The Commonwealth of Kentucky may not have an NBA team, but the bluegrass state produces a ton of professional players via the prestigious University of Kentucky. On the New York Knicks alone, you’ll find Julius Randle, Nerlens Noel, and Immanuel Quickley. Across the league, other notable ex-Wildcats include Devin Booker, Bam Adebayo, Anthony Davis, Tyler Herro, Tyrese Maxey, and Karl-Anthony Towns. A player’s gotta be primo to make the Kentucky roster (but not Josh Primo, he attended ’Bama), and standouts at KY are coveted by NBA scouts.
The latest prospect coming out of Kentucky is Tyrone “TyTy” Washington, Jr. When the 6’3”, 180 lbs guard with a 6’9” wingspan declared for the 2022 NBA draft, few were surprised that he chose to be another one-and-done. In 31 games for Kentucky (26-8), the 20-year-old averaged 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists on 45% shooting.
The Wildcat distinguished himself as a mid-range threat, and 50% of his scoring attempts were two-point jumpers last season. From deep, he shot 35%, and at the free-throw line, he averaged 75%. TyTy has a nice shooting form, speed, and pretty good BBIQ. His ball-handling skills, crafty stutters, and nifty fakes allow him to penetrate the paint for two or dish out for a dime. He’s a fun player to watch, and his floaters could make Immanuel Quickley envious. Actually…yeah, we’ll revisit IQ in a minute.
Meanwhile, enjoy the highlights:
His bona fides include: the 2021-22 All-SEC, Second Team; 2021-22 SEC All-Freshman; and 2021-22 Wooden Award (Preseason). Against Tennessee on January 15, 2022, he totaled a season-high 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting and added five assists and three steals. Earlier that month, against Georgia, his 17 dimes broke former Wildcat John Wall’s record for assists in a game.
At Kentucky, Washington was second only to big power forward Oscar Tshiebwe in field goal attempts. He was a key component in an offense that ranked 12th out of 358. And with a motor that doesn’t quit at either end of the floor, he has the defensive potential to intrigue Tom Thibodeau. Heck, the young man averaged 1.3 steals per game. What’s not to love?
Well, it’s fair to say that TyTy stunk against Saint Peter’s in the NCAA tournament. He scored only five points on 20% shooting in 32 minutes, looked lost on defense, and shouldered significant blame for Kentucky’s surprising early exit. If bright lights are an issue for the youngster, he may find the NBA a challenge.
TyTy needs to develop his game both beyond the arc and at the rim. At Kentucky, only 31% of his shots came from the perimeter and a paltry 19% were at the iron. Adding muscle would help him fight through traffic, and currently he cuts a silhouette similar to that of Cole Anthony and De’Aaron Fox, but with longer arms. In fact, he’s a dead ringer for Immanuel Quickley in many ways, although Quick has about 10 lbs on him.
When Quickley entered the NBA, he wasn’t ready to play a first-string guard position. The same can be said about TyTy.
But here’s the thing: We already know that Quickley can play point guard at the NBA level. He did it quite well last season. Does it make sense to draft a player with similar projections and question marks heading into the draft?
Join me in Hypothetical Corner, won’t you? TyTy is projected to be available when the Knicks pick, probably 11th. In one possible future, New York promotes Quickley to starting point guard and replaces him on the bench with TyTy. In an alternate future, the Knicks package Quickley (one of their most promising assets) in a blockbuster trade and then replace him with the comparable Washington. Or, third potential scenario, they draft Tyrone only to bundle him in the big trade, as in, “You can’t have IQ, but squint and this other guy looks a lot like him.”
You’ll recall that Quickley was selected 25th in 2020. Don’t be shocked if TyTy is picked in that neighborhood, too.
A sprained ankle sustained in late January may have hampered TyTy over the last 12 games. All indications are that he will be fully healed and ready to play in the upcoming NBA season. As a pro, paired with larger bodies, he will enjoy a lot more pick-and-roll opportunities than he did on John Calipari’s squad, where he averaged under six per game. The team that drafts him will be betting that a stronger supporting cast will help to unlock his full potential…as a reserve guard, at least.
Until we chat again, here’s TyTy scoring 33 in a high school game: