BOULDER, Colo. — Utah center Jason Washburn is on the verge of reaching a major milestone. The senior is just 26 points shy of becoming the 35th player in University of Utah men’s basketball history to score 1,000 points in his career.
It’s a mark Washburn could reach in Thursday night’s game at Colorado.
“Where it happens and when it happens it’s going to feel great,” said Washburn, who will be the first player since 2009 to reach the mark.
It’ll put Washburn in an exclusive group that is pretty much a who’s who in Runnin’ Utes history. The list is headlined by all-time scoring leader Keith Van Horn and includes current NBA players Andre Miller and Andrew Bogut, as well as standouts like Billy McGill, Josh Grant, Luke Nevill, Mike Newlin, Ticky Burden, Jeff Judkins, Danny Vranes, Tom Chambers, Michael Doleac, Jerry Chambers and Ken Gardner.
“Just to put my name in the category of those people is a huge honor and a compliment to me,” Washburn said. “I hope it shows people how hard I’ve worked over the past four years.”
Things haven’t been easy. Washburn has had 55 teammates and two head coaches (Jim Boylen, Larry Krystkowiak) during his tenure with the Utes.
“There was plenty of times where I was just ready to break down and throw my hands up in the air and say ‘I can’t do this any more’ just because we had so many guys leave,” Washburn said. “Even though I hold no grudges against anyone that left. They all did it because it was best for them and you can’t hate someone for that.
“But there were times where it was happening where you feel a sense of abandonment and you feel a sense of resentment towards that person because you feel like they’re just walking away,” he added.
Washburn noted that the Utes could have been “scary good” had players like Carlon Brown, Marshall Henderson, Jordan Cyphers and Chris Hines opted not to transfer and if center Dave Foster had been able to stay healthy.
“We could have been a force,” Washburn said.
Utah, instead, has endured some challenges. The Utes entered the Pac-12 last season in a rebuilding mode. As the lone holdover on the active roster, Washburn acknowledged there’s a little bit of resentment for others who chose not to stick around.
“I put my head down and fought through the turmoil. Why couldn’t you? If I can take anything from my career I can be proud of myself for knowing that not only did I stick with my teammates and my coach and my new coach, I stuck with this program and this fan base. I know I can walk away proud of that,” he said.
Reaching the 1,000-point mark, Washburn noted, is kind of a reward of sorts. There’s been a lot of “shoulda, coulda, woulda” when it comes to wins and losses in recent times. Utah has lost eight games by five points or less this season.
“Unfortunately that’s just how my career and some games have been playing out for us and for me,” Washburn said.
As his senior year winds downs, however, Washburn is on a roll. He’s averaging a career-high 11.8 points and 6.7 rebounds this season.
“We’re constantly striving to have guys get better and I know he wants to finish the senior year off right. He’s doing a nice job for us,” Krystkowiak said. “I know Jason well enough to know that it’s not about individual performances for him. He just wants to win and he’s well aware that we’ve got a lot better chance to win when he’s producing for us. There’s a correlation with our season. So we depend on him to get some stuff done.”
Besides having four double-doubles in Pac-12 play, Washburn matched his career high with 26 points in last week’s 60-55 win over Arizona State.
It just happens to be the exact amount of points the 6-foot-10, 242-pounder from Battle Creek, Mich., needs to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
“It’s a huge deal with all the tradition and history that our program has with great players like Keith Van Horn, Luke Nevill, Andre Miller, Michael Doleac,” said teammate Jeremy Olsen, a redshirt freshman. “It’s just a great group to be with for Washburn, that’s for sure.”
Olsen added that Washburn has a great love for the game and the Utah program.
“You can tell how much he loves to be here with the enthusiasm on the bench, when he’s on the court and after games we win,” Olsen said. “He’s just a great example to all of us and someone who provides a lot of energy for the team.”