In Utah Basketball's 105 year history, only 34 players have reached the 1,000 point milestone. On Thursday night, a new member will be inducted into that rare and highly exclusive club.
Senior center Jason Washburn will join the most elite of company be that new member when the Utes play host to Pac-12 foe Oregon State on Thursday evening at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.
"I really thought I was going to get [to 1,000 points] on this last road trip, and I kind of got my mind around being OK with that," Washburn said as he reflected on his upcoming milestone. "It just turned out that the basketball gods decided it wasn't to be, and I get to come back here to the Huntsman Center to do it. When you start to think that it's possible that could reach that, you picture it happening at home, in front of your fans, so I'm grateful that it will happen here."
Of course it's no surprise that Washburn would want to reach his career milestone at home, just as any athlete would want to. For Washburn, his reasons for wanting to be home run deeper, and in true Washburn form, more emotional than most.
"Anyone would want to do it in front of their home crowd, but for me, to do it at the Huntsman Center in front of these fans who have supported this program, and me through so much is really amazing for me," he said. "I feel like those fans who have stuck with us all this time just love this program, and I think in a lot of ways, it's been as hard for the fans as it has been for the players. So it's going to be great for me, but if it gives the fans something positive, too, that's even better."
Another big plus for the senior from Battle Creek (Mich.) is the fact that playing at home will allow part of his family will be able to witness and celebrate his big day.
"Thursday I'll have my aunt and my dad there if I get it, which is so great. I'm really excited about that, and if this had happened last week on the road, they would have missed that. In a lot of ways, this is just really perfect," Washburn said. "Things just worked out, and I feel like some things are paying off, karma or luck or whatever you want to call it. My entire family will be out for Saturday, so I'll have everybody with me for my Senior Day. It just all fell into place somehow."
Washburn heads into the contest having scored 998 points over the course of his 118 games wearing a jersey with the word 'UTAH' across the chest. Washburn averages 8.45 points per game through his career after a slow start offensively as a freshman (5.0 ppg) and sophomore (6.0).
A demonstration that he is the same player game in and game out, Washburn averaged 11.4 points per game in his junior, and through Utah's 28 games in 2013, is averaging exactly 11.4 points per game as well.
"It's a huge accomplishment that is really quite rare, and a lot of things go into reaching it. He's had to be healthy for his whole career, which you can partially control but not fully and he's had to establish a work ethic," said Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. "I think, more than anything, it shows that he's been a guy that you could always count on for certain things, and that he's consistent. Over the course of a basketball career, that's the main thing that you look for out of a player."
As a player who is truly selfless, and not in the typical, self-serving, media sound bite way, hitting the 1,000 point milestone will be genuinely bittersweet for the Battle Creek (Mich.) native.
"I am so uncomfortable with this, and you've known me long enough to know that I am. This week it has been all about me, and talking about this 1,000 point thing. It's kind of strange," Washburn lamented. "All this time, it's been about new players and new coaches and all of that, and that was OK but it is just a big change, and I'd rather be sitting here talking about that our team won a lot of games."
Unfortunately, Utah hasn't won a lot of games and Washburn's accomplishment will be on of Utah's few bright spots this season, and even the highlight of his career.
"Completely selfishly, and putting aside the team for a moment, I am really excited and proud of reaching 1,000 points. With everything that I've been through here, I just knew that something good would come out of it," Washburn said. "I hoped that would be for the team but when the team wins, good things usually happen for the individuals, too. I didn't know how I would benefit personally, I just knew that I would, even if it was just the life experience or the lessons it taught me."
The lessons learned for Washburn are numerous and extensive, and Washburn has learned them well.
"I think of everything that I've experienced here, the biggest thing I've learned is perseverance. I think that's what reaching this 1,000 point mark says about me. I've persevered, I didn't quit on this program or on myself," admitted Washburn. "I've had to work really hard to become a scorer, even with my size.Scoring was something I had to learn and work for and it was something that didn't come easy, and you can look at my freshman and sophomore stats to see that."
Washburn looks to take his hard-won wisdom with him into whatever his next step may be; a professional basketball career or teaching or coaching position down the road, and along with that, he'll take this single, solitary individual accomplishment and treasure it.
"I think that these things are fun to share with the fans, and with your teammates who helped you get there, and supported you. These milestones are fun, and they're nice but you don't really start to appreciate them until later in your life," said Krystkowiak of some of basketball's individual honors and accomplishments. "It's a thing that you show your kids, and your grandchildren and as you get older you realize the things you did then were probably kind of special. So the value of this will increase for Jason as time goes on."
Washburn may indeed value his 1,000 point career more and more as he gets older, but it doesn't diminish the current value in any way.
"It's just something I never thought about doing. Only 34 other guys have done that here before me, and so I understand I'm joining pretty good company. It's just going to be an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as all of those guys before me," he said. "It will be something that will make my time here more worth it, and more memorable than it a