It’s been a rough few years for Tar Heel freshman forward Jalen Washington. The former five-star recruit who finished his high school career as a four-star, tore the ACL in his right knee twice. Still rehabbing from the injury, Washington didn’t see his first action until UNC’s December 13th win over the Citadel – playing six minutes in the 100-67 win and scoring six points on 2-4 shooting from the floor.
Since his debut, Washington has seen limited action in all of the Tar Heels’ games except their 76-74 loss to Pitt, but Tuesday’s matchup against Virginia was his official coming out party.
Less than two minutes into the 65-58 loss, leading scorer and rebounder Amardo Bacot went down with an ankle injury. Washington came into the contest with 12:21 remaining in the first half and the Tar Heels trailing the Cavaliers 10-5 and had an immediate impact, scoring seven of the Tar Heels’ next 11 points – finishing the half with 12 points on 5-7 shooting from the floor.
“His number was called tonight,” UNC head coach Hubert Davis said after the game. “It was called for him to play extended minutes – more than he has since coming back and I thought he played fantastic. To be a freshman, to be on the road and to get extended minutes, I was very pleased with him and very proud.”
Despite losing, Washington’s play was a bright spot for a Tar Heel team that’s still searching for their first true road win. With Pete Nance out with a back injury and Armando Bacot sidelined early in the game, it was Jalen’s spark that kept the Tar Heels in the game. There’s no doubt he’ll continue to be contributor for UNC going forward, as his upside is limitless.