Transfers don’t always work out. Sometimes the fit isn’t as good as it appeared on paper. Those are two sentences that have nothing to do with Kyle Washington, who transferred to Cincinnati after playing for NC State. Washington’s seamless transition from Wolfpack member to Bearcat was one of the brightest threads in the 2016-17 tapestry for UC basketball. Now entering his senior season, Washington is the second half of one of the best frontcourt duos in college basketball.
Washington made his presence felt immediately last season. He scored at will, rebounded like crazy, blocked shots like a madman and handed out assists. In the first eight games of the 2016-17 season, the 6’9 forward looked like an All-American. He posted a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds, which paired nicely with five assists and two blocks, in the opener against Brown. In those first eight games he kept those numbers up, averaging 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, while shooting 59.2 percent from the floor. That torrid pace didn’t continue exactly, but it certainly built the foundation for a stellar campaign.
One of the things that Washington did best was complement his frontcourt partner Gary Clark. Whereas Clark is a dominant defender and rebounder, Washington provides more of a scoring punch. Don’t get it twisted, Clark can still score and is a more efficient offensive force. Washington is no slouch on boards or D, but his offensive output was superior to that of Clark at least in terms of volume, which opened up more opportunities as teams struggled to figure out how to defend both of them.
Washington set a career-high in points scored (12.9 PG) and field goal percentage (.510) and he even showed an ability to stretch the floor, knocking down 35.7 percent of this three-point tries. He posted an offensive rating of 115.1 and 2.4 of his 4.4 win shares came on the offensive side of things. He ranked behind only Clark in PER (23.9) and behind only Jacob Evans in points produced (421). Additionally, the offense really ran through Washington when he was on the floor. His usage rate (27.3 percent) was the highest on the team.
Washington and Clark weren’t just well-paired offensively, they worked well together on defense. While not nearly the same one-on-one defender as Clark, Washington was adept at protecting the rim, ranking second on the team in block percentage (5.0), while producing a defensive rating of 93.8, which ranked third on the roster. His willingness to come in and defend like any self-respecting Bearcat and provide interior scoring that was lacking turned him into an irreplaceable member of the team.
Two years of work from Washington will not be enough for him to become an all-time great for the program. However, with shades of Kenyon Martin in his game, Washington will be a critical piece as the Bearcats embark on a encore to last year’s 30-win squad. And to think he didn’t even start his college career here.