Tag Archives: Jason Washburn

Waxing Seniority: They’re Gone

I’ll miss them. You will, too. And with the wrap of this season, reality has sunk in that some of our favorites will move on. Cue the Vitamin C, it’s graduation time.

And this crop of seniors saw some stuff. They endured but did not define one of the worst stretches in Pac-12 hoops there’s ever been. By way of historical context I have none. But anecdotally can you tell me I’m wrong? These seniors saw the winner of their conference not play in the NCAA tournament. The Pac-12 was bad.

But they won’t be defined by this period of ineptitude. They’ll be defined by the fight we saw and the resilience we cheered. As a slew of fantastic writers boasted of their favorite seniors’ careers (all below), I was reminded that we’re not always fans for the wins and losses. We’re drawn to the human components of this game, the universal truths that we all struggle in an effort to succeed. Which is why it was so rewarding to see EJ Singler in his first Big Dance. And Solomon Hill lead down the home stretch. And see Brock Motum score 79 points in his final three games. And see the career transformation of Larry Drew II. And Joe Burton play the role of cultural ambassador.

Maybe they didn’t win any titles and reached just a single Elite 8 collectively, but they were the seniors of our teams and sometimes that’s about all we need to be a fan.

The 2012-13 Pac-12 Seniors – or at least those who were so kindly discussed by those who follow them closest for the Waxing Seniority series:

Waxing Seniority: Jason Washburn

With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12’s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.

The Ghost of Jack Gardner has been following the Utah Utes program since his days as a coach and now far beyond. His blog is a wealth of Ute knowledge, nostalgia, and hoops.

The college basketball career of Jason Washburn is a play of Three Acts. We first knew him as the four-star center from Battle Creek, who Jim Boylen recruited while an assistant with Michigan State.  He stood out as the energetic redshirt on the Utah sideline, often standing on his feet waiving a towel. That was the 2008-09 MWC Championship team led by Luke Nevill, Lawrence Borha and a promising newcomer named Carlon Brown.

Things were looking very bright for the future of Utah basketball.  The 2009-10 season was greatly anticipated by the fans.  Washburn made his playing debut in the Huntsman Center in a loss to Idaho. He played alongside Carlon Brown and the 7’3″ returned missionary, David Foster. Another newcomer, Marshall Henderson, also made his debut for the Utes that night with 18 points.  But Washburn stole the show.  He came off the bench and scored 20 points and pulled down 7 rebounds in 26 minutes.  As I said, the future looked bright.

End of Act I.

Washburn never got close to 20 points again for the next two years.  In fact, he only scored in double digits ten times over that period.  He was known to Utah fans and opponents as: 1) Soft; and 2) Enthusiastic.  It was so funny to see him lead the team in energy and cheering while on the bench, but then see him get pushed around by smaller players on the court.  He had no defensive presence, didn’t fight for rebounds and couldn’t finish in traffic.  I admit he was known for some time by yours truly as “Jason Heartburn.”

Yet he never lacked for enthuasism.

Those were Utah’s last two seasons in the Mountain West Conference, and the last two seasons of Jim Boylen’s tenure.  A mass player exodus ensued that spring.  Henderson, Clyburn, O’Brien and Glover all transferred.  We had no idea what our innaugural Pac-12 team would look like.  When the dust settled, we had a new coach, and entirely new roster, a returning juco named Jiggy, the oft-injured Chris Hines . . . and Jason Washburn.

Almost by default, Jason Washburn was the leader of the 2011-12 Runnin’ Utes.  His minutes increased and so did his production.  He was still soft but slowly improved offensively.  But fans didn’t expect much out of him at this point, especially since 2011-12 was a throwaway season.

I don’t remember exactly when it happened — I think it was during the Arizona game in Tucson when something finally clicked. I think Washburn was tired of losing and tired of getting pushed around.  No doubt about it: with just a few weeks left in the season, something suddenly changed.

End of Act II.

