The 2021-2022 Kentucky Wildcats have a point guard. Wednesday night live on SportsCenter TyTy Washington selected the ‘Cats over Arizona, Kansas, and LSU.
The five-star point guard, who recently moved all the way up to #12 in the final ESPN Class of 2021 rankings, joins fellow five-star Damion Collins and four-star Bryce Hopkins as part of Coach Calipari’s 2021 class. Via the transfer portal, Kentucky has also added Kellan Grady from Davidson and CJ Fredrick from Iowa along with the midseason edition of Oscar Tshiebwe from West Virginia.
After Nolan Hickman decided to decommit from Kentucky just a couple of weeks ago, Big Blue Nation went into panic mode regarding the backcourt situation. However, having now landed the third best point guard in the class, the roster is starting to look much better.
Let’s step on in to the KSR Film Room to take a look at Kentucky’s new point guard addition, TyTy Washington. You can also get caught up to date on the breakdowns of transfer portal additions Kellan Grady and CJ Fredrick. Over the next two weeks, the KSR Film Room will go back and provide film analysis on the Wildcats’ other incoming players Bryce Hopkins, Damion Collins, and Oscar Tshiebwe so stay tuned for that.
What stands out the most when watching TyTy Washington play is his ability to play within a system. I had the opportunity to watch him at the Montverde Invitational against Montverde Academy and Oak Hill, then at GEICO Nationals against Wasatch Academy, and finally in the Iverson Classic. Playing with and against some of the best high school players in the country, Washington contributed to winning in a variety of ways.
Evaluating him in person or by watching full game film is the best way to get a feel for how big of a commitment this is for Kentucky. When watching TyTy Washington play he is different than a lot of five-star prospects. He was very well coached by Ed Gipson at Arizona Compass Prep. There is a “dog” factor to his game that is contagious. He makes winning plays on the defensive end that most high school players simply do not make.
Washington is a maker from beyond the arc, a reliable ball handler, a very good passer, and a high-IQ basketball player. When evaluating prospects from the top prep programs in the country you don’t typically see the type of offensive set plays and consistent defensive rotations that show up on film at Arizona Compass Prep. It is impressive to watch and is a big reason why Big Blue Nation should be so excited about the addition of TyTy Washington. He is a winner.
The Wildcats needed to address their shooting woes in a major way this offseason and have done so by adding two of the best shooters in the transfer portal in Kellan Grady and CJ Fredrick. However, do not sleep on TyTy Washington’s ability to let it fly from deep just because he is a point guard. The ‘Cats added yet another high-level maker from three-point range in Washington who shot 41% from three as a senior.
Much like Grady and Fredrick, TyTy Washington is very adept at moving and cutting without the ball. He uses change of pace and sets up his cuts very well to get open. As you can see here, once he gives up the ball Washington walks his defender down to the free throw line below the screen before planting his foot and quickly changing directions to pop beyond the three-point line. He then is under control enough to still have sound footwork and get off an on-balance attempt that is nothing but net. This type of play takes good coaching and a lot of repetition.
You simply don’t see this type of high-level offensive action in the high school ranks very often. Being prepared for the college level is about more than just playing with an against the best players. In order to truly be prepared it takes coaching along with practicing and preparing like a college program. Just from watching Arizona Compass Prep on film multiple times it appears that TyTy Washington will be very prepared for the transition to college basketball and the Southeastern Conference.
Washington cuts down to the block before receiving a screen to circle back up to the three-point line behind the ball handler who is taking it towards the baseline. A version of this action is ran at the end of the half or end of the game by a lot of college programs. Washington gets his defender to chase him off the screen which leaves him open beyond the arc for a triple. Washington’s footwork coming around the screen is textbook as his one-two step gets him in rhythm to elevate and get on balance. This is a really high-level shot.
Washington doesn’t just make them off the catch. He can create space and knock down tough ones off the dribble too. While this can’t be classified as a good shot with 22 seconds still on the shot clock, when you shoot 41% from deep you are allowed to fire off a few like this. With former UK recruit Nolan Hickman getting out to “ICE” the ballscreen and force Washington towards the baseline, Washington just hits him with a little side-hop move and knocks in the three. Again, a step back contested three with 22 seconds on the shot clock isn’t something Coach Calipari will be asking for next season, but having a high-level shooter who can squeeze one off late in the clock is a luxury. TyTy Washington will provide that.
