On the morning of Aug, 29, Virginia Tech basketball player Deron Washington awoke to beautiful conditions in Blacksburg. Eight hundred and thirty-eight miles southwest of Blacksburg, however, New Orleans--Washington's hometown--woke up to winds of up to 160 mph and an extremely low barometric reading of 915 millibars. That was the morning that Hurricane Katrina made landfall.
With communications cut off from the Gulf, Washington could only sit and worry about his mother, Denise, and the rest of his family. "It was really hard," says the sophomore. "I couldn't get in touch and didn't know what was going on."
Finally, however, he received word from his family, who had made it to the Houston area, where cell phone communication was once again possible. "I felt much more comfortable because I knew they got out before the storm came," Washington recalls. "I was talking to them every day and I knew they were all together."
After the storm passed, a lot of people helped to take care of the Washington family. Leading the charge was Tech's head coach, Seth Greenberg. "Coach Greenberg played a big role," Washington says. "Just looking out for the best [for the family]."
Today, Washington's mom lives in the Blacksburg area, and the rest of his family remains in Texas. The family has faced a tough several months, and although their life has stabilized, a long road remains ahead for them.
Nonetheless, Washington, a 6'7", 195-pound forward, was able to anticipate a promising year in the wild and crazy world of ACC basketball. After a strong senior season at National Christian Academy in Fort Washington, Md., Washington knew that he wanted the challenge of playing in the ACC.
"A lot of kids growing up dream of this: playing against Duke and UNC," he says. "It just got me really excited to come here."
As a freshman, Washington was one of the many bright spots in a surprising 2005 season--Tech's first in the conference--when the Hokies finished fourth in the ACC. The talented forward finished the season with 31 assists, 29 steals, and 238 points scored. Washington shot 60 percent at the free-throw line, including a banner night against Maryland Eastern Shore when he made 10 baskets from the charity stripe.
Washington also made a name for himself in rebounding last year, finishing the season with 137 rebounds and averaging 4.6 a game. Washington had 10 rebounds against James Madison University, a game that resulted in a 77-53 Hokie victory.
No one knows for sure, but all signs point to an exciting year for this rising ACC star. Look for Washington to have a big impact throughout the 2006 season.
"As a team, we want to get to the NCAA tournament and we would like to finish in the top three in the ACC," Washington says. "For me personally, being recognized on the All-ACC team would be an honor."
What excites Washington the most about this year? "Having the team back from last year. We have a lot of experience coming back. Starters and non-starters," Washington says. "It's going to be fun."
It's time for tip-off.
Bryan Schamus is a sophomore communication major
who works as an assistant in the Virginia Tech Sports Information Office.