By LARRY VAUGHT
It’s no surprise that P.J. Washington is fine with opening the season against No. 4 Duke tonight in Indianapolis.
“I’m a competitor. I love playing against good teams and it’s always fun when you’re playing against somebody like that, who you know can give you a game, so you go out there and play your best,” the Kentucky sophomore said.
“I think it’s great for us to go out there and play somebody like Duke. They’re a great team, a great program with great players, and we’re just excited to be able to play against somebody like that. We can’t wait to get things going.”
He knows Duke freshmen Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.
“I’ve been watching them growing up playing on the AAU circuit so I’ pretty cool with most of them. They’re great players. They’ve been having a great preseason so far and I’m just excited to see what we can do against those guys,” Washington said. “They’re under a great coach with Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) and we’re under a great coach as well, so we just have to go in and see who fights the most.”
Playing in the Champions Classic can be overwhelming, especially for freshmen. Washington admitted he didn’t know what to expect last year when UK lost 65-61 to Kansas on Nov. 14 — a week later than this year’s game. Washington did not have a field goal and finished with two points and two rebounds.
“This year I kind of know what it’s going to be like. I know what Cal expects from me and I know what he expects from the team. I just have to go out there, do what he wants and just basically produce,” Washington said.
He’s not worried about UK’s freshmen and planned to talk to them about the atmosphere. The other thing is being prepared for a late start with Michigan State and Kansas playing the first game. UK-Duke could tip about 9:30 p.m. tonight — or it could be later.
“Last year we had that as well. That game could go into overtime or stuff like that so we could be waiting all night,” Washington said. “You just have to be prepared, go out there, do your thing, stay warm and be focused.”