*Photo taken by Phenom Hoops’ co-worker Frank Bennett.
Let’s go ahead and put it out there bluntly: players who can score well in basketball will always get the first look. It’s a notion that has existed ever since the game first came into formation and will likely persist for as long as we know. Scoring rests as the sport’s most valuable area, yes, but I personally feel it gets in the way of overshadowing other important elements. An individual can go out there on the court and put up 30 points but without success in defense, rebounding, decision-making, and teamwork by him and the other four players on the floor, a win isn’t guaranteed. Other coaches and scouts like myself have stated in the past (and still now) that the game requires so much more than scoring; there’s many different little things one can do to contribute. I can’t stress enough how many times I’ve seen a game be determined by an offensive rebound, drawn charge, steal, or whatever else. While covering these teenage hoopers in Virginia, I definitely always take note of leading scorers but also try my best in deeming others who produce nicely in other ways. There’s been a handful of those in that particular group and I hope this new series I’m introducing, titled ‘The Unsung Heroes,’ can alert next-level coaches to their on-court value.
Logan Washington ’20 kicks things off first; an athletic forward whom I’ve regarded as one of Virginia’s most underrated.
A couple of summers ago, back in 2017, I was in my college days but still often attended AAU tournaments from time to time. I can remember sitting in the stands at one of July’s final events, in Greensboro, NC that same summer, and couldn’t help but become fascinated by this lanky player who kept rejecting everyone’s shot that dared to test him. I ultimately learned the player was indeed Washington, who had just wrapped up his freshmen season at Woodside High School (Newport News, VA) at the time. Frank Bennett, aka Coach Frank and the 757 guru of our Phenom Hoop Report team, had recognized the young prospect’s promise early in that 2016-17 season and had strong words of praise to say:
“Logan is 6’6” with long arms; his mother, who played high school basketball in Indiana, tells me his doctor projects he will reach 7’1”! He is athletic and has really improved his skills in all areas, showing confidence and impact. Logan is becoming a very good finisher around the rim, has a baby hook in his growing repertoire, and also shows a soft touch around the rim. He does a great job sealing his defender and asking for the ball, using great hands and decisive moves to the rim. Logan can step out and hit the jumper and can knock down the occasional three-pointer. He does very well on screen and roll actions especially. I’m most impressed with his shot-blocking ability and his ability to gather himself and contest the next shot.” – (7/12/17).
Well, Washington hasn’t quite reached 7’1” yet… now standing at 6’7,” but a late growth spurt entering his college years still remains possible. Regardless, that old report by Coach Frank illustrates all that the calm rising senior did best both back then and in this present time. After two seasons with the Woodside Wolverines, Washington recently spent his junior year as a member of the varsity program at Life Christian Academy (Chester, VA); a highly talented team that contained a couple of his AAU teammates. I had the chance to see the Eagles compete about five times during the 2018-19 school season. One of the first viewings included arguably December’s most anticipated matchup: Life Christian versus SPIRE Academy (Geneva, OH); a roster that featured high school sensation LaMelo Ball ’19 and three other national recruits in Myron Gardner ’19, Isaiah Jackson ’20, and Terry Lockett, Jr. ’20.
The game, held at Virginia State University (Petersburg, VA), brought out approximately 2,000 spectators and resulted as an entertaining show put on by both programs. Life Christian really made a name for themselves that night on December 5th. 6’8” standout Marchelus ‘Chi Chi’ Avery ’20 posted a game-high 26 points and six rebounds, Dominique Finney ’19 added 16 points, and scintillating floor general Antonio ‘Spider’ Bridy ’19 got the crowd into a frenzy with his ball-handling wizardry. Playing alongside talented peers, Washington’s game performance quietly went under the radar but I took note of how he made it difficult for SPIRE’s tall frontcourt to complete plays at the rim. In addition, he finished well inside and had three thunderous dunks en route to 12 points on 50% shooting. A little over a month late, when Life Christian earned an invite to Benton, KY for the ‘Big Baller Beatdown’ event in mid-January, hosted by ‘The Grind Session,’ Washington again stood out in his rim protection prowess. The way he showed an ability to consistently block shots against opponents taller than him is when I realized he was the real deal on that side of the ball. He has a gift of timing and quickly gets off of the floor to become a force.
Washington continued his fine play for the rest of the regular season but turned it up to a greater notch once postseason competition arrived. Life Christian entered the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) state tournament as a favorite to take home the Division III state crown. The Eagles would ultimately receive strong play from their starting core and go on to win it all after taking down Eastern Mennonite High School (Harrisonburg, VA), 63-59, in a hard-fought contest on March 2nd. I definitely found approval in Washington’s reliable performances over that weekend, as he made my Division III tournament Final Four standout list:
“Man, does Washington give his team a spark in different areas outside of purely scoring. The 6’7” forward had a block party throughout the two days, as he swatted away shot after shot around the rim. It doesn’t matter the size or how good one might be at finishing; Washington will most likely find a way to contest or deny close attempts nine times out of ten. His way of also giving trouble to players trying to score on the perimeter makes me feel he played the best defense out of the Life Christian squad. Offensively, the junior has great energy that leads to him successfully pulling down offensive rebounds and scoring, while also drawing fouls with pivots/patience in the paint. Washington still looks a tad bit raw… but his skill has taken a big leap. He does a bunch of little things that helps the team win and has played some of the most versatile defense I’ve witnessed all season. He finished with 10 points and six rebounds in the title victory, along with plenty of blocks.” – (3/4/19).
That constant recognition of defense also led to Washington landing a spot on my 2019 ‘804 All-Defense Team’ (3/7/19); highlighting ten of the best defenders in Richmond, VA. He earned a first team nod; being labeled as “arguably the area’s best at blocking shots” and one on the list who had the most likelihood in “tallying a triple double of points, rebounds, and blocks.”
My most recent coverage of Washington happened during the first-ever ‘Virginia Live Period Shootout’ back in late-June, as Life Christian participated in both sessions of the two-part event (6/21 – 6/23 and 6/28 – 6/30). The forward looked just as productive as ever in those same areas of finishing and defense, while also showing a stronger frame and higher vertical leap. It doesn’t matter where his teammates throw the ball…Washington knows how to find a way in going to get it and finish. A couple of weeks after the ‘Shootout’ wrapped up, he received a well-deserved Division I offer from LIU-Brooklyn (Brooklyn, NY) on July 11th.
By now, one can probably discern that I’m a big fan of Washington’s defensive play. I know I might sound like I’m repeating his impressive instincts on that end but I truly feel he’s one of the best examples of how intimidation can change the entire course of a game. Guys don’t want to keep attacking into the lane if they keep getting their shot swatted away from an authoritative player like Washington. He sends a message from the very jump and doesn’t ever really take a break when it comes to protecting the basket for 32 minutes. As a coach, I’d definitely want a player like that on my squad: expressionless but also merciless. One might want to buy a ticket just to see his defense alone, trust me.
Stay tuned for more upcoming features on ‘Unsung Heroes!’