Lamar Washington (6) led Jefferson in scoring, assists and steals as a sophomore. (Courtesy photo)
Lamar Washington (6) led Jefferson in scoring, assists and steals as a sophomore. (Courtesy photo)

Since first putting on a Jefferson uniform in 2018, Lamar Washington has made a deep impact on the state's most high-profile boys basketball program.

As a freshman, the 6-foot-4 southpaw guard cracked the rotation on a stacked roster. As a sophomore, he not only became a team captain, but he led the Democrats in scoring, assists and steals.

And now, if he gets a chance at a junior season, the new-look Washington is primed to explode.

“So far, I've made myself happy, but now I'm just pushing myself to the next level,” said Washington, a major college recruit in basketball and football. “I feel like I can surprise people a lot this year. Just patiently waiting.”

Washington has been busy during the shutdown refining his game at city parks and on AAU and all-star teams. His most significant progress, however, is in how he has reshaped his body.

After playing at 225 pounds as a sophomore, he improved his diet, cranked up his training and got down to 192 pounds. He is currently at a sculpted 205 pounds.

Jefferson coach Pat Strickland is excited about the progress made by Washington, who last season averaged 14.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

“The only thing you would really knock on his game in the last couple years was that he was young and he was pudgy," Strickland said. "He's not young anymore, and he's not pudgy anymore.”

Washington has been impressive in limited competition since last season, when he helped lead Jefferson into the 6A quarterfinals before the state tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

He played for the Salem-based Oregon Prospects in tournaments at Las Vegas and Idaho in the summer and fall before joining Jefferson teammates Nate Rawlins-Kibonge and Marquis Cook with the U.S. Basketball Academy, which trains in Blue River. He played in eight games with the U.S. Basketball Academy at a tournament in Arizona in November, scoring 40 points in one game.

His improved conditioning allows him to play harder for longer on defense, he said. And he is more explosive on offense, able to blow past defenders and elevate at the rim.

“When I go to the rim, I might lay it up, I might dunk it,” he said. “I have to figure it out.”

Strickland said “you can see the improvement” in Washington.

“He just kind of chiseled up, which made him more explosive,” Strickland said. “It gave him a better body type, and what I mean by that is more of a Division I combo-guard, point-guard look."

Strickland was able to watch Washington's games in Arizona online.

“He was handling the ball more as a true point guard,” Strickland said. “He can score at every level. Great passer. But the biggest thing I like about him is his toughness, and his defense. He's willing to work hard. He's just one of those two-way players that can do it all."

Washington also has improved his deep shooting stroke from last season, when he shot 30.6 percent from three-point range (41 for 134).

“I'm shooting a lot more accurate,” he said. “I'm getting my shot down the same every time, trying to shoot the exact same shot. Instead of making two or three in a row, I'm making more like eight in a row. I've been really, really efficient. I've been shooting NBA range and beyond there, every time I work out. We don't really practice at the high school line.”

Washington has nine Division I offers for basketball, among them Oregon State, Washington State, Pepperdine, Pacific and Montana. A four-star recruit as an outside linebacker, he is an even hotter commodity in football, attracting offers from USC, UCLA, Oregon State, Nebraska, California, Kansas, Nevada and Utah State.

How will Washington chose between a future in basketball and football, a sport he returned to in 2019 after not playing for three years?

“Basketball is my first love, but whichever one puts me and my family in the best position, I'm going to take at the end of the day,” Washington said.

Strickland said that Washington, who carries a 3.75 GPA, is “definitely worthy” of playing for a Power Five conference team in basketball.

“If I was a betting man, I would bet that he's going to play Division I basketball,” Strickland said. “I think he's one of the best players on the West Coast. If we ever get to play basketball again, I think he'll certainly prove it on the court.”