Washington’s presence a difference maker for ECU

Published 4:05 pm Thursday, December 1, 2016

GREENVILLE — Standing over 7-feet, it’s hard to miss East Carolina center Andre Washington when he’s on the floor.

The graduate transfer from Wake Forest has been a main cog in the Pirates’ early-season success, leading the team in rebounds and blocks, while being a key presence in the paint on both ends of the court.

Though early, the Pirates sit third nationally in total rebounds (355) and defensive rebounds (254) and 11th in blocks (46). You can chalk that up to the big man.

“He’s just so helpful around that rim,” head coach Jeff Lebo said of Washington. “Having him back there is obviously a lot different for us, making guys miss.”

Washington, in a way, is the first of his kind at ECU in the Lebo-era. Never known for bringing big, skilled players, Lebo has welcomed his 7-foot-1 star with open arms, and he’s shined through the early part of the non-conference schedule.

Not only does he lead the team in some key, defensive categories, Washington is seen favorably in the eyes of advanced statisticians. He leads the team in box plus-minus — which estimates the points per 100 possessions a player contributes above the league-average player, translated to the average team. In simpler terms, it measures how Washington stacks up to his peers in the box score.

Washington’s 9.4 total plus-minus gives him a nearly seven-point lead over second-place Jabari Craig. What’s more is he’s the only player on the team to be positive in both offensive and defensive box plus-minus.

“Once I get the ball inside, coach emphasizes playing inside out,” Washington said of playing down low offensively. “B.J. (Tyson) always finds me and I tell him to cut through and I’ll find you.”

But even with Washington’s early-season success on the offensive end of the court, Lebo brought in the graduate transfer to be a shot blocker and post-stopper. So far, against smaller teams, Washington has dominated defensively and chipped in offensively. When conference play heats up, it’ll be on the big man to continue to stop opposing teams in the paint.

As of the team’s win over Hampton Tuesday, Washington has blocked 11 percent of the shots taken while he’s on the floor. Those numbers not only look good on the stat sheet, but make a difference in close games.

For Washington, the transfer to ECU opened a door that he wasn’t afforded while at Wake Forest. Washington didn’t play much in the uber-competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. For the Pirates in the American Athletic Conference, Washington has a chance to see the court and be an impact player.

“His presence around the rim is so much different for us because he blocks shots, but he also alters so many shots,” Lebo said.

ECU recently returned home from a third-place showing in the Savannah Invitational. Washington and the Pirates will resume their homestand on Saturday when they host North Carolina Central at 5 p.m.