Washburn finished the season on a complete tear, which has carried through this year. He’s been a consistent scorer and has had several double-double games.  And his defense has stepped-up big time.  Each time Utah has found itself in a position to win, Washburn is always in the middle of things. There have even been a couple times I believe he would have been the Pac-12 Player of the Week if only Utah could have converted close losses to wins.

Utah fans love him.  But his biggest badge of honor is that opposing fans hate him.  And that just makes us love him even more.

Not to mention his love for the fans and for the school. He recently sat down with the Deseret News and discussed his decision to stay at Utah two years ago when many teammates were leaving:

“There was plenty of times where I was just ready to break down and throw my hands up in the air and say ‘I can’t do this any more’ just because we had so many guys leave . . . Even though I hold no grudges against anyone that left. They all did it because it was best for them and you can’t hate someone for that.”

“I put my head down and fought through the turmoil. Why couldn’t you? If I can take anything from my career I can be proud of myself for knowing that not only did I stick with my teammates and my coach and my new coach, I stuck with this program and this fan base. I know I can walk away proud of that.”

On a few occassions, I’ve taken posession of the body of some loitering Utah fan after a game to congratulate Washburn personally. The guy is genuine and loves interacting with the fans.  He’s the kind of guy you love to cheer for.  For that reason, he has become one of my all-time favorite Runnin’ Utes.

My only regret is he won’t be around next year for a fourth Act — when, I believe, Utah will finally turn the corner.

The Pac-12 Awards as Voted On By You

Before we dive too far down this rabbit hole, let’s look at the actual results from the Conference HQ:

  • POY: Crabbe
  • COY: Altman
  • dPOY: Roberson
  • FOY: Carson/Muhammad

No major surprises and that’s a formidable list. I was surprised by the co-FOY awarding but not that shocked considering ASU’s current four game skid compared to UCLA’s outright ‘ship. Alas, all were great.


Perhaps my favorite part of the lists was the damn depth up and down the All-Conference teams. I’d be pretty stoked to go to battle with that Honorable Mention crew: Jio, Arsalan, Nelson, Washburn, Wise. Damn.

But back to you, the voters. Here is what you came up with:

  • POY: Dinwiddie (174 votes)
  • COY: The Field (11 votes)
  • FOY: Scott (15 votes)
  • dPOY: Roberson (38 votes)

Well it looks like a Colorado sweep. Kudos to that crew and the virality of the web and the depth of fandom from that crew. Sincerely a dedicated group.

But while this list drips with homerdom, it’s worth noting that these Buffaloes are a force to be reckoned with. They’re scary with that talent and should he stay another year, Spencer Dinwiddie could be a legitimate POY candidate.

And again, I can’t say I agree that Josh Scott or Tad Boyle are their respective “of the year” winners, I’ll most certainly hat tip the talent.

Boyle, in short order, has proven his proven his mettle as a program changing and developing leader. Josh Scott has proven similar. He’s been the consistent man in the middle, helping to spread the floor and keep defenses honest. Josh Scott has been great.

But not Shabazz or Carson-great. And Boyle’s work was sound but I’m inclined to say Dana Altman did more with less. I was really impressed with his work this season. Alas, these are the fun awards. The one’s built for discussion and mantles that make us feel good about the accomplishments of the teams, players, and coaches we support.

My favorite awards are the ones that hang in rafters.

Waxing Seniority: A Farewell Tour of Pac-12 Seniors

One of our favorite things about collegiate athletics is its fleeting immediacy. The players we cheer for, those who don our colors, are there for a predetermined and brief period. We enjoy their services for, at most, four seasons and then its on to their next venture. It’s quick, gone in what feels like a flash, and we’re then left with a new crop of talents to cheer, critique, and enjoy a new group.

But it’s this brevity that magnifies the relationship.

We know all too well of its finality that we’re further drawn to irrational levels of fandom. I love it. And now the seniors have now wrapped up their final home games. They will never play on their home court again. For this, I’m sad.

Because these are the guys we’ve followed since before they got to school and watched improve and watched succeed and watched fail and watched grow. They’ve embodied a lifecycle we appreciate and now is the time to usher them on and out.

