When Mick Cronin was sidelined for several months last year due to a health issue, he received well-wishes from all over the country. One of the people that reached out was an opposing player at a game that the UC head coach was unable to attend.
“When we played NC State and won,” said Cronin, “I’m talking to Coach Davis on the phone when they’re on their way to the plane and telling him that he did a great job and he said, ‘Hey. Kyle Washington came running over to me when I came out of the locker room to ask me how you’re doing.’ Most teenagers tend to forget about things that don’t include their iPhone or a new pair of shoes and that’s just the type of person that Kyle is. He ran right to Larry and was immediately asking about me.”
The Bearcats had recruited Washington coming out of high school before he elected to play for the Wolfpack. But after starting 43 games over two seasons, the power forward decided to change schools.
“I’m sitting at home watching ESPN and I see on the bottom of the screen that NC State forward Kyle Washington announces that he will transfer,” said Cronin. “There was an immediate scramble to get to Kyle and get him on the phone as soon as I could get his release from NC State. I spent the next three months chasing him because everybody in the country was recruiting Kyle. When you have a 6’10” guy that can shoot the ball, is aggressive, and is a great kid that has no issues and brings nothing but positivity to your program, everybody that had an available scholarship was trying to sign him.”
In early July, Washington announced he would play his final two college seasons at Cincinnati.
“Coach Cronin was the first one to let me know that he wanted to offer me a scholarship coming off of my sophomore year,” Washington told me. “I did have a lot of options, but at this point, it was really about knowing what I had to improve on and Coach is a great defensive mind – he’s a great basketball mind in general. He was letting me know that you need to come here because I can really turn you into a great basketball player. He has taught me so much in the few months that I’ve been here.”
Washington is practicing with the Bearcats this year before returning to action next season.
“To tell you the truth, it’s OK for me right now because I’m learning so many different things that I had to learn,” said Washington. “On my official visit, Coach Cronin let me know exactly what I could do and he said exactly what I needed to improve on.”
One thing Washington didn’t need to be taught when he got to Cincinnati was how to compete on a daily basis.
“I play with a lot of passion and I never take a day at the D-I level for granted,” said Washington. “A lot of people do, and in our game we should never take that for granted. I’m a high-intensity guy – that’s how I play – and I’m high-intensity off the court too. I just love to play and that’s where that passion comes from.”
“Kyle is a great leader for our team,” said junior Kevin Johnson. “I’ve known him coming up through AAU basketball and he brings energy, effort, and toughness to our team every day. He enjoys the game and has great pride in being a Bearcat now.”
“He’s a very competitive guy,” said sophomore Gary Clark. “When we’re doing drills, we always partner up because he’s always going at me and I’m always going at him. We’re making each other better and he’s pushed me to be more competitive.”
The Bearcats will lose two key big men at the end of the year in seniors Octavius Ellis and Coreontae DeBerry, but they’re confident that Washington will help fill the void next season.
“We know what to expect from him and this is a good process for him,” said Johnson. “He gets a front row seat to all of the games and a front row seat to us as players. He knows how to work with us, and we know how to play with him. I am definitely looking forward to playing with him next year.”
Kyle is already helping the team as a leader.
“We put a lot of time into character development and trying to help guys grow up and get ready for the real world but Kyle Washington doesn’t need a lot of help with that because he has great parents,” said Cronin. “He comes from a great family and is a very polished young person.”
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you’re on Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1