SAN MARCOS — Warren Washington said he always believed he would play Division 1 college basketball, even when others couldn’t see it in him as a gangly, 5-foot-9 seventh grader.
But then, he started to grow.
By the start of high school, Washington shot up to 6-foot-4. By his sophomore year, he was 6-foot-9.
Five years and more than one foot later, the 6-foot-11 Washington, who attends Mission Hills High School, recently achieved his goal of playing basketball at the highest collegiate level when he announced his verbal commitment to Oregon State University.
“I’m just very excited to have the opportunity to play basketball in the Pac-12, it’s been a goal of mine since I was a kid,” Washington said.
Washington’s growth spurt caught many by surprise, including his family, whose members aren’t exactly short. His father, Calvin, is 6-foot-3, his mother, Jamie, is 5-foot-11 and his brother, Calvin Jr., is 6-foot-6.
“There are tall people in the family, we’ve got uncles on both sides that are fairly tall, but no one is as tall as Warren,” Calvin Washington Sr. said. “So for him to get to that height, I was surprised. We always talked about how the boys would be taller than me, and even though I thought Warren would be the tallest one because of his long arms and his wide shoulders, I never expected him to get to 6-11.”
Warren was always one of the taller kids in his classes growing up, but his father said he didn’t want his son to be pigeon-holed as the “big man” on his basketball teams.
He urged travel coaches to teach him perimeter skills, so that even if he didn’t grow he could still be a collegiate basketball prospect.
“We always strategized that, because we didn’t want him stuck in the post,” Calvin Washington Sr. said. “In North County, he was always the tall guy, but we didn’t know how tall he would get, and since I was paying for him to play (travel) basketball, I told coaches that you’re going to help us to get Warren where he wants to be as a player, not where he appears to be best for your team.”
The family’s decision has paid dividends, as at 6-foot-11, coaches covet Warren’s high-skill and basketball IQ, his ball handling and his passing ability.
Warren caught the eyes of coaches across the country playing for his travel team, Gamepoint Pump-N-Run, where he frequently matched up against top players at his position across the country. He chose Oregon State over schools such as Rutgers, Butler, San Diego State, University of California-Berkeley and Nevada, among others.
Calvin Washington Sr. said that the opportunity to play in the Pacific 12 Basketball Conference, which includes such basketball powerhouses as the University of Arizona and University of California Los Angeles, was too good to pass up.
“We looked at Big 10 and Big East schools, and we considered a school in the Mountain West (Conference), but the Pac-12 gives him the best opportunity to develop educationally and basketball-wise,” Calvin Washington Sr. said. “We took the opportunity with Oregon State, because their need for him was the highest, the coaching is solid, the facilities are solid and the rural environment was good. And, of course, the allure of playing in the Pac-12, playing on TV every game and against the top competition, was a big factor.”
Gamepoint Director Charlie Mercado, who coached Warren most of his middle school and high school career, said the skills he brings to the table at his size are unique.
“Players with Warren’s size and skill set do not come along very often,” Mercado said. “At the next level, I think it will translate very well. His ability to stretch out a defense from the perimeter makes him a tough matchup for his size, along with that, he does a great job of finding the open man from the block.”
Mission Hills Head Coach Curtis Hofmeister, who coached current San Diego State senior center Kameron Rooks in high school, said that Warren is the best passing big man he’s ever seen.
“The height is super helpful, but I think the most important thing is his combination of size and offensive skill set, and his ability to pass the ball is the best I’ve seen from a guy his size,” Hofmeister said. “I am proud of him and the work he has put in, and I’m happy for the family.”
Warren, 17, said he’s happy that he has made his college decision, which he will finalize Nov. 8, the first day high school basketball players can sign their national letters of intent.
Deciding early will allow him to focus on his senior year and his goals of winning a second CIF championship — he won a title as a freshman at Escondido High School.
“I definitely want to start off by winning league, and go as far as we can in CIF and State,” Washington said. “We have a lot of hard-nosed guys, and this is my year to have to be a leader and call in my soldiers, and I am excited about that.”