Freshman year at Maryknoll came to a heartbreaking end for center Brian Washington.
After losing in the 2014 ILH playoffs, the 6-foot-8 center and teammate Justice Sueing Jr., the Spartans high-scoring sophomore, chatted outside the entrance door. Sueing had already spent some summer time jamming with Mater Dei, a California powerhouse.
It was clear, even then, that if Washington and Sueing stuck together, Maryknoll would have the inside track to one, probably two state championships.
“You better not leave,” Washington said to Sueing, who promised he would never.
Washington remembers the conversation well.
“I think we lost to ‘Iolani that day,” he said on Wednesday by phone.
Sueing transferred out soon enough. So did Washington, who attended Maryknoll for one more year. The voyage has involved twists and turns, but he perseveres.
Five years since leaving Maryknoll, he is now considering his newest options. Washington has six scholarship offers on the table: Cal State Bakersfield, Louisiana, North Texas, Texas A&M, Tulsa and UAB.
“I like all of them. The official interest, it’s been a long journey, not being a qualifier out of high school. It’s been interesting. I’m definitely happy I stayed with it and I’m looking forward to the future,” he said on Wednesday.
Washington’s youth coach, Rob Pardini, has seen some of his game footage.
“I’ve watched shows. He’s still an outstanding passer and understands the game at a high level. He’s now bigger and stronger, and that makes him a solid D-I player,” said Pardini, who is the boys basketball coach at Kalaheo.
When he left home — Kailua — Washington’s family moved to Las Vegas, where he played for Cimarron Memorial in Nevada’s top tier of classifications.
“It was good. I got to play some (future) NBA talent in my league. The private schools and public schools are in the same league. Six teams in each (division). (Bishop) Gorman, Faith Lutheran and those teams. I had to work on my outside game, get stronger, get developed,” he said.
Then he headed to Nation Wide Academy, a prep school in Oklahoma.
“In Oklahoma, that’s where I got pushed on the court and started getting stronger, just realizing that talent from all over the country, I was able to play some great schools. Night in, night out, you got to play hard. You could lose by 40, you could win by 40. Can’t take anything for granted,” Washington said.
At Navarro Community College (Corsicana, Texas), he averaged 7.5 points, nine rebounds and three assists per game while shooting 68.5 percent from the field as a freshman. He is still 6-8, but has added 40 pounds to his frame since high school.
“It’s been a good journey, a lot more opportunities in Vegas. Of course I miss being at home but it was a good move basketball wise, opened up a lot more doors,” Washington said. “Navarro has been good, down in Texas. There’s competition every night, a lot of players who are in JUCO. Most of these kids are high-level and every night there’s competition. There’s never an easy night.”
Navarro is aiming for a national title in JUCO. Practice began two weeks ago.
“Our coaches do a good job with our schedule,” said Washington, who is in a campus dormitory. “I’m going to classes in person and a couple online.”
The trend has been consistent at Maryknoll since Kelly Grant became head coach. The two-time defending state champions have sent players to the next level, from the mainland to Japan. Current junior Sage Tolentino has offers from Kansas, Tennessee State and Auburn.
Like some of his predecessors, Tolentino plans to transfer after completing one more year at Maryknoll. The junior is currently training in Ohio while taking online classes. One, Liko Soares, is at Hillcrest Academy, a prep school in Phoenix, Ariz. Washington has kept up with the Spartans from afar, and is amazed by the size and skill set of Tolentino.
“First of all, I check up and see how they’re doing. I love it. I said 7 feet, that’s crazy. He’s very skilled and has a great chance of going far. I hope he keeps up with it. Just keep working hard on the strength. He has a good outside game, inside game, just keep getting stronger and you’ll be a monster,” Washington said. “What I learned is sometimes you’ll be dead tired, but keep pushing. If he pushes, his future will be very bright.”
At 220 pounds, Washington is much stronger now, still working in the weight room.
“We bench and squat, we get in a lot of reps (at a) lighter weight. and less reps is heavier weight. It took me awhile to get stronger and it comes and you have to maintain. You don’t have to be built like Dwight Howard. Just get strength in your body and it’ll take you a long way,” he said.
From Enchanted Lakes Elementary School to D-I college hoops, Washington is content with the path he took.
“I would not change any route that I’ve taken. A lot of kids came from JUCO and prep schools. The longer your path is the longer you’ve got to stay,” he said.
His vision of the future is bright.
“Of course, get to a four-year and I’d love to get to the NCAA Tournament. That’s big. I’d love to play professional somewhere. That’s another goal, but getting to the NCAA tournament,” he said. “This year, I think we could win a national championship in JUCO.
When he leaves Navarro, Washington is considering a business major. His family is back in Las Vegas. He’s on his own, as are most of his teammates.
“No family out here. We’ve got a couple (players) from Texas, but we’re mostly from all over, East Coast, West Coast, some from out of the country,” he said.
The questions about his home state began as soon as he landed in Las Vegas.
“They ask about Hawaii,” Washington said. “Even in high school. ‘Do you have cable?’ ‘Do you have real houses?’ ‘Do you have phones?’ They think it’s out in the middle of nowhere. I tell them, we’re a state.”
At Navarro, temperature checks and the availability of weekend testing for COVID-19 are a part of campus life.
“They take our temperature every day — every time we enter the gym, the weight room, everywhere — and there are testing sites every weekend. If any symptoms come up, you have to get tested. You don’t have a choice,” Washington said. “Everyone on campus has to wear a mask.”
Top 3 movies/shows
1. “Outer Banks.” (Netflix) “I like the journey they’re on. I kind of want to visit that place. It’s an ocean area, somewhere on the East Coast.”
2. “On my Block.” (Netflix) “It’s about four kids growing up in the harder part of California, their every day struggles, dealing with gang affiliations and how they overcome it.”
3. “The Last Dance. “Michael Jordan’s documentary. That was a great one. He’s the second-best player ever. I think LeBron (James) is the best. They’re all human. You think they’re so good, they don’t do normal every day stuff. I enjoyed it. The owner, it was like he hated winning.”
Top 3 food/snack/drinks
1. Cool Ranch Doritos. “I’m definitely a chip guy.”
2. Scooby Doo Snacks. “It’s like gummies, the fruit snacks.”
3. Cup Noodle. “That’s the go-to.”
4. I miss McDonald’s. They’re not the same on the mainland. In Vegas, my first time, I asked for the Portuguese sausage eggs and rice, and they said what’s that? I never thought it would be so different. Even fruit punch, it’s not always there.”
They got some great restaurants here. Good food, very cheap.
Top 3 music artists
1. Drake. “Favorite Drake song? That’s tough. I’ll go with ‘All Me.’ “
2. Meek Mill. “Trauma.”
3. Little Durk. “When We Shoot.”
New life skill
Washington: “I learned how to cook a couple of new things in the kitchen. I forget the name, but baking cakes. I learned from my mom (Tony). I like strawberry, I like vanilla. I’m not a big chocolate person, but I’ll make it.”
Coaching role model
Washington: “I like the way Steve Kerr coaches down in Golden State. He lets his players play. He gets a little heated sometimes, but he has a calm demeanor. Even this year when they weren’t winning, he’s very patient.”
Washington: “My high school coaches. I had a good coach in Vegas, Darryl Branham. My prep school coach, Kenneth Roy (Nation Wide Academy), and of course the coaches down at Navarro. We’ve got a great coach, Grant McMillan and the assistant, coach Cody Hopkins.”