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Jalen Washington earns career-highs in points and rebounds against Charleston Southern

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Sophomore forward Jalen Washington gets air for a dunk during UNC men's basketball vs Charleston Southern on Dec. 29, 2023.

Collecting an entry pass on the block, sophomore forward Jalen Washington sprung off of both feet before shaking the goal with a thundering slam.

Two years ago, he could only dream of dunking a basketball.

Friday night was a long-awaited chapter in Washington’s story of full recovery from partial ACL and lateral meniscus tears that sidelined him from his senior season of high school basketball. 

In North Carolina’s 105-60 blowout win against Charleston Southern, Washington exploded for career-high totals in points and rebounds, with 17 and seven respectively. The stretch big also displayed his versatility by splashing a pair of catch-and-shoot threes.

“I feel like I was rewarded from a lot of hard work,” Washington said. “[I] can really smile, finally.”

For the first time all season, Washington saw action at the four, playing alongside graduate center Armando Bacot. Head coach Hubert Davis had paired the tandem together during practice the week prior, and they debuted with a combined 29 points in Friday’s victory. 

“It gives us a bigger and different look,” Davis said. “It helps us in terms of rebounding, and I’m really happy that [Washington] had a great game tonight.” 

What jumps off the stat sheet about Washington’s performance was his shooting efficiency throughout the game. The former Indiana All-Star was a perfect 5-5 through the first half and in the second, he knocked down a silky midrange jumper to cement his career night. 

This atypical shooting ability Washington possesses for a player of his size tracks back to his days in knee recovery. Washington spent time in his room crafting his shot form with just him, his ball, and the repetitive motion of flicking his wrist. 

With his fine-tuned jump shot, Washington recorded a comparable 77 shooting percentage in 21 minutes of action. 

“To see him play his game, and see how efficient he was, it was really impressive,” sophomore guard Seth Trimble said.

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As Washington’s roommate, Trimble admired the success of his good friend. He noted how it warmed his heart to finally see the work Washington had put in come to fruition. 

Yet when the Dean E. Smith Center brought attention to Washington’s point total, the humble teenager briefly acknowledged the moment with a smile before quickly ducking his head back into the huddle.

But Trimble has seen a different side to him. Doing nearly everything together, the guard explained how the more you get to know Washington, the less quiet you will think he is. In a rare moment in which the two matched up in practice this summer, Trimble recalled the mismatch as one of the only instances where the two got into it — ultimately uniting them as brothers more than anything. 

“I think that really helped us bond,” Trimble said. “Just going in and being roommates with each other. That’s my best friend.”

As for Washington, this night has been long awaited — it's a milestone in an uncertain journey that has now reaped its reward.

The big man was excited to celebrate his memorable night with the friends and family who walked alongside him, even when he couldn’t. 

“They’ve been with me when I was playing good in high school, when I got hurt [and] when I recovered,” Washington said. “They’ve been there. It’s meant a lot.”

@cadeshoemaker23

@dthsports l sports@dailytarheel.com