Duane Washington came to Ohio State last year as a guard who could do a number of different things. A talented slasher to the basket, he could also be a ball handler when needed, as well as a designated scorer who can get a shot off almost at will.
As a freshman, however, he played off the ball. Call it the “two” or “off guard,” or whatever Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann calls it in is positionless system. Washington scored 7.0 points per game in this role, having good and bad days alike.
His sophomore season was expected to be a new year of growth in this role, but that changed last month when freshman point guard DJ Carton announced that he was taking a leave of absence from the team.
Carton’s departure left the Buckeyes with just one true scholarship point guard in CJ Walker. As such, Washington was tasked with spelling Walker at the point from time to time.
And he was happy to do so.
“All my life I just was really good at putting the ball in the rim, so all throughout high school I played the one,” Washington said. “So it’s something that I’ve done before. It’s a different level here, but something that I got away from a little bit last year. Played off the ball a little bit more, but it’s something that I’m comfortable with. It’s something I’ve done before. So now just working on it every day and listening to CJ and Coach [Jake] Diebler and Coach Holt as well, just giving me advice and pointers to keep getting better every game.”
As anybody who has seen Washington play over the last two seasons can attest, the role of distributor has never really been his assignment. He has still yet to find a shot that he doesn’t think he can make, which is not exactly the job of the guy trying to get everybody involved.
“Yeah, and it’s different, some point guards on some teams are supposed to get 10 assists a game, and others, you’re supposed to score more than others,” he said. “There’s guys that are different in that aspect. For me, I’m just trying to figure out what Coach wants me to do at that position, and still be me at the same time, so we’re working on it.”
That learning process with what Holtmann wants from Washington also needs to mesh with who Washington is. He can’t change who he is as a player because the Buckeyes still need his offense and confidence. But now they also need a more mature decision maker, which is something Washington is working on being.
“My role is a little different than other guys on the team,” he said. “We all have our own roles and we’re all doing pretty good at it. So for me, shooting the ball a lot is one of my roles. Shoot the open ones and be aggressive. And have the confidence to do so. Now, with the ball in my hands more, if you have the ball, you can shoot it whenever you want, realistically. So just knowing when to pass up opportunities and get others involved and know that it might not be our team’s best shot at that point and moment in time.”
The more that Washington gets back on the point guard bike, the more comfortable he will get. And Holtmann isn’t looking for 30 minutes a night from Washington at the one, nor is he looking for his sophomore guard to be something he isn’t.
“I don’t want him to play a whole lot differently than what his instincts are,” Holtmann said. “We’ve not really tried to parse that a whole lot. We want him to kind of be who he is. Having said that, I think he does have to be aware — he’s not going to be a point guard that’s kind of setting things up. He’s not going to suddenly turn into a pass-first [point guard]. That wouldn’t fit him. He’s going to kind of be who he is and adjust.”
And for however long the Buckeyes need him at the point, Washington is more than willing to do whatever is required. He is also going to continue growing at the position.
“I’m going to keep learning,” he said. “Never stop learning. There’s always new things that I can get better at and improve on.”