Washington Returns to USD as Part of Torero Legends

Stan Washington with USD Men's Basketball teammates

Stan Washington watched many of his childhood basketball friends go to college near their Washington, D.C. roots. When hoops or academics did not pan out, many headed home, never returning to college.

Washington did not want to go that route.
"So I figured I'd get as far away as I can," said Washington.
He chose the University of San Diego and admits the teenager from the East Coast inner city was in culture shock upon first touching down.
"I got off the plane and thought I was in Hawaii 5-0," said Washington. "I'd never seen palm trees. And green grass and water sprinkling off the highway."
Turned out to be a good decision to move 2,274 miles from home. By the time Washington graduated with a sociology degree in 1974 he was San Diego's all-time leading scorer with 1,472 points, a record he held for 35 years until broken by Gyno Pomare.
Johnny Dee now holds the record with 2,046 points. A 6-foot-4 guard, Washington played in an era when freshman could not play on the varsity and came along before the three-point shot. Had he played four seasons with a three-point line, he might still hold the school scoring record.
Washington is the school record holder for highest career scoring average (18.2 points), ranks second in season scoring average (19.2) and third in field goal attempts and field goals made.
On Thursday night when San Diego hosts No. 1-ranked Gonzaga, Washington, who turns 67 later this month, will be recognized as part of the Toreros Legends program. At each home game this season, a former USD basketball player is being honored.
The idea was the brainchild of head coach Sam Scholl and Senior Associate Athletic Director/Chief Development Officer Marcy Lanoue.
"The premise for me was we have a good tradition, but we don't talk about it enough. We don't highlight it enough," said Scholl. "Some people who wore our uniform have impacted the world in some amazing ways."
Former Torero James Borrego is the head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Ex-USD players Bernie Bickerstaff (who coached Washington), Mike Brown, Eric Musselman and David Fizdale have been employed as NBA head coaches.
Ex-Toreros Chris Grant, Corey Belsar and Kevin Hanson have coached or served in front-office NBA positions.
But Washington is the only Torero to play in the NBA. He was a 1974 fourth-round draft pick of the Washington Bullets. He played one game, on October 19, 1974, for the Bullets. He played four minutes, took one shot and did not score.
Asked if he recalls the shot, the affable Washington said, "Your guess is as good as mine."
He does remember a preseason game that year against the American Basketball Association New York Nets and going against Dr. J, Julius Erving.
Erving grabbed a steal and as Washington remembers, he was the only person between the high-flying Erving and the basket.
"I thought, 'Oh boy, what is he going to do now?" said Washington. "I jumped, he jumped. He did this scoop shot under my arm. It went off the backboard, off the rim, rolled around and around and I took it off the rim. I didn't want him to dunk on me, that's for sure."
Washington was released four days after his lone game with the Bullets. He had tryouts with ABA teams later that season and then embarked on his professional career.
He worked for more than 30 years in social services, including working for housing authorities in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Washington D.C.
"You have more than one gift," said Washington, who played at Singarn High, which produced NBA legends Elgin Baylor and Dave Bing. "Athletics was definitely a gift, but it wasn't my biggest gift. My biggest gift was to work in a social environment to help people."
Washington lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and is a reservist for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He has lived in Puerto Rico for six years and even the decision to live there was impacted by wanting to help others.
Washington's son was looking for a baseball academy for his two sons. They chose Puerto Rico. A year later they returned to Orlando, Florida, but Washington stayed.
"I've always traveled close to the water because I love to swim," he said.
Bickerstaff played at USD and was a head coach in the NBA in 14 seasons with Seattle, Denver, Washington, Charlotte and five games with the Lakers. He thinks Washington may be the best player to ever wear a USD uniform.
"He could just score," said Bickerstaff. "Because of his all-around skillset, he was our go-to guy and teammates recognized that. He was confident in his game, but he was all business. He didn't take anything for granted. He wanted to get better."
Bickerstaff, though, remembers Stan Washington, the person, better than Stan Washington, the basketball player.
"A great guy, a great player and just a quality human being," said Bickerstaff.
John Cunningham, USD's baseball coach for 35 years, coached Washington his freshman season.
"He was accepted well at USD, basically because he's a quality individual," said Cunningham. "He was in a new experience, in a tough academic situation and he handled that. I'm not sure that around campus he wasn't just as well received as a student as he was a basketball player.
Washington was inducted into USD's Chet and Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. He returns to San Diego often for basketball events and is a regular at the West Coast Conference basketball tournament in Las Vegas.
He says his four years at USD impacted him to this day.
"First of all, I think there was a discipline aspect," he said. "I was on my own. But the most significant thing was socially, the culture I lived in, being around all the nationalities. That diversity was awesome."
He stays in contact with Bickerstaff and Gus McGee, USD's all-time leading rebounder who was an assistant under Bickerstaff during Williams' career. He fondly mentions Ky Snyder, USD's former Director of Athletics and current Vice President for University Operations.
"The accolades, the statistics and all, that's great," said Washington. "But it's the relationships that I'm truly blessed to have. I'm humbled after all these years to be a part of this legendary university.
"Part of me will always be in San Diego."
The following players have been recognized this season as part of the Toreros Legends program: Gus Magee, Gyno Pomare, John Rodee, Ken Rancifer, Rick Michelmore, Rusty Whitmarsh and John Prunty. Players to be honored later in the season include Mike Haupt, Matt Delzell, De'Jon Jackson and Ted Peterson.


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