Photo courtesy of Visions By Jeff/Jeffrey Armstrong.
By David Cordova
Whenever there’s a game in New York City, there’s always excitement in the crowd, a fever pitch when one does a patented layup called the “Jelly.” That particular layup started back in the 1970’s when Hall of Famer George Gervin would use the “finger roll,” whenever he would go up to the basket.
In the present day, at summer tournaments and high school games during the school year, the “Jelly” has become synonymous around the country. One of the reasons that the “Jelly,” has become mainstream is because of one point guard from Harlem: Isaiah Washington.
The 6-foot-1 senior guard out of St. Raymond’s High School in the Parkchester section of the Bronx has been the most revered player in New York in the Class of 2017. Whenever he walks into a gym, or a park, he is treated like a king, a gallant young champion and is given plenty of praise because of his play.
“I just want to be successful so I can take care of my family and I want to give back to the community,” says Washington, “and just give kids the opportunity that I had.”
When asked about being from Harlem, he replied, “It means everything, our swagger, our aura, our style of play, just being from there is a blessing.”
Washington’s basketball odyssey started at the Dunleavy Milbank Community Center on West 118th Street in Harlem. It was at Milbank where the origins of the “Jelly Fam” started and it has been host to many great games and a breeding ground for a lot of talent that has come through uptown.
“Milbank is like my second home,” says Washington, “Everybody in here cares about you, on & off the court, they just want to see you do good in life.”
When there’s no practices or games, you can usually find Washington inside the gym. “Just working out everyday, trying to get my jumpshot more consistent. Doing what it takes to be a pro.”
“Jelly Fam, it’s one big family, people get along and want to give back to the youth,” says Washington of the group that has become very synonymous around the city and throughout the tri-state area.
The group includes:
- Pedro Marquez, a freshman at Division III Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut.
- Ja’Quaye James, a junior at Teaneck High School in Teaneck, New Jersey, who is also the co-founder of the “Jelly Fam”, along with Washington.
- Sidney Wilson, a four-star recruit in the Class of 2018 from Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, who was also Washington’s teammate at St. Raymond’s before choosing to reclassify.
- Milicia Reid, a senior at The Patrick School in Hillside, New Jersey, who is the only female of the group. She will be playing collegiate basketball at Ole Miss in the fall.
- Leondre Washington, a senior at Teaneck High School in Teaneck, New Jersey, who will be playing collegiate basketball at Robert Morris University in the fall.
- Jordan Walker, a senior at The Patrick School in Hillside, New Jersey, who is still deciding on whether to do a post-graduate year at a prep school or go to college in the fall.
This group of players is to youth basketball what the rap conglomerate, the Juice Crew, from the 1980’s was to the rap scene. Kids love them and emulate them and try to do the same moves that they do. But despite the fame, Washington tries to stay level-headed and humble, “It’s overwhelming sometimes, but I try to stay humble and remain the person I am and you know, just keep moving forward.”
At St. Raymond’s, Washington was a three-year starter, from his sophomore year to this past season. He led the Ravens to a 45-37 record during his time and a CHSAA quarterfinal appearance during his junior year.
But his senior year was his most memorable for a couple of reasons: he scored his 1,000th-point on January 8th against Mount St. Michael and during his final game, a season-ending loss on March 1st in the first round of the CHSAA playoffs, he became the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,410 points, surpassing Darryl “Truck” Bryant. He led the CHSAA in scoring with 25.6 points per game and last, but definitely not least, won the New York State Mr. Basketball award, becoming the fourth Raven to win the award.
“My four years there, I had a terrific time there, being around Coach Lopez, the whole teaching staff and the whole coaching staff, just being around them, they made me the person I am today, they taught me how to be a man and stuff,” says Washington on his time at St. Raymond’s.
