Keith Shimada / Special to the Home News
Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | midnight
There hasn't been a sophomore slump for Liberty point guard Jade Washington.
After earning a starting spot as a freshman last year and catching coach Chris Zunno's eye as a future star for of Patriots' girls basketball team, Washington has continued to excel this year averaging 13 points and seven assists per game.
"Jade has been outstanding this year," Zunno said. "She's really become one of the best point guards in the city, but she doesn't get the credit she deserves. She gets overlooked with some of the point guards from schools that have had more successful programs."
With Washington's help, the Patriots are off to a 9-4 start — the best in the school's six-year history. While a trip to the playoffs could boost her profile, Washington just wants to see the program reach the postseason. The Patriots have never qualified for the playoffs.
"This whole team, we've all got the same mindset. We want to make the playoffs," Washington said. "We want to prove to all the haters that we're better than they think we are. You can't overlook us."
Zunno said Washington has a natural athletic ability that allows her to excel, but it's the combination of that athleticism and a strict work ethic that have helped her become a top player in the Southeast Division.
"Jade has become a basketball junkie over the last year," Zunno said. "She's constantly working and she puts so much time and effort into improving."
Because of her strong presence on the court and the example she sets in practice, Zunno has placed the leadership role in her hands and gives her room to call plays and adjust the Patriots' look during games.
"I don't mind taking ownership of the team if that's what coach needs me to do," Washington said. "I don't feel like I'm not ready or there's too much pressure on me because I'm a sophomore. I just do what I have to do to help us win."
While Zunno praised her speed, defense and ability to finish, he said she has taken it upon herself to identify areas of her game that can be improved. She is working on her pull-up jump shot, which will allow her more options on offense without forcing her to drive the lane as much.
"There's always something to work on — right now it's my jump shot and my free throws," she said. "I think I'm playing well right now but I'm not satisfied. I've got to keep working."
Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or firstname.lastname@example.org.