2007 Intro: Leonard Washington

When you scroll down the names of those attending next month's Nike Skills Camp, one might stand out to many observers: Leonard Washington. The 6-6 rising junior may look out of place on a list with higher-profile names, but he'll fit right in on the court.

Leonard Washington was as shocked as anyone when he heard the news that he was one of 18 elite players who would be attending Nike's 2nd Annual Skills Academy in Oregon next month.

``I was speechless," said the 6-foot-6 Lake Charles Washington-Marion (La.) rising junior forward. "I didn't say anything I was so surprised."

Washington will be one of a handful of Class of 2007 participants, joining Oregon teammates Kevin Love and Kyle Singler – as well as elite point guards Jerryd Bayless and Derrick Rose.

``When you look at the list of the people, I'm willing to bet at 6-foot-6 and 212 pounds or whatever he is, he's going to be as good as anyone in that group," Louisiana Select coach Mike Theus said. "When I saw him in our first practice, it's amazing some of the things he does."

Washington is a guy whose flown under the radar. He played well enough at the Nike Hoop Jamboree last summer to earn a spot at the Nike All-American Camp, but his small, local under-15 AAU outfit, the Southwest Louisiana Stars, made it to the AAU Nationals – so the loyal Washington skipped a trip to Indianapolis in favor of playing with his buddies from Lake Charles.

``He's always been on the radar, but a lot of people saw him play for the first time this year," Washington-Marion coach Mack Guillory said. "Now he's doing it on the national level. He had a chance last summer, but that's the type of kid he is. He's very unselfish."

The best part of Washington may not be his athleticism, ability to finish with either hand or how hard he plays on the court, but his story off of it.

Washington is a guy who didn't always do the right thing in the past, but you'd never know nowadays.

``I used to be a bad kid," Washington admitted. "I was always the one fighting, but it changed when I saw I had a future in basketball – the summer of my eighth grade year. Now I just walk away."

Theus credits Guillory for Washington's transformation.

``He had some things about him that you wouldn't have liked, but his coach has done a tremendous job with him," Theus said. "He's a model citizen now and is always smiling."

``He's a very quiet guy who had a streak of aggression at a young age, but he's made tremendous strides over the last couple of years in how he carries himself," added Guillory. Washington, 16, also is somewhat naïve to the recruiting process. Asked in April who was recruiting him, he mentioned only LSU and UT-Arlington. Theus laughs, knowing full-well that many of the high-majors were already well aware of Washington's exploits.

Now Washington says his list has expanded – and he mentions schools like Arkansas, Tennessee and Auburn in addition to LSU. Guillory's brother, Myron, is a former assistant at Campbell who just took a job at Colorado State so expect CSU to be in the mix. Mississippi State is also in pursuit. However, there's one school he's always wanted to play at: Georgia Tech.

That's got to be music to Paul Hewitt's ears.

Washington is far from a finished product. He still needs to work on his perimeter game – both his outside shot and his ballhandling skills. However, he finishes with both hands in the paint and outworks opponents on both ends of the court.

``He's going to be a three that can post people and finish real strong," added Guillory, a former college coach. "He really wants to be a perimeter player and he's spending a lot of time working on his jump shot. I've seen tremendous improvement in his shot and his court awareness from the three spot." ``I see him as more of a three down the road," Theus said. "And he's going to be a beast of a three-man."


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