For such, I’ve reached out to some of my favorite writers, bloggers, and fans in an effort to try and capture the feelings of this time of year. Both the bitter and the sweet.

So coming today and beyond, you will see the following seniors celebrated by those who’ve followed them close:

It’s a good crop we’re saying farewell to and a terrific group who have pieced together some remarkable, exciting, and fun careers.

Stay tuned.

Week 1 Pac-12 Hoops Review

Well, well, well. If it isn’t conference play back and in our Thursday/Saturday faces. I enjoyed a grand chunk of Pac-12 hoops this weekend and while I’m still on the fence about these Wednesday games, I can totally get behind Sunday games and I definitively don’t miss FSN. Did any of you catch the Civil War game last night? The game itself was alright, the Ducks showed off some scoring depth and acumen, while Oregon State sorta confirmed they’re defenseless. Alas, the point being, I was inundated with VALUES.com ads (are those even advertisements? PSAs?) like this one and I’m pretty certain that I now have no interest in passing anything on to anyone. Did you watch the video yet? WHAT IS THAT?

Back to the hoops because by Friday morning, every game had been within five-points with under five to play and I wasn’t hungover. By Sunday night, nearly the same! Saturday’s games had a moderate ho hum about them but offered us a glimpse into a world where maybe the Utah Utes aren’t abysmal and maybe UCLA is just a really good team that had some growing pains.

Alas, solid first weekend of conference play, let’s head to the monitors to take a look at it (too soon?):

Leader in the Clubhouse: Based on their body of work, one has to consider the undefeated Wildcats here but seeing as how this is more of a week to week commentary, I have to say UCLA was the most fear striking team out there. If we’re to take Sean Miller’s word for it and believe Arizona is approaching the number one ranking in KenPom’s luck rankings (they’re 36th), then I’m not entirely sure I’m willing to call Arizona a leader after that weekend. Not to say they aren’t good or definitely the best team in the conference, but UCLA handling the Bay schools was most impressive to me. What makes me cringe however, and gives merit to the claims that Howland’s program is a joyless one, was the expressionless Bruin faces after each victory. They appeared robotic rolling thru handshakes which doesn’t really get me feeling one way or the other, just maybe that this team makes it way through this fascinating season with mechanical efficiency. Slice it however you will and I’m probably looking far too deep into far too little. Of course, sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good…

Game of the Weekend: That little tilt down in Tucson Thursday night sure was an interesting one. It was expected to be the biggest game of the first weekend on paper and lived up to the hype and would later have the sports media world abuzz. And this guy’s commentary. I’m not one for harping on officiating as it’s a difficult job, blah, blah, blah…and to blame the stripes over and over and over is without a doubt the biggest little brother move anyone can do. But man, that one sure appeared to be blown. Colorado was the benefactor of a last second officiating gaffe last year, this stuff happens. But the game itself was a tremendous display of defensive brilliance and effort by the Buffs who held Arizona’s big three of Solomon Hill, Nick Johnson, and Mark Lyons to just 2-18 shooting before the tone of the game switched and the Wildcats decided to make a comeback. That’s where we got to see Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons play like the vaunted seniors we expect them to be. They scored a combined 24 across regulation’s final nine minutes (that’s 17 more points than the team combined to score in the games first eleven minutes), and accounted for half of Arizona’s overtime output. That’s senior leadership and that’s how you do special things. The Wildcats escaped with another tight one that the Buffs just might be face-palming about later this season.

The Big Loser: The two biggest candidates here have got to be Colorado and Stanford as the only two-loss teams in the conference. I’d also consider throwing Washington State, USC and Oregon State’s names into the hat as they each now possess home losses. By my nature (grossly neurotic) decisions frighten me but I’m not inclined to call the Colorado Buffaloes losers this week. For a grand chunk of their time in McKale they were the better team and arguably had that one ripped out their hands. Their Tempe time was a little different and I really think ASU just beat them but if I’m Colorado, I have to think there are still enough positive takeaways to not be too down on this weekend. Also because Stanford kinda just got beat all weekend. They didn’t execute down the stretch against USC, a game they got 0/2/2 and 3 turnovers in just 15 minutes from Chasson Randle, and were just not nearly as good as UCLA. The Cardinal were a team I thought would be clicking a little better than they currently are. To be certain, they don’t appear to be a team all that pissed off for greatness.

