Washington impresses PSU’s coaches

When he was in high school, Isaiah Washington made his name well known amongst area sports fans by cementing himself as one of the greatest players to ever go through the Williamsport basketball program.

As a starting guard for the Millionaires, he averaged more than 21 points per game as a senior and was named to the PIAA Class AAAA all-state team twice. He also helped lead the team some of its best seasons in recent memory, with two district titles and state tournament appearances, while positioning himself as the third-highest scorer in program history with 1,453 points.

Now, Washington is hoping to make an impression on a new set of fans, as he starts his collegiate career with the Penn State Nittany Lions this year.

And even though the season is still several weeks out, Washington is already making quite an impression on his new coaching staff.

One of those coaches is assistant Dwayne Anderson, who played guard at Villanova from 2005-2009, and joined Pat Chambers’ staff at Penn State last year.

On Thursday, Anderson made a stop by the Genetti Hotel to visit with members of the Nittany Lions Booster Club, and was able to shine a little light on the progress Washington has made so far in his young collegiate career.

“Isaiah is a competitor,” Anderson said. “I think he is going to be a special player, especially when puts everything together. Right now he is playing so hard and doing everything coach Chambers has asked of him.”

“He is doing a great job and I am excited to see him progress.”

Anderson said that some of Washington’s best attributes are his intelligence on the floor and willingness to learn. Those two things, he predicted, will take Washington a long way in the game of basketball.

“His first workout he picked up things so fast,” Anderson said. “He is so coachable.”

“Today we had a workout and he was probably one of the best guys, and he is the youngest.”

Anderson believes that the sky is the limit for a player of Washington’s talent, and said that his competitive spirit in high school was what first attracted eyes from the PSU coaching staff.

“I can’t make any promises, but I know if he puts in the work anything can happen for him,” said Anderson. “Athletically he is special and rare.”

Another thing that impressed Penn State coaches about Washington was the strong presence of family in his life, which is something head coach Pat Chambers holds to high esteem.

“Coach Chambers is all about grooming young men,” Anderson said. “So having a great family definitely helps with that.”

One of the biggest challenges Washington will face as a freshman will be stacking some meat on his boney 6-foot-3, 160-pound frame. But Anderson said that, so far, Washington has done everything he can to make that happen.

“He is eating so much that it is funny to try to see him eat four different plates at one meal,” Anderson said.

“It’s hard to tell if he is getting stronger, because he is so tiny. But he is paying attention to what our strength coaches are teaching him and what our nutritionists are asking of him. I think that will come, he is still young.”

One other big adjustment for Washington will be playing on a team where he is no longer the best player, which is something most freshman players go through when making the jump to the next level.

“When players get to college they have to start playing against other Division-I athletes all of the time,” Anderson said. “So then they have to work twice as hard to get better and stand out.”

“Right now Isaiah is putting in the work, man.”

Anderson said that the coaches at Penn State are unsure how much floor time Washington can expect to see in the upcoming season, but said that as of right now the coaches have told him not to worry about being red-shirted.

“We told him that we aren’t going to talk about red-shirting him, because if he starts thinking that he might coast at practice,” said Anderson. “Nobody knows, because someone might get hurt or he could outwork someone. We don’t want him to have a red shirt in his mind right now.”

For the time being, Anderson said that Washington needs to just focus on making strides in his play and everything else will follow suit. He believes that Washington’s hardworking demeanor will likely translate to playing time sooner rather than later, and he is excited to see what the future holds for him.

“The sooner you are willing to buy into coach’s philosophy, the sooner you are going to see the court,” Anderson said.

“Isaiah gets it. He’s special.”