LEXINGTON, Ky. — The intense leg cramps that sidelined PJ Washington for the final 12 minutes of Kentucky basketball’s loss at Tennessee on Saturday night were “nothing new” to the 5-star freshman forward.
“I’ve been cramping my whole life,” Washington said Monday. “I’m not worried about it. I’ll be fine. Just stay hydrated — tons of water, tons of Gatorade.”
His exit was a major blow for the Wildcats in Knoxville. He’d produced 13 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks, while shutting down UT’s leading scorer and rebounder, in 23 minutes of action before his thigh “locked up.” No. 21 Kentucky (12-3, 2-1 SEC) had led by eight points at halftime and trailed by just four when Washington left the game, but they had “no shot of winning” with him sidelined, coach John Calipari said.
“It was disappointing, because you just want to get back in the game and help your team out,” Washington said on the eve of a major matchup with Texas A&M’s formidable frontcourt. “I’m doing a lot better. I’m in a lot better shape now and I’m just ready to get to practice.”
He said there’s nothing specific that triggered previous episodes — “If I knew that, I wouldn’t have had cramps” — but he plans to stay extra hydrated now. Calipari had another theory about what happened to Washington in Knoxville.
“That’s as hard as he’s played since he’s been here and his body may have revolted,” the coach said. “Like, ‘What are you doing? What the heck’s going on here?’ ”
Washington, a 6-foot-7, 230-ish-pound former McDonald’s All-American, had a frustrating, uneven start to his college career but enjoyed a breakout week on the road in SEC play. He scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half of a comeback at LSU and dominated the Vols inside until he went down.
On Monday, he also shot down any conspiracy theories that Kentucky might be concealing an actual injury.
“No,” he said, “it was just cramps.”