Senior Deshawndre Washington waited his turn in the Morgan Park program. Last season he watched senior Cam Burrell grow from almost a total unknown into a Division I college player, so the blueprint is clear.
“I’m really trying to make myself the next Cam Burrell, I’m not going to lie,” Washington, a 6-5 guard, said.
Washington took a major step towards that goal in the Battle of Vincennes on Thursday. He scored 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the visiting Mustangs to a 70-52 win against Simeon.
“[Washington] is the guy I want to take a lot of shots,” Irvin said. “He can shoot and make the right play. He’s a walking triple-double, he can do everything on the basketball court. I just encourage him to do more and more each game.”
Washington scored 10 in the first quarter. The Mustangs (21-3, 8-1 Red-South/Central) took control of the game late in the second quarter. Simeon cut Morgan Park’s lead to four early in the third quarter but Adam Miller drained a three on the next possession to make it 42-35 and the Mustangs cruised from there.
“We are turning the corner, everyone is looking good,” Miller said. “You can’t just focus on me every night, we have options. Shawn had a tremendous game, Marcus [Watson] was dishing the ball like he always does, Karl [Jones] was dunking the ball. Everyone did their job.”
Miller finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Jones added eight points and nine rebounds and Watson, the point guard, scored eight. The Mustangs only turned the ball over six times.
“[Irvin] tells me not to rush it, to play at my own pace and get everyone involved,” Watson said.
The stands were packed, but the intensity on the court wasn’t up to the usual Battle of Vincennes standards.
“Rob Smith wasn’t over there,” Irvin said. “I had to psych myself up like he was there. [Assistant coach Leonard] Thomas does a great job. He’s a good coach, it was just a little different over there.”
Simeon (12-12, 5-4) is struggling this season and coach Robert Smith has missed the last eight games with a health issue. Smith was in the gym during the pregame but left before it started.
“[Smith being gone] is affecting them a lot,” Thomas said. “When they see him they seem to play bad. It should effect them, it is the leader of this program. My job is to come in and try and keep it together but we are still missing our leader.”
Freshman AJ Casey led the Wolverines with 12 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore Ahamad Bynum scored nine and grabbed seven boards.
“We just didn’t play smart,” Thomas said. “We missed a bunch of layups, they out-hustled us. We can’t run with those guys. We have to play them in half court and we didn’t.”
Morgan Park was 4-3 in late December but has now won 17 consecutive games.
“We lost early in the season and we learned from our mistakes,” Washington said. “[Irvin] made us practice hard and think about it. Instead of punishing us for losing he made us really think about what we needed to do as a team.”