Texas Tech basketball: Lamar Washington to return to Red Raiders next season

Texas Tech's guard Lamar Washington (1) dribbles the ball against West Virginia in a Big 12 basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at United Supermarkets Arena.
Texas Tech's guard Lamar Washington (1) dribbles the ball against West Virginia in a Big 12 basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, at United Supermarkets Arena. /

One of the more overlooked tasks that a new coaching staff must undergo in the process of putting together their initial roster is evaluating the players already in the program and deciding which to re-recruit.  That’s been an important part of new Texas Tech basketball head coach Grant McCasland’s agenda since he was hired last month and that process is still ongoing even amid the buzz surrounding the transfer portal.

Already having secured the returns of guard Pop Isaacs and forward Robert Jennings while seeing players such as Jaylon Tyson, Fardaws Aimaq, Elijah Fisher, and Daniel Batcho find new homes via the portal, the new Red Raider coaching staff got good news this week when sophomore guard Lamar Washington announced on Wednesday that he will, in fact, stay in Lubbock for next season.

An Oregon native who was largely recruited to Tech by former assistant coach Barrett Peery (who was sent packing by Mark Adams last offseason, before Washington ever even suited up for the Red Raiders), the 6-foot-4 guard was a hit-or-miss proposition as a true freshman.

Appearing in 32 games, Washington was 7th on last season’s team in minutes played averaging 15.2 per contest.  What’s more, he even made three starts.

Overall, his stats were modest.  Putting up 3.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game, he showed flashes of promise but he lacked the type of consistency that many wanted to see from him.  For instance, he scored in double digits only twice, and on nine occasions in league play, he failed to register a point.

His most memorable outing came against Nicholls in December when he went 12-17 from the free throw line to account for all of his points as he helped his team narrowly escape a massive home upset.  Similarly, in mid-February, he chipped in 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 5 assists as Tech stunned the No. 12 Kansas State Wildcats 71-63 in Lubbock.

Still, Washington must improve his offensive game.  Specifically, he has to develop some semblance of a reliable jump shot.  Only a 23% shooter from 3-point range, he hit just 7 of 30 attempts from behind the arc in 2022-23.  If he is going to become a valuable guard on a Big 12 contender, that aspect of his game must show significant improvement.

Perhaps even more important, though, might be his ability to learn how to take care of the ball more effectively.  Last season, he was often a walking turnover as on six occasions he gave the ball away three times or more.  That included a woeful six-turnover game in only 20 minutes of action in the loss at Oklahoma State.

To put his turnover troubles in perspective, consider that Washington led the team in turnovers per 40 minutes played at 3.7.  By contrast, senior point guard De’Vion Harmon, who had the ball in his hands far more than Washington did, averaged only 2.3 turnovers per 40 minutes.

On the other hand, the physical guard did prove to be a willing and capable defender.  That has to be appealing to McCasland, who is a defensive-minded head coach.

When it came to his defensive rating (an estimation of the number of points a player allows the person he is guarding to score per every 100 possessions) Washington was third on the team at 99.3.  In that statistical category, anything below 100 is considered above average so the fact that Washington met that standard in his first year at the Big 12 level is a great sign when it comes to what he could become on that end of the floor.

Ultimately, Washington’s return isn’t going to make national news or vault McCasland’s program higher in the preseason prognostications.  He isn’t yet a star player but rather the type of hard-nosed backup that a program needs on its roster.

Still, next year could see Washington take an important step forward as a collegiate after he held his own in his first year on campus.  His presence will give the Red Raiders a much-needed role player off the bench and though his return might not be a development that moves the needle for most fans, it is one that shouldn’t be overlooked.