In 2011, an extremely young UTEP team fell victim to injuries early on in the season, and was left playing with a depleted front line for most of the year. A solid recruiting class in 2012 will ensure that we don't have to go through that again. The Miners will return C John Bohannon, F Cedrick Lang, F Malcolm Moore, and F Hooper Vint, while adding C Matt Willms, and highly touted F/C Chris Washburn Jr. to the mix.
Washburn Jr., a Grand Pairie, TX native and brother of current Miner Julian Washburn, was considered a four star prospect by Scout.com, and was also a top 120 player according to Rivals. Even better for the Miners is that not only will he bring added size and depth to the squad, but according to his brother, he brings the all around package.
"He's like a 3/4, he plays in and out. He has a great IQ, he has great post moves, he's a smart defender, and he passes the ball great as a big man...He's a great help defender...and he finds me every time I'm open which a lot of point guards can't even do. He's just a great all around player."
While Washburn Jr. will bring plenty to the table when it comes to size and talent, it could be the presence of his older brother that really makes him flourish into a great player. For any 18 year old, a transition to a new school, a new city, and a new atmosphere can be a tough thing. But, when you've got big bro by your side, it makes thing just a little bit easier. Chris even admitted, Julian was the reason why he is where he is.
Chris Washburn Jr:
"He always tells me just to always keep my composure because there's going to be some things that you're not going to like, but with him by side he's going to tell me how to handle those situations. That was one of the main reasons I came here."
In the summer of his junior year Chris' recruiting began to gain steam as some of the biggest programs in the country came calling. The big man had offers from the likes of Marquette, Maryland, Missouri, Providence, and others, and was also gaining heavy interest from both Texas A&M, and Kansas. The Aggies were actually number one on Chris' list, but it was the Miners who snagged him.
While Chris wasn't the type of scorer coming out of high school that his brother was, he does have the tools and talent that could make him into just as great a player for the Miners. He's got the height and mass to be a great interior defender, he's got the hands to be a solid passer, he's got the ability to be a good scorer, and he's got the smarts to be, as Julian would say, "just an all around great player".
Chris will have to continue to work hard on his game and conditioning throughout the off season in order to make a big impact for this Miner team. And rest assured, he realizes what he needs to do. In the media day he mentioned getting in shape was a top priority, and that keeping up with Julian is what will help him get to that next level.
Overall, this team will bring in five new faces, including two in the front court. There could be a rotation of as many as 6 players at the four and the five, and each could play a significant role. The bottom line is, we may be young, but we are deep. And, when you've got talent like Washburn Jr. coming off the bench, we should be in for a great year.