Bradley and His Shadow

Wildcats' Washington take on role model status

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

Feb. 2, 2007 - In the eyes of Lamar Elementary first-grader Ryan Humphries, Bradley Washington is more than your ordinary high school basketball player.

He is a role model.

At the district opener against Mount Pleasant, young Ryan surprised Washington with a customized uniform with the number 41 on it. With that, he became the varsity boys waterboy.

"It is real special, and it makes me feel like a pro," Washington said. "During the games, he will talk to me when I am on the bench and he will be like, 'You are doing good, just keep it up.' We will talk about how good he does during his game, and I took a picture with him and I have it up on my wall."

Washington, a senior basketball player for the Wildcats, has shown more than just leadership and hard work off of the court but on it as well.

He is averaging 11.8 points and 5.8 rebounds this season, is second on the team in 3-pointers with 23, has scored in double figures in 18 of the 25 games and has been the leading scorer in 12 games this season.

"I think it was necessary for me to step up this season and try and win games. I try to stay consistent through the game and be consistent with 13 points in four of the last six games," he said.

"At the beginning of this year, I told (Andrew) Panter, 'This is my year and you can have next year.' With him being the only junior on varsity this year, he can take on the role next year for the team. I thought it was my job since I wasn't named captain and I've got to show it on the court."

With the team's record at 18-7 overall and 3-3 in District 11-4A under first-year coach Rusty Harden, each player knows when to pick up the intensity during the games.

The Wildcats have had five different leading scorers this season in seniors Ladarius Harrison, Washington and Drew Biggerstaff and sophomores Tyrick Rollison and Colten Nash.

"I think we molded a lot better as a team this year. We've got a lot of senior leadership and it seems like when someone is not picking up the slack, then we will do that," Washington said. "When Drew scores like five or six points, Tyrick will score 18 points. Every once in a while, Cootie (Harrison) will step it up and grab rebounds like a maniac."

Sulphur Springs is in the thick of the playoff race, tied for fourth place and just one game out of first. A win tonight against Lindale would put them in a tie for second with four games remaining.

In all of the district games, the Wildcats have either held a lead or came from behind in the last 4:30 of the game. The average margin of loss or victory in those six games has been 6.8 points.

"I'd rather it be that we blow them away," Washington said. "We are letting teams stay with us, and I feel like we are the best team in the district but we are just not showing it. We are not keeping our leads and we need to stay calm.

"I think they are picking up pressure on us and then we start turning the ball over during that stretch of the game."

He said his ultimate goal is to make it to the playoffs in his final season on varsity.

"I want a district championship, and if not then I want to make it to the playoffs," he said. "This season has meant a lot and has kept me in school. Basketball keeps me on track and keeps me busy."

Washington, the second of four kids and the son of Bennie and Jennifer Harris, plans on attending Stephen F. Austin State University to become a physical therapist or a coach.

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