Sports Scene: Washington III’s absence in Mr. Basketball discussion is perplexing

Chaminade-Julienne got a boost when Dayton’s womens basketball program hired George Washington Jr. as an assistant coach a year ago. Washington, who was Texas’ head coach from 2012 to 2020, moved his family to the Miami Valley after getting the job.

His oldest son, George Washington III, was an Ohio State commit and one of the nation’s top guards in the Class of 2023. He enrolled at CJ and helped the program have a banner year. The Eagles, which finished 17-8 and advanced to a district final in 2022, finished 26-3 this year and advanced to a Division II state semifinal.

Washington III, who decommitted from Ohio State and later signed with Michigan, averaged 24 points, four rebounds and three assists per game this season and shot 53 percent from the floor and 88 percent from the free-throw line.

He had several tremendous performances, including a 30-point outpouring against Versailles a few days before Christmas.

But despite those stats and performances against stout competition, he was nowhere to be found among the finalists for Ohio Mr. Basketball last month.

That drew the ire of many, including’s Matt Goul, who wrote a column blasting Southwest district media panel for not nominating Washington III for Mr. Basketball.

Instead, the one and only nominee was Centerville’s Gabe Cupps, an Indiana signee who was voted Mr. Basketball last season. Cupps, a senior like Washington, averaged 15.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.2 assists for the Elks this year.

It’s a difficult conversation gauging stats from a point guard like Cupps against a shooting guard like Washington. But with both being Big Ten recruits on teams who were state-ranked all season (and went on to earn state berths), it’s safe to say they’re pretty even, all things considered.

There’s no limit on how many Mr. Basketball finalists a district nominates, a fact reflected by the Central district having nominated both Columbus Africentric’s Dailyn Swain (Xavier commit) and Pickerington Central’s Devin Royal (Ohio State commit) as finalists.

Yet I can’t recall Washington being discussed during the meeting, nor anyone else. It seemed a foregone conclusion Cupps would be the Mr. Basketball nominee, and the only one.

To those on the outside posting about the issue online, it reeks of homerism, given the fact the two Southwest district media panel chairpersons have Centerville ties. One is the managing editor of a chain of weeklies that has a Centerville paper, and the other is a Centerville grad who still lives in the city. One of them is also a vocal Ohio State fan on social media, which doesn’t help as far as optics, given Washington III decommitting from OSU and signing with Michigan.

I don’t know if homerism played any role. What I do know is it’s not a good look for the Southwest district, especially given the controversy I wrote about a year ago regarding Cupps’ selection as Mr. Basketball in the first place.

Washington was selected as Gatorade’s Ohio player of the year, so he does have one award to add to his shelf.

Cupps finished as runner up in Mr. Basketball voting this year to Royal, who won despite being one of two Central district nominees.

A good lesson: a player can be one of two nominees from the same district… and still win Mr. Basketball.

Billing has participated in Southwest district basketball all-star meetings for a little over a decade. He has been the sports editor of the Sidney Daily News since 2017. He can be reached at [email protected].