Several high school superstars come to college and fall victim to growing pains—especially in the SEC.
Adjusting to SEC basketball cannot be learned from a textbook or a simple formula, but Vanderbilt freshman Sacha Washington has adjusted well by embracing her core values and remaining determined to bring 100% effort every day. She has done just that, and her freshman campaign has lived up to her expectations so far.
“I talk to Coach Ralph every day and she always tells me that they’ll [the coaching staff] never give up on me,” Washington said. “They see a great player in me and they’re going to keep working with me every day. They want to build a culture. They really care about you outside of being a basketball player… Good things can come from being here at Vanderbilt and buying into the system.”
On March 1, Washington and her teammate Iyana Moore were one of few freshmen named to the SEC All-Freshman team. This feat is a testament to Washington’s hard work and dedication throughout her basketball career. In her first season playing for the Commodores, the 6’2’’ forward from Lawrenceville, Georgia, notched seven games with double-digit points and led the team with 186 total rebounds. Washington may still be a freshman on paper, but she has dominated in every opportunity Ralph has given her.
Before being named to the All-Freshman team, Washington was tabbed SEC Freshman of the Week two times in February. On Feb. 8, she earned the SEC Freshman of the Week honor after having spectacular performances against Georgia and Alabama. Washington notched a field goal percentage of 60% between the two games against Georgia and Alabama. She would total 15 points and 16 rebounds against the Crimson Tide, which were both career-highs for her at the time.
“When I first got here, I never thought I would be SEC Freshman of the Week,” Washington said. “My coaches and my teammates have pushed me every day in practice. They made me see that I’m more capable of things than I thought.”
Washington was pleased with her midseason honor but continued to prove to Vanderbilt fans and SEC spectators that she will be a force to be reckoned with for the next few years at West End. On Feb. 28, nearly three weeks after being named SEC Freshman of the Week, Washington was honored with the award for a second time in the 2021-22 season after notching consecutive double-doubles in the Commodores’ final two regular season games. In matchups against Florida and Alabama, Washington averaged 19.5 points, 12 rebounds, 1.5 assists and a steal. In Vanderbilt’s last home game of the regular season, Washington’s 16 points and 11 rebounds helped the Commodores defeat No. 15 Florida for the first time in Memorial Gymnasium since the 2012-13 season. She would conclude the regular season with a 23-point outing against Alabama, which eclipsed her season-high.
“I’m really happy to be here around so many people that really care about me,” Washington said. “You just have to keep working hard and good things will come.”
Before coming to Vanderbilt, Washington made an indelible mark at Parkview High School in Lilburn, Georgia, and at the Collins Hill High School in Lawrenceville, Georgia. She attended Parkview for her first two years in high school and transferred to Collins Hill after her sophomore year. At Collins Hill, Washington amassed 1,000 career points and rebounds as a junior and was named the best high school rebounder in Georgia for the 2020-21 season. She would graduate as the No. 57 high school basketball player and 13th-best forward, according to ESPN. Washington has always been pleased with individual accolades, but will always prioritize building team chemistry and generating team success.
“I love Sacha’s will to compete and her desire to be her best both on and off the court,” Washington’s high school coach, Brian Harmon, said. “She has the same drive in the classroom as she does on the court, and that’s not always the case. She also has a big, fun-loving personality to go with.”
Although the Georgia star came to Nashville with an outstanding resume, Washington has come into work every day with a chip on her shoulder. The freshman is cognizant that all great student-athletes generate success from working their hardest and coming in every day with the same relentless mentality. In Washington’s 30 regular season games played, she has scored 203 regular season points, 186 rebounds and 23 assists. As the season is coming to an end, Vanderbilt supporters should not forget Washington’s name, because if she continues to progress, she will quickly become one of the marquee names in the SEC and in the nation.
On March 2, the Commodores defeated Texas A&M in the first round of the SEC Tournament at Nashville’s own Bridgestone Arena. In a do-or-die game, Vanderbilt utilized Washington’s presence in the frontcourt as a rebounder and shot-blocker. She finished the day with 12 points and 10 rebounds, helping her team into the next round.
The Commodores will face Florida on March 3 at 2:30 PM CST. Vanderbilt will meet the Gators for the second time this season. The Commodores have found their ultimate force in Washington and she is elated to be a part of Ralph’s special program moving forward.