It didn't take long for George Washington III to assert himself as a leader on the court at a new school, even as an underclassman.
After moving from Texas to Kentucky ahead of his sophomore season, the top-50 overall prospect and No. 9 combo guard in the class of 2023 was already taking command of his new team at the Christian Academy of Louisville by the first practice.
“He comes into a brand new school, I’m the first-year head coach there, he comes into a team that had seven seniors on it, and right away when I was like, ‘Alright guys, it’s time to stretch.’ Next thing you know, he’s the vocal leader right away; ‘Balls up, time to stretch, here we go,” and he took it from there and ran with it," Aaron Hill, Washington's high school coach, told Eleven Warriors. "Everyone was bought in as him being kind of the vocal leader, the champion, the captain of the team. That’s what impressed me the most about him as a kid and just as a player in general. He is just a phenomenal vocal leader, floor general and just knows how to get people involved."
Becoming the first commit in Ohio State's class of 2023 on Wednesday, Washington is leading the way for a new program once again.
On the Court
Washington's shooting ability, both spotting up and off the dribble, is evident in any highlight clip you'll see of his.
Hill said Washington is already among the top shooters in the country, and compared his star player to the likes of NBA guards Jamal Murray and Devin Booker.
"He has some explosiveness to his game, but he’s a tremendous shotmaker like Booker is," Hill said. "He seems to get more and more athletic as he gets older and as his body is developing more and more. Obviously he has a long way to go to be one of those guys, which any kid does, but I think that’s kind of where his game fits. We’ve watched some high school film on Devin Booker, and a lot of their moves and everything seemed kind of similar.”
While Washington often runs the point for his high school program, Hill said Ohio State could also move him to the two at the collegiate level.
“I think the style of play fits him very well, and I think they love the fact that he can play point for them, but he can also move to the two a little bit if they have another point to come in," Hill said. "They think he can probably get in there and play early and contribute early, and I think that’s very appealing to him.”
While his offensive abilities are obvious, defense, rebounding and adding strength are all among the top priorities Hill has outlined for Washington as far as immediate improvement before he reaches the next level.
“The biggest thing we’re focusing on right now, No. 1, is strength," Hill said. "He’s gotta continue to build muscle and get some strength, get more physical in his upper body. He’s increased his vertical quite a bit since last year. He’s always working at improving his game, he focuses on skills a ton, he’s a very highly-skilled player. One focus area we’re really pushing is his rebounding because he’s a kid that, since he’s increased his vertical and he’s a bigger point guard right now, he needs to take advantage of going up and getting as many rebounds as he can. That way he can start our break and get it going and keep the ball in his hands as much as possible."
In the Class
On the heels of closing out a top-five class in the country with the commitment of 2022 small forward Brice Sensabaugh on Sept. 28, Holtmann and company are making quick strides toward another impressive haul in 2023.
Washington is no doubt a prospect to build a class around, and the Buckeyes recently earned their way into the top three of another 2023 guard, as Dayton's Gabe Cupps announced Sunday that he'll choose between Ohio State, Indiana and Stanford. The 6-foot-2 point guard is a three-star prospect and the No. 131 player in the country, and could become the second Buckeye commitment in 2023 after Washington.
Several other in-state prospects in the class of 2023 are being targeted by the Buckeyes, including another Dayton native in Wayne's Lawrent Rice – a three-star combo guard – and 6-foot-6 Pickerington Central small forward Devin Royal, who recently earned an offer from Ohio State.
Rayvon Griffith, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Taft in Cincinnati, is another in-state target of interest for the Buckeyes in this recruiting cycle. The 180-pound wing is rated as the No. 37 overall prospect in the class, and the No. 8 shooting guard.
|POS||SENIORS||JUNIORS||SOPHOMORES||FRESHMEN||2022 COMMITS||2023 Commits|
|C||JOEY BRUNK (6TH)||–||ZED KEY||–||FELIX OKPARA|
KYLE YOUNG (5TH)
SETH TOWNS (6TH)
|E.J. LIDDELL||–||KALEN ETZLER||–|
JUSTICE SUEING (5TH)
JUSTIN AHRENS (4TH)
|–||EUGENE BROWN||–||BRICE SENSABAUGH|
|SG||CEDRIC RUSSELL (5TH)||–||
|GEORGE WASHINGTON III|
JIMMY SOTOS (5TH)
JAMARI WHEELER (5TH)
|–||MEECHIE JOHNSON||–||BRUCE THORNTON|
There should be no shortage of backcourt talent at Ohio State upon Washington's entrance to the program. Meechie Johnson Jr. and Malaki Branham – both freshmen this season for the Buckeyes – will only be juniors in eligibility by the start of the 2023 season.
In the class ahead of Washington, four-star point guard Bruce Thornton – the No. 42 player in the class of 2022 – is one of three guards joining the program, alongside the No. 7 and No. 48 shooting guards in the country; Roddy Gayle and Bowen Hardman.
Aside from his aforementioned penchant for leadership, Hill said Washington also possesses a work ethic that is second to none.
The son of a former longtime Texas women's basketball assistant coach, Washington is described as a high-character kid and 4.1 GPA student. Hill said Washington puts in all the extra hours on the hardwood that a college coach would love to see.
“As far as a player’s perspective and his development, he works so hard and really works at his game and is just trying to constantly improve his craft," Hill said. "We do a lot of morning sessions and runs after school right now that, none of these are mandatory, they’re all voluntary stuff for the whole team. He’s always a guy that’s usually first one in, last one to leave. And then he’s also going and working on his game with a couple different trainers. He’s just doing anything he can do to get better, to improve his game."
Washington makes no secret about his desire for a professional future in the sport of basketball, and even works with Louisville Legends basketball trainer Dion Lee, who once helped former Buckeye D'Angelo Russell develop into an eventual NBA star.
"His ultimate goal is he wants to be a pro, and I think he’s putting himself on that right track and setting himself up for that," Hill said. "That’s not just with the basketball, but it’s also outside the basketball too. The perception of himself, the way he carries himself, whether it’s in school, in the community, at church, with his teammates, with his friends, he’s an all-around great teammate and he’s just a great kid to coach."