Howard Washington, Canisius

Photo from The Buffalo News

By Aaron Mansfield

Kyle Husband wanted to give his guys a break. It was the end of the summer, and the Canisius basketball coach knew his players, many of whom had been doing offseason workouts and lifts in addition to football or AAU basketball, could use a couple weeks off before fall practice began.

Howard Washington did not like the idea.

“He was the first one calling,” Husband said. “He said, ‘All right, we don’t need a break. Let’s get after it.’”

Washington has a mustache and a surprisingly deep voice. He is the highest-ranked recruit to come out of Buffalo since Jonny Flynn. Many consider the 6-foot-3, 165-pound point guard the finest baller in Western New York high school hoops.

He is also a sophomore.

Canisius High School lost a lot of talent to graduation. Gone are standouts Adam Weir (Canisius College), Aaron White (Brockport) and Matt MacDonald (Farleigh Dickinson). But what Canisius returns, well, that’s the worst-kept secret in Buffalo.

Canisius returns its stellar sophomore, who played the sixth-man role on last year’s Monsignor Martin championship team, which lost to Nazareth in the New York State Catholic championship game. He is the No. 8-ranked point guard in the Class of 2016. He already has six Division I offers, from schools like Virginia and Boston College, and a few others are close to making offers.

That’s a lot for a high school sophomore to handle. But Husband said keeping Washington’s ego in check has not been a challenge.

“He’s so down to earth and such a hard worker and such a good kid, that it’s not something that needs to be addressed,” Husband said.

And as for his teammates?

“I think these kids understand,” Husband said. “I think there are other guys, whether it’s football or basketball, that are getting attention. Maybe not to the level Howard is, but I think they all respect him. I think they all know he’s really good. He is so nice and such a good leader at his age already, whether it’s the last guy on the team or a senior being recruited for basketball or football, it’s not been an issue.”

Washington attributes his levelheadedness to his father, who played at Cardinal O’Hara and Medaille. All this is very new for him. He was a freshman who made varsity last year, sure, but he wasn’t getting any D-1 offers.

“I was a freshman last year. Playing time wasn’t as expected,” Washington said. “But this year should be a lot different. As a leader of the team, I expect to take us to wins.”

He progressed throughout last season. Practicing with guys like Weir and White and MacDonald made him better. Husband called it a “learning process” for Washington.

“To his credit, he stuck in there and really worked hard,” Husband said. “He really developed a lot by the end of the season last year.”

Washington still averaged 10-plus points per game last year, but pundits expect bigger numbers this year. Husband doesn’t hesitate when he’s asked where Washington has improved the most this offseason.

“Everywhere,” he said. “Yeah, he was good last year. He is really good right now. He never stopped, not for a minute. Even right after the season, he jumped into the AAU stuff. And over the summer, our workouts here, he never missed anything. His shot, his quickness, his confidence, his handle – everything has really grown during the offseason.”

Washington is not the only stud on Canisius’ roster. Husband has supreme confidence in the top seven players in his rotation, including junior shooting guard LaTerrance Reed, Washington’s backcourt mate, who Husband said will surprise people this season.

Reed and Washington have chemistry. That’s because they have been playing together since they were 6.

“He feeds off of me and I feed off him,” Reed said. “I admire that he is so young and humble. He knows he’s good, but he knows he can get a lot better in certain areas. He’s a great teammate and he knows his role in our system.”

Washington knows he is good, but he is not OK with “good.” He wants great. And to him, greatness means winning a New York State championship.

“My personal goal is to lead the team to win states,” he said. “We came up short last year, so we want to take it this year … I think a lot of people, I’ve been hearing a lot of gossip saying we’re not as good as last year’s team, but I honestly think we have the potential to be better than them and take everything.”

Canisius will open its season at home against Williamsville South Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

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