PJ Washington returns to practice, joins team stocked with ‘fighters’

PJ Washington is all smiles after a question in a press conference Wednesday in Boise, Idaho. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) —PJ Washington is back on the practice floor.

The Kentucky sophomore forward made his first return to the court Tuesday night after having surgery on his pinky finger last spring.

“It felt great to be out here with (this) group of freshmen to see how their games are compared to mine,” Washington said on CoachCal.com. “I’m just trying to come out here and compete every day, trying to get better (and help the team) win a national championship. It was great to be back out there (on the practice floor).”

Even when he wasn’t on the practice floor, Washington was being a team leader.

“They were messing up a lot, so I was just giving them some insights of what coach Cal wants them to do and I feel like I did a great job of trying to lead them from off the court,” he said. “When I get on the court, I’m trying to do the same thing. Even though we’re playing against each other in practice, we’re all trying to get better.”

Washington has been impressed with Kentucky’s incoming class during the team’s workouts ahead of an overseas trip to the Bahamas set for Aug. 6-13 at Atlantis on Paradise Island.

“They’re fighters,” he said. “That’s what we need here. They want us to win every game, so we’ve got to come out and play every day in practice and not lose a game (and) making sure they’re on the same page we are.”

Washington averaged 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season, During a 12-game period down the stretch, Washington averaged 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and helped lead the Wildcats to the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship. but played most of the second half of the season with a broke pinky finger. Washington injured his finger while diving for a loose ball in practice and played through the pain in hopes it would eventually subside, but eventually required surgery.

Washington declared for the NBA Draft last spring but opted to return for a second season.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.