After leading Ohio State in scoring last season and setting the world on fire during the Big Ten Tournament, Duane Washington Jr. announced Friday afternoon that he will enter the 2021 NBA Draft. Per multiple sources, Washington will not hire an agent so he can return to Ohio State for his senior season if he wishes.
A third-team All Big Ten selection last season, Washington led Ohio State in scoring at 16.4 points per game, up from 11.5 points per game the previous season. He had what may have been the best four-game stretch of his career during the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 23 points per game while carrying Ohio State all the way to the championship game versus Illinois, where the Buckeyes would eventually fall in overtime.
Washington had a rough go in the NCAA Tournament game against Oral Roberts, hitting just seven of his 21 shots for 18 points. He had a wide open three-pointer at the top of the key that would have forced a second overtime, but it was no good, and the Buckeyes became just the ninth team ever to lose to a 15-seed in the first round.
Washington has struggled with efficiency his entire career, with a career field goal percentage of just 39.7% (36.1% from three). However, he turned a corner last season, increasing his overall shooting percentage by 1% while also taking four more shots per game than he did as a sophomore (from 9.6 to 13.5 shots per game).
If he returns, Washington would join Liddell (possibly), Justin Ahrens, Seth Towns, Jamari Wheeler, and potentially Kyle Young on a loaded Ohio State team next season that will start the season ranked in the top-10 of the AP Poll. Washington and Liddell both took massive steps forward this season, and an Ohio State team returning both of their leading scorers plus a healthy Seth Towns could cause quite a bit of ruckus at the top of the Big Ten next season.
Washington does not appear in any mock drafts by any major media outlet. He will likely need to continue improving his efficiency, defense, and three-point shot if he wants to have an opportunity in the NBA. But just like Liddell is currently doing, Washington will take the time to gather feedback from NBA scouts, coaches, and executives before making a final decision.
Odds are that we will see both Washington and Liddell on the court in Columbus come November, but it isn’t out of the question that one or both could move on despite what current mock drafts are saying. The Ohio State basketball program has seen several players declare early and go undrafted in recent years, such as Kaleb Wesson, Trevor Thompson, and LaQuinton Ross.