C Anthony Washington

You can almost see the sense of relief on his face. Anthony Washington has made it in to the University of Washington, and if he's attempting to play it cool to hide his excitement, you'd never know it.

These days, he's all smiles.

It didn't come easy, however, for the big-man from Garfield High School. Washington, who stands 6-9 but claims to have a wing-span of 7-4, didn't join the team quite how he had imagined when he left Garfield.

He was originally a member of the 2001 recruiting class, which included Erroll Knight, Mike Jensen, Jeffrey Day, and Will Conroy. But shortly after practices started, he was ruled academically ineligible. That meant he had to play the waiting game.

Washington did as any 18-year-old would in that situation. Confronted with a year-long wait, frustrated as can be, he did all he could to kill time. He attended all the Husky games he could to support his future teammates. He went to a couple games at Garfield to watch Husky recruit Brandon Roy. And beyond that, he says he tried to just get away from basketball for a while to recharge for the 2002 season.

Today he admits that it wasn't easy.

"It was pretty hard," said Washington after a recent practice. "I was under a lot of stress. I was pretty mad about the situation because I felt that I should have been here last year."

Finally, when summer started Washington began workouts at the UW with fellow frosh Bobby Jones. The two hit it off - lifting weights, working on parts of their games together, and eventually, becoming good friends. One by one, the rest of the team trickled in to join the two freshmen during off-season workouts. That got Washington's blood flowing a little bit faster as he looked forward to the season ahead.

But as luck would have it, another hurdle jumped up in front of Washington. This time, another academic problem regarding a math class he had taken.

The NCAA Clearinghouse questioned whether it was taken during the summer, in which case Washington would have been unable to play again this season. But late last week, the Clearinghouse ruled that the class was legit and Washington could join the team.

"It feels real good, I'm excited," said the man known as "The Washing Machine". "It's a big load off my back being cleared."

Now, it's time for the young man to play ball. After all he's been through just to get to that point, it suits him just fine.

Washington says that his game has changed a lot since his senior year playing for the Bulldogs.

"I think a lot of people are going to be surprised because I've got offensive game," he said.

"My game has changed a lot. I'm a lot stronger. I've gained about 20 pounds since my senior year of high school. I still block shots. I'm probably still more of a defensive player now. But I've been working with coach (Ken) Bone on my offensive game. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised about that."

Bone and fellow assistant Russ Schoene, a former Seattle Sonic forward, have both been working hard with the talented yet raw big man. The team is expecting Washington to contribute right way and become a rebounding force.

So far the early feedback is good.

"He has a great opportunity to (play right away)," said Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. He's a really great athlete. He's one of the top two or three rebounders on the team right now."

"I think he could be a pleasant surprise for a lot of Husky fans that aren't really familiar with what he can do. He's athletic enough to do it all once he gains some experience."

Washington has worked hard on his footwork with the coaching staff to improve his offensive ability. Not only that, but he's also added muscle that will help him bang for rebounds.

Early on in his Husky career, he thinks that it is in the rebounding department where he can pay dividends immediately.

"I think I'm going to contribute a lot of offensive rebounds to this team," Washington said. "I think that's where I'll get most of my points. I'm not expecting to shoot that much."

Growing up, Washington envisioned himself as a center. He looked up to Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning. The older he got, though, the more he realized that he was a different type of player. He didn't have the body of a traditional center. His attention shifted to the Kevin Garnetts and Rasheed Wallaces of the world, the long-armed more athletic players.

"Right now my game is probably like Theo Ratliff," he said, referring to the Atlanta Hawks shot-blocking center as if it were a bad thing.

"I mean, he was an all-star," said Washington, trying to talk up Ratliff's game.

To current Husky coaches, players, and fans everywhere, a little Ratliff in the middle would be just fine for the next four years at Montlake.

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