Leondre Washington: Englewood’s Own Chooses Robert Morris

Photo courtesy of Visions By Jeff/Jeffrey Armstrong

By David Cordova

In North Jersey, there is definitely a lot of great talent. But mainly the players that are often mentioned the most are the ones that are from the powerhouse Catholic schools around the area. But there is one public school that has been making plenty of noise the last few years, and that school is Teaneck High.

The Highwaymen have produced players such as Joel Hernandez (LIU Brooklyn) and Shaakir Lindsey (Kentucky Wesleyan University). However, there is one guard that has recently made his presence felt for the Bergen County school is Leondre Washington.

The 5-foot-10 senior from Englewood, New Jersey, is a player that is a very smart point guard who can score, but also makes dazzling plays. But then again, there’s one thing that pushes him to succeed when he’s on the court. “My father, he’s sick with Lyme’s Disease, so he can’t really make it to any of my games, “says Washington, “He hasn’t seen me play since seventh grade, so when I put on that jersey, I make sure I play for my father.”

On being from Englewood: “It’s alright. I mean, it’s not like it’s the hood, or the struggle, or it’s beautiful, but Bergen County, it would be considered like the struggle. Nothing’s really given to you in Englewood. You have to go earn it. There’s a lot of people that had a lot of talent, but they never panned out, so being from Englewood, I just want to make it out and just give back to my community.”

Over the last ten to fifteen years, the spotlight on basketball in the Garden State has blossomed, as every year, there are big-name players and powerhouses being ranked nationally every year. “It’s beautiful. New Jersey basketball, I feel like it’s the best basketball,” says Washington, “You have a lot of talent and you have a great culture. It’s a good mixture of coaches and players together, so it’s a lot of big teams like Roselle, St. Pat’s, St. Anthony’s, so there’s a lot of good schools in New Jersey.”

Washington started out high school at Teaneck and made a strong impact from Day One. As a freshman, he averaged 13 points per game and then stepped his game up a notch as a sophomore, by scoring 22.1 points per game.

Washington dribbles down the court against Barringer High School in a playoff game. (Photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media)

But then for his junior year, he shocked the masses by choosing to transfer to powerhouse Roselle Catholic, who had just come off of winning a New Jersey Tournament of Champions title the previous season.

On a team that had five Division I players, including Nazreon Reid, a five-star prospect in the class of 2018 and Nate Pierre-Louis, Washington made his own contribution by averaging 8.8 points and 1.3 assists per game for the Lions, who went 22-8 on the season and ended up losing to St. Anthony in the Non-Public B championship game, 55-37.

When asked about his time at Roselle, Washington replied, “It was beautiful. I had a good time there. But I just missed being home at Teaneck, the travel was far, so I mean, going there everyday, 30-40 miles took a toll on me, but I mean, going there, I learned a lot, I played harder, played better defense. The coaches there taught me so much that I can’t repay them enough for it, so I thank them for that.”

Washington shoots a jumper in Non-Public B state championship game over St. Anthony’s R.J. Cole during his junior year. (Photo courtesy of NJ Advance Media)

When a person away from something that they’ve been used to for so long, the feeling of wanting to come back to it overwhelms them. So for his senior year, Washington decided to come back home to Teaneck in October. But there was one caveat to him coming back. He would have to sit out the first thirty days of the season, as required by NJSIAA.

“Coming back this year and having to sit out thirty days, because of the transfer rule, is tough,” says Washington in regards to his comeback to Teaneck, “But I had a fun year.”

The Highwaymen had just come off winning a Group III state championship and a 28-5 season. After sitting out the first month of the season, Washington responded by averaging 21.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.1 steals per game as he teamed up with junior Ja’Quaye James and Hampton University-bound senior Pierre Sow to give Teaneck a 27-7 record and helped win another Group III title on March 12th, making it the first time since 1971 that a school from Bergen County repeated as Group III state champions.

The Highwaymen made it all the way to the promised land, the Tournament of Champions, where they would lose to eventual champions, The Patrick School, a national powerhouse and the No. 1 team in the state. Washington’s recollection of his senior year was very joyous, “It was great, because they won the year before, but I wasn’t there to win the championship, so when I came back, I had to make sure I won a championship too, because I didn’t want it to be bad karma, so that was it.”

In his AAU days, Washington played for the New Jersey Playaz, on the Nike EYBL circuit, a program out of Paterson, New Jersey that has produced the likes of players such as Vince Carter (Memphis Grizzlies), J.R. Smith (Cleveland Cavaliers), former New York Giants football player Victor Cruz and most recently, NBA draft hopeful Isaiah Briscoe, who just finished his second season at Kentucky and who has just entered the 2017 NBA Draft.

“It was alright. With the Playaz, we just played, we had a good team and we all knew each other, so it was like a brotherhood.” says Washington on his experience with the program.

Washington is also a part of the basketball conglomerate, the Jelly Fam, which also includes players as James, his backcourt partner at Teaneck and Jordan Walker from The Patrick School. “It’s beautiful, it’s like being a rock star kind of, because everywhere you go, people who know who Jelly Fam is, and they want to be a part of it, so I thank God that I was blessed to be in a position to be a part of it. I’m thankful for the friends that I have in Jelly Fam.”

Now that high school is over with, Washington has something to look forward to: college basketball. On April 28th, he made his college commitment to Robert Morris University, a Division I program in the Northeast Conference.

Robert Morris, has had its share of dominance in the NEC, in this decade, as they upset Kentucky in the first round of the 2013 NIT tournament and made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament just two years ago under head coach Andy Toole.

Washington’s reason for committing to the Colonials was simple: “I decided to commit to Robert Morris because I felt like it was a great fit for me, I loved the coaches and felt like their plan for me for the next four years was something that I definitely wanted to do. I got a chance to hang out with some kids from the team that I already knew from my high school and I had lots of fun on my visit. I’m going to play right away so that’s another reason I decided to go there.”

The Colonials went through a very rough season, going 14-19 and reaching only the first round of the NEC Tournament, losing to eventual conference champion, Mount St. Mary’s. With the graduation of point guard Kavon Stewart, another Playaz alum, and sophomore Isaiah Still, Washington will have a chance to a big impact at Robert Morris.

“I will bring hard work and dedication next year,” says Washington of his goals of coming into Robert Morris, “Trying to win the conference and head to the NCAA Tournament. To the team, I’m going to bring scoring, playmaking ability, toughness, and defense because that’s what I do best and what the coaches brought me in for.”

Next season, the NEC will know of the name Leondre Washington, but for right now, he’s still the kid from Englewood.

Highlights of Leondre Washington:

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.

Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.

Courtesy of NJ Hoop Recruit.

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

Courtesy of The Basketball Diary.

Courtesy of NJ Sports Scene.

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