What We Learned: I think this weekend went a long way in confirming the company line each coach has been pumping since August: The Conference is improved. Few if any have gone so far as to say the Pac is “good” but they can get behind “improved” which is basically saying that none of these teams historically suck again. A fact I think we are starting to see. Utah played two very tough games in Arizona and Jason Washburn and Jordan Loveridge appear to be the real deal. Arizona State took a couple shots from Colorado and, by games end, had flipped the defensive script on the Buffs and won the ball game. I have no resounding commentary on the Apple Cup rivalry other than it played out like a good rivalry game should and that those two (UW and WSU) aren’t going to be doing too much this season by way of getting the Pac considered “good.” But, on the whole, this is an improved conference.

Start of the Week YouTuber: All right, I’ll confess the following: 1) By posting a video surrounding the monitor mishap, I’m being a hypocrite and propagating an uncontrollable event from the past. But this video is great. 2) This is video is hosted by Vimeo and not YouTube. So sue me.

Arizona Colorado from DJ K3G on Vimeo.


Ghost Blog: Jack Gardner on Utah v. Arizona

Arizona hosts the Utah Utes Saturday afternoon. This is a rivalry that takes me back a spell and I have some couch memories of Arizona v. some Van Horn squads. I was also in Anaheim for the first of two crushing Elite Eight losses in that arena. That’s always fun to rehash. No it’s not.

Alas, with these two squaring off again and a season removed from Utah nearly knocking off the ‘Cats in McKale…

Friends and fellow Pac-12 fans: Please excuse this interruption.

I am the Ghost of Jack Gardner. I have taken possession of Mr. Butler’s mortal body and this blog in order to share with you some thoughts about the Runnin’ Utes this year.

As you are well aware, the Utes recently suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Arizona State. They now head to Tucson for another herculean test. In anticipation of the matchup against Arizona and in order to help you get to know this Utah team, I wanted give my perspecive.

I understand a priest is already on his way to Mr. Butler’s home with the holy water and book of ancient rites. So without further ado, here’s my breakdown:

The Utes had a tough loss against ASU on Wednesday night. Arizona squeaked out a victory against Colorado. Utah is still learning how to win close games. Arizona wills itself to win close games, even those games it seemingly has no business winning. I would be shocked if the Utes give Arizona much trouble. But if the game does happen to be close, I don’t see Utah having the “clutchability” to defeat a more talented Arizona team. In all of Utah’s losses this year, except for the road loss at SMU, Utah’s offense broke down when the game tightened up. So what do I expect to see Saturday afternoon?

Andre Miller is not walking through that door. Utah is a much better team than it was last year. Jordan Loveridge is a good-looking freshman who will have a great career at Utah. Senior Jason Washburn had 19 points, 18 rebounds, and 4 blocks against ASU on Wednesday night, and Cedric Martin is a “glue guy” who plays tough defense. But this is not Majerus’ Utes. Utah does not have the talent to stay with Arizona. Not even the triangle and two can save the Utes this year, especially in Tucson.

Utah plays tough defense. Utah has played an inside-out man-to-man about 85-90% of the time this year. Utah is one of the few teams that switches most screens, which can create mismatches inside. But then it sags its bigs inside where Washburn and the other big guys can help. Most of Washburn’s blocks last game came out of this scheme, coming over to help an over-matched teammate. This worked well against ASU because the Sun Devils couldn’t shoot well from the outside (4-18 from three) and Utah could suck everyone in around the basket. But when teams hit their outside shots, then the Utes have to extend the defense. When the Utes are forced to extend its defense, this opens up driving lanes and teams have hurt the Utes with driving layups and drives and kick-outs for open threes.

