long as we win.”

Washington’s role is to play defense and rebound. Anything else is an added bonus. He has 67 offensive rebounds this year, third on the team behind Kevinn Pinkney and Nick Fazekas, both of whom play 11 minutes more per game than Washington.

The Wolf Pack junior has the uncanny ability to get off the floor quickly, and can he soar. He routinely grabs offensive rebounds away from taller opponents.

“It started in high school. I’ve always been able to go up and get it,” he said. ‘It’s desire and intensity, and I have no idea where it came from.”

“He has a knack for being around the basketball,” Newman said. “He can’t do that without constantly moving. Being active is one of the keys to his success, and he’s got that great leaping ability.”

Washington enjoyed one of his biggest games in the Wolf Pack’s 67-59 win over Rice in the WAC semifinals last Friday. Washington scored 12 points and pulled down eight rebounds, four at each end. He had six points in a 2 minute 27-second span of the second half, enabling Nevada to keep Rice at bay.

In the championship-game win over UTEP, Washington scored 10 points, pulled down four rebounds, blocked two shots and had two assists.

“He’s solid,” Johnson said. ‘He’s going to be real good. He’s not in situations on the floor all the time.”