Boys basketball: Washington, CJ make good first impression

Trotwood struggles in Pullen’s debut as head coach

TROTWOOD – Chaminade Julienne’s George Washington III – the senior transfer from Kentucky who has signed to play at Michigan – made his much-anticipated Miami Valley debut Saturday night. His 24 points and smooth shooting impressed the big crowd.

And the crowd impressed Washington.

“I can already see they love basketball in Dayton,” he said. “I love the environment. We played a great game, we really got after it, and I’m thankful I’m here.”

Charlie Szabo’s Eagles made an impression that, a least for now, backed up the hype surrounding his team as one of the elite Division II teams in the state. The Eagles shot well from the start and coasted to a 94-58 victory over Trotwood-Madison.

“We played really well,” Szabo said. “We thought if we came in here and attacked, and we were the more physical, aggressive team, we thought we had a chance to come out of here with a victory.”

The Eagles made seven 3-pointers to help build a 49-33 halftime lead and finished with a school-record 12. They shot 50% from 3-point range, 60.7% overall and made 8-of-9 free throws.

“They shot the ball well, and we didn’t play with a lot of energy tonight,” said Rams new coach Pete Pullen, whose resume includes four state championships at Dunbar. “I told them I was disappointed. We didn’t bring it, but this is game one and we’ve got 21 more games to improve on this.”

CJ reached the state final four two years ago and finished 17-8 last year with Division I prospect Jonathan Powell leading the team in scoring. Powell is at Centerville this year, which meant senior Evan Dickey was going to be the only player with significant varsity experience. But when Washington’s father, George Washington, was hired as an assistant women’s coach at Dayton, the outlook changed dramatically at CJ.

Washington III, junior B.B. Washington and freshman J.J. Washington joined the CJ program. B.B. Washington started and scored five points and missed a lot of time because of foul trouble. The youngest brother will primarily be a JV player this season.

“This isn’t a team that went to the final four last year and brought everybody back,” Szabo said. “The hype is there because of the talent and how hard they work at basketball, and that is deserving. But as a team, we have not earned that hype yet. My job is to keep reminding him that we’re making mistakes that new varsity kids make.”

Washington III scored 12 points in each half, made three 3-pointers and attacked the rim with a strong dunk. Szabo liked the way his star played under control and made good decisions when he was double-teamed.

“The best thing I can say about George is George is a terrific leader,” Szabo said. “He makes our practices great, everybody rallies around him. I’m getting him very late in his career, so it’s been a process of melding the player he is with the program we have.”

Washington III, Dickey and junior Cal Weatherspoon, who came off the bench to make 5-of-7 3-point attempts and score 15 points, will share the point-guard duties. The Eagles had 24 assists, including six by Dickey, four by Washington III and three by Weatherspoon.

“I stepped into a great situation,” Washington III said. “We have guys that love to compete and get after it, that can put the ball on the floor and score, can catch it and shoot, can lock up on the other end, and we’re hungry.”

Dickey, who was a role player on the state team, scored 17 points. He averaged 10.6 last year.

“We’ve been challenging Evan to be more aggressive, be more assertive and he’s definitely taken ownership of that this preseason,” Szabo said. “Evan’s such a naturally nice kid that to go out there and to assert your dominance, assert your will is something he’s learning how to do as a basketball player. He did a good job tonight.”

Dickey understands he has a leadership role as a senior and needs to play in attack mode to help set the tone for the team.

“I’m loving it,” he said. “I feel like out of all my three years, this might be the funnest year. Everyone’s getting touches, we’re just playing super good as a whole and everyone’s getting in the rotation.”

Pullen has a good start to a rotation with Timothy Carpenter (15 points), Mykel Morton (14), Paul Woodard (11) and Mike Smith (10). The team got a late start learning what Pullen wants. He was named coach in September after the summer resignation of Rocky Rockhold.

“Our chemistry has to get a little bit better, and I think it will because one thing about that group they’re all friends,” Pullen said.

Pullen has been an assistant coach to Darnell Hoskins in recent seasons at Middletown and Northmont. This was his first game as head coach since 2017.

“It feel good,” he said. “Strange, but good. I’m used to it, but it was a little uncomfortable to start. I’m glad it’s over with now so I can go back to being myself.”

Szabo knows Pullen being himself will mean no more runaway victories against the Rams.

“You know what kind of program this is, what kind of coach is on that sideline,” Szabo said. “He’s just getting started.”

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