When Utah doesn’t go man-to-man, it plays a tight two/three zone and dares teams to beat them from the outside. The Utes don’t press much, though they did effectively implement a 3/4 court trap in the second game against SMU, which changes momentum and helped Utah beat SMU in the second game of their home and home with the Mustangs (yes, Utah played SMU twice). I don’t expect Utah to try to press Arizona.

Utah doesn’t have a go to guy. The Utes don’t have a single go-to guy when the game tightens up. In close games, the offense tightens up and the Utes struggle to get good shots. And Utah does not have a single player who can create his own shot. In the ASU game, Utah went to Washburn twice in its final possession and he threw up a  couple of 12 foot hook shots in the middle of the lane. Jarred DuBois, a senior transfer from Loyola Marymount, has tried to take over in close games. But he has not been successful in trying to carry that load. Loveridge has the potential to be “the guy,” but he isn’t there quite yet.

Utah is successful when it controls the tempo. If Utah can control the tempo and keep the game in the 50s or low 60s, it has a chance to keep the game close. Utah did a good job controlling the tempo in its overtime loss at ASU. But Arizona knows how to win games. Utah doesn’t. Even if Utah manages to keep the game close, these simple facts will make the chances of a Utah victory in the range of slim to none.

You are invited to follow more of my ghostly rantings at my blogsite: www.tgojg.blogspot.com. But for now I must be going before I end up in a herd of swine.

So yeah while the Utes did give Arizona some fits last year in both contests, they are a far different team now and they’re coming off a game that I think just might light a fire under their arse.

Arizona rolls.

Utah Utes: The Pac-12 Fat Kids

When I was twelve years old I attended a one week session of the Lute Olson Basketball Camp. Like any Tucson boy following the spring of 1997, I’d essentially arrived at the land of Milk and Honey; ecstatic to be playing games on the same floor as Bibby, Dickerson, Simon, and even Bramlett.

I was the stout kid, oversized and undercoordinated, but goodness I was excited to be there. Over the span of that one week camp, I managed to garner myself an award. Yes, I was awarded Most Improved which is kind of like giving me the “You-were-so-bad-on-Monday-but-managed-not-to-hurt-yourself-or-anyone-else-by-Friday Award.” I’d go on to play baseball.

The sample set for my awarding was limited, centered on an established base whether fair or not. The eyeball test set the precedent for, let’s call it, room for improvement.

NOTE: The same session in which I won the Most Improved Award I was also awarded the Best Attitude Award. I was the ultimate fat kid.

Well just a season ago – heck, just eight months ago – the Utah Utes and Coach Krystowiak, were a six-win team which included a win over San Diego Christian. At one point during that campaign, the Utes were considering opening the roster to the student body. To call 2011-12 a learning year is a disservice to learning years.

Again, we can call it, room for improvement.

That season solidified the Runnin’ Utes’ place as conference fat kids – devoid of expectations and engendering our sympathies – a lot bit like me at camp.

Well this may still be the case – they have yet to play a BCS opponent and have not played a ranked opponent since the 2010-11 season – but the Utes have quietly surpassed last season’s abysmal win total and are looking increasingly good doing so. The crown jewel of their recruiting class, Jordan Loveridge, has been terrific (12/7/2) on the wing-hybrid while Jared DuBois has been a pleasant scoring boost in his first and only year in Salt Lake. Additionally, Dallin Bachynski is following in the surprising footsteps of his brother, Jordan of ASU, and giving the Utes further front court depth (senior Jason Washburn is off to a slow start). As a team, they’ve jumped more than 100 spots up the ORtg and DRtg rankings and are in the top 50 of making and defending 2-point buckets.

Suffice to say, the Utes are beginning to fill the improvement space.

It’s still early, equatable to a week long basketball camp, and so it’s fair to call the kids who began as the undisputed chubsters with nothing to lose exactly that. But I recognize the progress, applaud the effort, and appreciate the wins. Improvement doesn’t always have to be measured in progress from rock bottom but the Utes have shown a decisive change from one season ago. Just run the math:

6-wins in 31 games < 7-wins in 10 games.

For such, and all things considered, I toss an empathetic arm around the collective Ute shoulder and offer my own Most Improved Award. Keep it up.