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Williamsport's Isaiah Washington commits to Penn State
April 1, 2012 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT firstname.lastname@example.org
Isaiah Washington found everything he wanted in a school. He found a great academic institution with a nursing program that could help pave the way to medical school. He found an eager head coach looking to turn the corner with his basketball program. And he found it all close to home.
So there was no reason for the Williamsport guard to wait. Sunday, despite having just finished his sophomore season, Washington gave a verbal commitment to play basketball at Penn State following his graduation from Williamsport in 2014. Washington is the first member of head coach Pat Chambers' 2014 recruiting class.
"I decided I just knew Penn State was where I wanted to go. After my visit, it was obvious," Washington said from his home Sunday night. "The academics were one of the main things that sold me. Coach Chambers and his plans for Penn State, I would love to be a part of something like that."
Washington was offered a scholarship by Chambers when he made an unofficial visit last week. He also had offers from George Mason, James Madison and St. Joseph's and had received interest from other Division I programs like Villanova, Syracuse and Baylor.
He's a slasher of a guard with exceptional ball-handling. He has the ability to either play the point where he can be a facilitator - he led the Millionaires in assists ä or he can play an off-guard spot and be counted on to carry a scoring load.
"(Chambers) says he wants me to score first and facilitate," Washington said. "He wants me to be more of a combo guard. He said I could be either the one or the two. But he made it clear that by coming there he wanted me to be scoring and facilitating. That's fine by me as long as we're winning."
"Isaiah is a scoring guard," Williamsport head coach Allen Taylor said. "One thing I try to stress to all of my guys is don't pigeon-hole yourself and be one dimensional. When we moved him to the wing, he was able to score more without having to initiate the offense and cover the other team's best guard. There were times that he played off-guard, but he played the point a good portion, too. I think at the next level, having better players around him, he's going to be a solid point guard if that's where he's needed, but he can be a combo and do both."
Washington averaged 12.3 points per game this season, but was at his best in the postseason where he averaged better than 15 points per game. In a win over Souderton in the first round of the PIAA Class AAAA playoffs, Washington had 20 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals. In an overtime loss to Harrisburg in the second round, he had 16 points and six steals.
Recruiting analyst Alex Kline of TheRecruitScoop.com said Washington is "an extremely under-the-radar guard for the 2014 class." But this was something Taylor saw coming after Rizzo Productions put out a highlight video Washington following his eighth-grade season. That's when he started to see the interest growing from college coaches who initially wanted to see how Washington would respond to playing varsity basketball as a 6-foot-3 guard. Then after a summer of exposure playing AAU ball, coaches wanted to see how he grew between his freshman and sophomore seasons.
After helping a Williamsport team win a state playoff game a year after going 5-17, Washington had coaches' interest piqued.
"Nobody was committing when he was in eighth grade, but we got a lot of calls. Lots of schools had him on the radar," Taylor said. "I think he gave schools a lot of confidence that he'll be pretty good by the time he graduates."
Despite all the basketball reasons to choose Penn State, Washington still says he was driven by the academics. He's an honors student with a 4.0 GPA.
"The academics help they have for athletes is great," Washington said. "Graduating and getting a degree is something that appeals to me. I wanted to go play basketball for a good program and ensure I'll leave with a degree, too."
With his decision made, Washington said he plans on focusing all his efforts during his last two seasons at Williamsport on bringing another state championship back to the Millionaires. Williamsport hasn't won a state basketball title since 1999.
Washington can sign his national letter of intent in the fall signing period of 2013.
"What it boiled down to is when do you make the decision?" Taylor said. "If you know where you want to go, why put it off? It's not like he's waiting for another school to contact him so he can stay closer to home. Having a scholarship offer on the table, get it out of the way and now you can focus on your academics and be the best player he can possibly be. There's no pressure to go out and perform and hope some schools offers him something. He's playing stress free."
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