By LARRY VAUGHT
The Charlotte Hornets have had success drafting University of Kentucky players and did again Thursday when they made PJ Washington the 12th pick in the draft.
However, Charlotte president of basketball operations and general manager Mitch Kupchak said a lot of thought goes into the selection — and it is not just about the basketball ability Washington had.
“We take into a lot of factors, besides just the ability to play, [we look at] their character, work habits and teammates. [PJ Washington] checked all the boxes,” Kupchak said. “He is very versatile. He can be very athletic and skilled. He can rebound, shoot the ball and he is long.
“He made a huge jump from his freshman year to his sophomore year. If he can continue to make that kind of jump, then he will be a good player in this league for a long time.”
That’s the same thing ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said about Washington before the draft after he opted to stay at UK for a second season. His scoring average increased to 15.2 points per game from 10.8 as a freshman and his rebounding went from 5.7 per game to 7.5. He also blocked more shots.
His biggest bump came in shooting where he improved his 3-point shooting to 42.3 percent after making just 24 percent of his treys as a freshman.
“My freshman year, every time I caught the ball and went up with it, I kind of dipped the ball a little bit,” Washington explained to Charlotte media members after the draft. “I just tried to eliminate that, just tried to get into a quicker motion, a lot smoother.
“Then once I did, I got a lot of reps in and building my confidence with it and once that happened I started going from there.”