For as good as Washington is from beyond the arc, he may be even better from the mid-range. Those shots are not in vogue anymore among “modern basketball” fans and B.J. Boston soured Big Blue Nation on the mid-range shot last season. However, it can be effective when you create separation and shoot them at the clip Washington does.
Washington doesn’t grade out as an off-the-charts athlete or lightening fast player on film. However, his quick change of speed, balance, and high IQ allows him to be extremely effective. After catching the ball on the wing, Washington sizes up his defender for a second while plotting his move. The defender’s feet are way to bouncy which will leave him on his heels with a quick move. Washington does a great job of covering a lot of ground with his first step and initial dribble which is all that it takes to create separation and pull up for a 15-foot jumper.
If we want to nitpick, this is a high school play that will not work at the college level. The days of drifting off of a flare screen and catching a pass like this generally end at the high school level. Still, it is good to see Washington playing within the constructs of a Motion offense and he reads the screen well in order to get open. Whatever Washington may not have in raw athletic ability (that isn’t to say he isn’t still a good athlete) he makes up for with elite balance. That isn’t something that normal stands to fans, but when evaluating the film it jumps off the screen to a coach’s eye. His ability to be moving away from the ball towards the sideline, catch the ball, and then be on balance enough to knock in a mid-range jump shot off of just one dribble is pro level balance and skill. That type of footwork should give confidence that he is ready to score at the collegiate level.
If there is one question mark to TyTy Washington’s game right now it would be how well he will be able to create off of the dribble as a freshman. Again, he is a good athlete and has some strength to him, but there isn’t the next level explosiveness that allows for easy separation. Washington creates shots via change of pace and outsmarting his defender.
One positive to that front is that Washington is very good at driving and finishing with both hands. His ability to go either way keeps the defense from over-playing and opens up driving lanes a little bit for him. As a freshman, a lot of his scoring will probably come from threes and jump shots, but if he does prove to be a knock-down shooter that will create some additional driving opportunities as well.
Crafty ball handling and use of the body is the name of the game off the dribble for TyTy Washington. He has such good footwork in every facet of the game. This spin move allows him to get his shoulders past the defender and then he absorbs the contact at the rim to finish the And-1. Great move and great finish.
Washington reads this play perfectly and executes the little pocket pass at the perfect time to get his teammate the dunk. His vision and feel for the game are his biggest assets when it comes to making plays for others. Even if Washington does struggle some as a freshman to beat his defender off the dribble, an issue that won’t matter as much if the ‘Cats do eventually add Sahvir Wheeler, he still will rack up some assists due to his ability to read the defense and by being surrounded by excellent shooters.
For a look at how skilled of a passer TyTy Washington is look no further than this play. While sprinting full speed with the ball in transition, Washington picks up his dribble throws a perfectly on the money pass to the corner for a three. A lot of high school players wouldn’t be able to make this play without coming to a full stop, much less delivering a pinpoint pass to the shooter’s pocket. Pro level pass by Washington.
Finally, we will end with the single best play that Washington made from all of the film that was evaluated. This is the type of play that comes only from having a very high basketball IQ and also playing in a program that breaks things down on the defensive end in practice. This type of play is why TyTy Washington is ready to be a Kentucky Wildcat.
Washington is on the opposite side of the floor from the ball as the baseline drive begins. As you are taught, the big man at the basket does a good job of sliding over to cut off the baseline drive before the ball gets to the paint. While that initial rotation is happening, Washington sprints down to the front of the rim to “help the helper” and ends up stealing the pass.
This wasn’t just a one-off lucky play either. In the Iverson Classic, an all-star game which typically aren’t known for defensive rotations, Washington made the exact same type of play in the first half. He didn’t get the steal, but his rotation stopped a dunk at the front of the rim. When you see a kid make that type of game in an all-star game atmosphere you know it is just engrained in him. That is a really good sign for Coach Calipari and Kentucky fans everywhere.