Coletrane Washington is getting a crash course in 2020 basketball this week.
The Pittsburgh native, Quaker Valley alum and Drexel Dragons junior had his team’s season opener against Penn State on Wednesday postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Nittany Lions program.
Thursday, he spent Thanksgiving without his family, as teams across the country kept their players home in hopes of limiting the number of positive cases as they move through the season’s opening weeks.
Friday, he found out he won’t be able to play in Saturday’s new season opener when the Dragons come visit Pitt at Petersen Events Center. At least that news came with a more-normal explanation: Washington has an ankle injury.
Such are the tribulations of attempting to play college basketball in a pandemic.
Drexel’s conference affiliation in the CAA keeps the Dragons mostly on the East Coast, so there hasn’t been an opportunity for Washington to return to the Steel City until now.
“There’s not a lot of games, I could play where I know that some of my family’s going to be there,” he said in an interview with Pittsburgh Sports Now this week.
Washington was originally hoping for a grand return to Pittsburgh when the game between his Dragons and the Panthers was originally put on the schedule. He hasn’t played a competitive game in Pittsburgh since high school, and his last experience at the venue wasn’t exactly one that left a positive taste in his mouth. Washington went o-2 in his career at the Pete, the last a WPIAL championship game loss to New Castle in 2018.
Instead, it’ll be a muted return, with five or six family members in the stands and perhaps a chance for a quick hello outside the bus garage before the Dragons return to Philadelphia.
Washington also won’t get a chance to show to Pittsburgh the player that he’s become, now entering his third season at Drexel.
“I think I’ve definitely matured as a player,” Washington said. “I think I’ve improved my shooting, even though I shot it pretty well at Quake Valley. I think I’ve definitely improved my shooting and just my poise and maturity. I’m in my junior year. So I’ve definitely seen a lot of basketball, played a lot of high-level basketball. So I think I’ve matured a lot as a player.”
The Dragons are coming off a 14-19 season with a 6-12 record in CAA play in 2019-20, their fourth season under head coach Zach Spiker. With Zach Walton graduating and Sam Green transferring to Howard, the Dragons will likely lean on Washington even more this year on the wing.
Last season, he averaged 5.1 points per game and shot 43.9% from 3-point range while coming off the bench in all 33 games for Drexel. This year, a starting role is certainly within grasp once he returns from injury.
Pitt will be coming off a shocking loss to St. Francis in their season opener, but the Dragons have confidence coming into the game.
“We’ve definitely played our share of NBA guys,” he said. “In the CAA there’s definitely a couple NBA guys. So I’ve had I’ve had a chance to go up against and actually go head to head with guys that are getting drafted, which is definitely a great experience. … We play a fast-paced game, up tempo game.”
While the players’ families are the only fans that are being permitted at the Pete so far this season, Washington knows there will be at least some folks cheering on the Dragons in the crowd.