“My senior season was okay, it didn’t go as well as I thought it would, “says Washington as he reflected on his senior season, which ended with St. Raymond’s going 13-13. “It’s a lot of stuff I couldn’t check off, but overall, I feel I improved my game a lot, getting ready for the college level. I want to thank [Coach] Lopez for putting me in the right predicament , on the right stage to perform in front of a lot of scouts and stuff like that and I just gotta continue my journey on to college and make it to the NBA.”
But on a national level, Washington’s name started to buzz last summer, after gaining invites to events such as the Pangos All-American Camp in California and the NBA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he turned in great performances. But he still feels as if he hasn’t gotten his just due. “I don’t think I’m out there as much as I should be, a lot of people overlook me, but that’s just more fuel to my fire and I’m going to make them regret doing that.”
Another great accomplishment during that summer was when he was invited to compete in the Chris Paul Elite Point Guard Camp in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and the Stephen Curry Select Camp in Oakland, California and was mentored by two NBA All-Stars. “I mean, it was a blessing, because I got to work out with a pro and learn a lot of stuff from him [Paul], like using the pick and roll and stuff like that, and also with Stephen Curry, it’s like they really care about us. They took time out of their day just to come work out with us for a whole week and show us stuff on a pro level, so it was just a great experience,” said Washington.
When it comes to streetball, there was one park in which he enjoyed playing in the most. “Dyckman,” says Washington. The Dyckman tournament, on 204th Street and Nagle Avenue in the Inwood section of Manhattan, which is nicknamed the “Red Carpet of Streetball,” was the place in which he had some of his best games.
One of them being in late August, around the time of the Under Armour Elite 24, a showcase of the top players in the country, which took place in Brooklyn. At that time, Washington, who was fresh off of an amazing summer on the Under Armour Association circuit, was not on the original roster.
“I just told myself that I gotta work harder, it’s just one game, and I wasn’t really upset about it at first, but then I was like, you can’t have a big game in New York and not have me in it. So the next thing you know, everybody in New York was complaining about me not being in the game, and they finally put me in it and then I went proved why I should have been there in the first place,” says Washington.
Three days before the game, Washington went to Dyckman and poured in a game-high 46 points in a high school division game, which prompted emcee David “Cha Ching” Teele to use the phrase, “Blame The Committee,” as a jab for Washington not being in the game. But at the eleventh hour, he was named as a last-minute replacement in the game.
Then on game day, he shone the brightest in Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 2, on a national spotlight in front of ESPNU cameras, in which he scored 36 points and was named one of six MVP’s in the game. When asked about proving himself on a stage such as Elite 24, Washington replied, “It was a good experience, I didn’t even think I was gonna score 36 points, you know I only had four points in the first half and then I just had to do something to get me going and then the next thing you know, I had two layups and then the next thing you know, the rim just started looking wide-open and then I had to give them a taste of what New York basketball was.”
On September 11th, Washington chose the University of Minnesota as his collegiate destination. “Well, you know, I wanted to start my own legacy somewhere else at a school that people normally don’t go to,” said Washington about why he chose the Golden Gophers, “I wanted to be Coach Pitino’s first guy to go to the League, like how Coach Cal had Derrick Rose as his first guy, so I wanted to be Coach Pitino’s first guy.”
Now that he’s done with high school, he wants to be remembered as, “I want my legacy to be remembered as, I’m not just a basketball player that cares about himself, I really want people to follow my footsteps and hopefully, their end result can end better than mine.”
As for his future goals: “Hopefully have a good career in the Big Ten, hopefully I can see my name on that Draft board and walk across the stage and shake that guy’s hand and say I’m drafted, and then that’s when the work starts to get harder.”
Highlights of Isaiah Washington:
Courtesy of Home Team Hoops.
Courtesy of Hoop Journey.
Courtesy of Bleacher Report.
Courtesy of Hoop Journey.
Courtesy of 8Eye Media.
Courtesy of Home Team Hoops.
Courtesy of Madison Basketball Alliance.
Courtesy of Capitol Hoops.
Courtesy of BallislifeEast.
Courtesy of MakePlayz.
Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.
Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.
Courtesy of Primetime Hoops.