Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann told the media this season that while he loves coaching Duane Washington Jr., he also thinks the junior guard has “taken years off of his life” due to the streaky nature of his play. At times, Washington Jr. can look like one of the purest scorers in college basketball, and other nights fans are pleading to the heavens that he stop shooting. During the Big Ten Tournament, it was the former. During the NCAA Tournament, it was the latter.
For better or for worse, Holtmann will no longer be dealing with any more Duane Washington Jr.-induced stress or jubilation, Jeff Goodman is now reporting that Ohio State’s leading scorer will be keeping his name in the NBA Draft and hiring an agent. Washington Jr. announced on April 9 that he was entering the draft, but most people assumed he would return to Ohio State considering that no major media outlets have him anywhere near their top 100 prospects.
BREAKING: Ohio State guard Duane Washington Jr. Will not be returning to school and will keep his name in for the NBA Draft, he told @Stadium. Buckeyes go from Top 10 to Top 25 team — depending if EJ Liddell returns.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) June 29, 2021
While Washington was an electric scorer at Ohio State, he wasn’t always the most efficient. A career 39.7% shooter during his time in Columbus, Washington’s field goal percentage essentially stayed the same from his sophomore to junior seasons, hanging steady right around 41% (from 40.3% to 41%). However, Washington took four more shots per game as a junior (from 9.6 FGA per game to 13.5 FGA per game), showing that he could take more shots per game while not allowing his efficiency to take a hit.
Washington had what may have been the best four-game stretch of his career during the Big Ten Tournament, averaging 23 points per game as Ohio State knocked off Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan in succession before falling to Illinois in overtime in the championship game. Things did not go as smoothly for Washington Jr. during Ohio State’s lone NCAA Tournament game against Oral Roberts. The junior guard scored 18 points on 7-21 shooting, including going 3-12 from three-point range. One of those missed three-pointers was a wide open look from the top of the key that would have forced a second overtime had it dropped. It did not, and Ohio State made history by becoming just the ninth team ever to lose to a 15-seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Washington recently participated in both the NBA G-League Elite Camp and the NBA Draft Combine, forcing himself onto the radars of NBA scouts and executives after he scored a combined 31 points in two games at the elite camp. His ability to score at all three levels (below the basket, mid-range, and three-point) will make him an attractive second-round option for teams whose offense needs a serious shot in the arm.
If he wants to stick in the NBA, Washington will need to improve his three-point shot and overall efficiency on the offensive end. While he has the raw tools to be a productive scorer at the next level, shooting below 40% from three-point range and the floor overall won’t cut it in the league where there will be better, more efficient scoring options available.
With Washington’s departure, look for either Meechie Johnson Jr. or incoming freshman and reigning Ohio Mr. Basketball Malaki Branham to step into that vacated spot in the starting lineup. While Johnson is Ohio State’s point guard of the future, Branham is a more similar player to Washington, coming in as a combo guard rather than a pure point guard.
Ohio State’s second-leading scorer from a year ago, E.J. Liddell, has yet to announce his plans for next season. The deadline for him to withdraw from the NBA Draft and retain his eligibility — if he chooses to — is July 7.