PJ Washington is ready for the next level and is set to showcase his skills.
“I can't wait to get to Charlotte, show what I can do,” Washington said. “I’m a very versatile player. (I’m a) great locker room guy — just willing to give anything for my teammates.”
Washington was one of three Kentucky players who were taken in the first round of the NBA Draft last week. Washington was selected by the Charlotte Hornets as the 12th overall pick and will join former Kentucky players Malik Monk and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Washington said he felt “a lot of excitement” as he crossed the podium following his selection.
“I can't thank God enough,” he said. “Excited for me and my family. I can't thank them enough. I can't thank my coach enough. Just blessed to be in this position.”
Washington praised Kentucky coach John Calipari for preparing him for the next level.
“He prepared me a lot from day one, ever since I stepped on (the court at) Kentucky,” Washington said. “He's been a great leader for the program. He built everybody up to be a pro. Just did a lot for me and my family. I just can't thank him enough.”
Like Washington, Herro will join another former Kentucky player in Miami. Herro, the No. 13 pick in the draft, will play alongside Bam Adebayo with the Heat, the team’s 14th selection in the 2017 NBA Draft. The team president is former Kentucky player Pat Riley.
“Obviously he has a great tradition in Miami,” Herro said of Riley. “What they've done, they've won a lot of games and a lot of series and championships.”
Miami fans weren’t overly excited about the pick, but Riley is anxious to see what Herro can do for the Heat in the future and added “we’re really excited about Tyler.”
“I’m not going to criticize our loyal fans out in the bowl, but if they don’t watch the University of Kentucky play basketball, what can I say,” Riley said. “They’ve only had one of the greatest records and runs in the last five years, and by the way, if they don’t believe this kid is pretty good, they don’t like Bam Adebayo, either. We’ve got back-to-backs from an incredible program.”
Herro wasn’t surprised he followed Washington in the draft order and thought the possibility existed prior to the draft.
“We talked about it actually, going back-to-back,” he said. “That would be cool. Just happy that he got drafted. It was very cool to see him get drafted. I know how hard he works and how hard he wants it. I was happy to see him get picked.”
Keldon Johnson had to wait longer than his two former teammates to find out his destination, but was chosen as the 29th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs. Johnson said he will “fit pretty well” in the organization.
“I feel I could play well with any players,” he said. “I feel I'm not hard to play with. I feel I am very versatile. That's one thing I take pride in is I bring a lot of energy and I'm hard-working. … I think I bring a lot of energy, hard-working. I think that I can get up and down and run. I feel like I'm very versatile, play multiple positions.”
Johnson is also prepared for the limelight in San Antonio.
“I'm used to it,” he said. “I feel like at Kentucky, like you said, in Lexington, it's the University of Kentucky. So going into here, I'm very excited. I'm ready to learn and work — come in and be the best player I can be.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.