LEXINGTON – Kentucky basketball’s 2021-22 list was built around veterans, but for the 13th season in a row, the Wildcats will have a one-and-done newly selected NBA draft.
Freshman guard TyTy Washington, who was number two on the team in scoring during an injured season, declared the draft Wednesday as generally expected. Washington told ESPN that he planned to hire an agent and end his education eligibility.
Washington’s decision ensures that Kentucky’s series of one-and-done draft picks will continue through the John Calipari era. For the second time in Calipari’s tenure as coach, however, Kentucky is expected to have only one rookie who has played in matches declaring the draft.
Freshman striker Daimion Collins, a five-star prospect like Washington in the 2021 class, isto Kentucky after playing sparingly as a rookie. Freshman striker Bryce Hopkins is not considered an NBA draft this year, but has still been the subject of possible transfer rumors.
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Several rookies in Kentucky have been drafted in 10 of Calipari’s first 12 seasons. The exceptions were in 2011, when rookie Brandon Knight was joined in the first round by Enes Kanter, a 2010 signing who never played for the UK after the NCAA ruled he was not eligible, and 2020 when rookie Tyrese Maxey was drafted in the first round, but classmate Kahlil Whitney, who left the UK team in the 2019-20 season, went without a draft.
Washington could still be joined in the draft by British freshman Shaedon Sharpe, who was originally a class member in 2022 but graduated a semester early to join the UK and practice with the team. Sharpe’s camp has said his plan was to return to school for the 2022-23 season, but most NBA draft analysts have predicted him as a draft pick this summer. Sharpe could then end up leaving Kentucky without playing a game.
How did TyTy Washington play for Kentucky basketball?
For much of its season in Kentucky, Washington was the most productive first-year guard in the country.
He averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 31 games. Washington led the Southeastern Conference in terms of assist and turnover (2.35) and was named the second-team All-SEC by the league coaches.
Washington has spent most of the season playing ball away with junior Sahvir Wheeler handling point guard duties. But when Wheeler missed two games with a neck injury, Washington proved more than capable of running the offense with a school record of 17 assists in the Jan. 8 victory over Georgia.
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Several ankle / leg injuries stopped Washington’s momentum in the final month of the season.
In his last six games after returning from the second ankle injury, Washington shot only 35.2% from the field. In the season-ending loss to Saint Peter’s No. 15, Washington converted just 2 of 10 shots with an assist and two turnovers.
At his best, Washington was an effective goal scorer who was also able to involve his teammates.
“He’s like the silent assassin,” Calipari said after Washington collected 15 points on 6-of-9 shots with nine assists and a turnover in a win over High Point in December. “Quietly he bites in and gets 15 points and nine assists, and if you ask me how he played … you would probably say he played OK … he does it quietly.”
Where is TyTy Washington expected to be drafted?
Throughout his freshman season, Washington has been projected as a likely lottery pick, but mock drafts are becoming more divided on him. In his latest update after the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony Washington dropped from No. 10 to No. 14. The latest mock drafts from Bleacher Report and The Athletic Project Washington at No. 9 and No. 15, respectively. In its latest mock draft from January, Sports Illustrated projected Washington as number 24.
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How will Kentucky basketball replace TyTy Washington?
The answer to this question depends to a large extent on Sharpe’s draft decision.
If Sharpe returns to Kentucky, he’s an easy replacement for the best opportunity to create his own shot from behind. If Sharpe signs up for the draft, the pressure will rise on upcoming freshmen Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston. Both Wallace and Livingston are ranked as consensus top-10 prospects in the high school class of 2022, but they need time to evolve, as Washington did.
Calipari is likely to return to the transfer portal to find reinforcements for his backcourt – especially if Wheeler and Sharpe leave. However, it can be difficult to find a veteran transfer with Washington’s scoring ability. Guards with that skill set are more likely to be included in the draft than the transfer portal.
Washington is the second British guard to leave the UK this offseason, after the little-used second-round reserve Dontaie Allen, who entered the transfer portal. Junior striker Keion Brooks has also declared himself drafted, leaving the door open for a possible return.
Send an email to Jon Hale at email@example.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.