Another University of Kentucky basketball phenom came to Owensboro on Saturday in hopes of securing a solid fanbase before turning pro. Following the path of Reid Travis and Tyler Herro before him, PJ Washington etched his name into the memories of fans from all over Western Kentucky while signing pictures, basketballs and other memorabilia for members of Big Blue Nation at Legend’s Sports Bar and Grill.
Before the event, which was scheduled from 6-8:30 p.m. but lasted until well past 10 p.m., Washington spoke highly of Kentucky head coach John Calipari while also commenting on his decision at this time last year to return to school for a second crack at a national championship. While the Wildcats ultimately fell short of that goal, Washington reiterated the importance of year two in Lexington.
“I had a lot of confidence in coach Cal’s advice to come back for a second season,” Washington said. “He guided me through the whole process and I can’t thank him enough for it. It was such a beneficial season. My shooting, passing and defense have all improved this season. I put in the hard work and my teammates helped me improve as well. It was a great year.”
As excited as Washington is for the upcoming NBA Draft, he reiterated the thankfulness he has for all the fans who faithfully turned up to support him throughout the season and especially on Saturday night.
“There is nothing like the attention from the fans all over the state,” Washington said. “We can’t really go anywhere without spotting some of our fans, which is pretty cool. It’s great to see all of the supporters in real life, especially all the way over here in Owensboro. It’s going to be hard leaving the kind of support we have at UK, but I’m excited for the challenges I will face at the next level.”
While hundreds of fans from all over Kentucky and the greater Owensboro area showed up to Legend’s on Saturday, one very special fan led the charge at the front of the line.
Corlie Reynolds, of Owensboro, along with her grandmother Judy Johnson, purchased VIP passes and wasted no time making friends with the Kentucky star they had watched play so many games on TV. According to Judy, Corlie has been on bedrest for the last 22 weeks.
“It means the world to Corlie,” Johnson said. “The Kentucky games are a huge part of what keeps Corlie from being bored and depressed at home. The idea of getting to come to see PJ thrilled her, and he is really lifting her spirit.”
Fans of all ages gathered to meet PJ Washington, from small children to grandparents. Washington stuck around for them all — a fact that was not lost on one of his biggest fans hailing from Utica, eighth-grader Hunter Yeckering.
“PJ is my favorite player to have played for Kentucky,” Yeckering said. “He improved so much since his freshman year and I loved the attitude he played with each game. He’s awesome!”