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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Darius Washington Shines at Camp

Washington shines at camp

Ex-Tiger attempting to catch scouts' eyes

By Ronald Tillery, Memphis Commercial Appeal

June 8, 2006

ORLANDO -- He has all the comforts of home.

Familiar surroundings at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.

His hometown, Winter Park, within a stone's throw.

University of Memphis point guard Darius Washington Jr. is even playing for a name he knows this week during the NBA pre-draft camp.

Is he comfortable?

Very, judging by Washington's performance Wednesday in his first game before NBA front-office personnel and coaches representing every NBA team, and Tigers coach John Calipari.

"A game recap?," Washington asked rhetorically, "I think I played good."

And so began Washington's journey from wherever you believe he's coming from -- off the draft board or late in the second round.

The 6-1 scoring machine with the onus to prove he possesses conventional point guard wares struck a nice balance even if the box score didn't back up the notion. He finished with a game-high 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including a 3-pointer, to go with three rebounds, two steals and an assist.

One assist?

Well, Washington wasn't responsible for Gonzaga's J.P. Batista's blowing layups. Washington often delivered the basketball on time and in good position for teammates despite their inability to score.

"He has a sense of what to do," said Grizzlies assistant coach Mitchell Anderson, who is Washington's coach for the week. "He made some shots. He got in the lane. His biggest contribution was that he got up on guys (defensively), he got some steals and he pushed the ball up the floor and made the right decisions. ... I'm just trying to guide him and put him in the right position. I'm not here to debut my coaching talents. My job is to allow these guys to show their talents."

Washington is among 62 players participating in the camp. He hasn't hired an agent, and allows his father, Darius Sr., to act as one so that he can protect his eligibility with the NCAA.

The draft is June 28. Washington, a sophomore, must decide whether to stay in the draft by June 18.

His mission is clear.

"After these three days are over with I want people to say he really opened my eyes and turned my head," Washington said. "He really showed me what he can do or at least has the potential to do it. ... It's nice that I can play for (Anderson). He knows what I can do. He's letting me play to my strengths."

Few of the draft's top prospects are at the camp. Many players pulled out at the last minute. Instead, they opted to conduct individual workouts with teams that own high first-round picks.

Washington has only worked out privately for Houston, where he's spent time training. He participated in another private workout Wednesday afternoon before playing in the game.

Washington understands the difference between workouts and pre-draft games.

"The personal workout is for my benefit. That's when I can show my athleticism and show that I can shoot," Washington said. "It's when I can show that I can run the pick-and-roll with a big guy. The personal workout is for me. The games are where my point guard skills kick in and I try to get everybody involved."

And for the time being, Orlando is where he aims to prove that more than his heart and childhood dreams belong in the NBA.

-- Ronald Tillery: 529-2353

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