By Terry Foster
When Drew Valentine injured his knee in football as a senior at Lansing Sexton High School many coaches recruiting him for basketball backed off.
Oakland University Assistant coach Saddi Washington did not. He went to the hospital and Valentine was one of the first faces he saw after coming out of surgery.
Valentine chose to play basketball with the Golden Grizzlies, in part, because of that. He returned to the program as an assistant.
“His recruiting style is that he really gets to know the guys,” said Oakland University head coach Greg Kampe.
This is the type guy the University of Michigan is getting. He was hired by Head Coach John Beilein as an assistant coach at Michigan and his recruiting will be very important for the Wolverines after losing Bacari Alexander who was named head coach of the University of Detroit Mercy.
Washington is a key cog that is just as effective in inner city Detroit as he is rural Indiana.
“He gets a relationship with the young man and it is an honest and trusting relationship,” Kampe said. “Kids just respect him. When they play for him, they listen to him. He is a very calming man. You don’t see him get excited too often.”
But when he does get excited, watch out.
Don’t slack off and do not try to cut corners. That is my advice for Michigan basketball players. That is not tolerated by Washington who I observed up close this past basketball season as the Oakland University Insider.
He is open and frank and loves open discussions. During the heat of battles he wants players to speak their minds and give their side of the story. He demands it and sometimes is disappointed when players refuse to speak up. Washington is low key and measured during calm times but revs it up during the heat of battle.
In many ways he is like Alexander, who is bigger and a tad bit louder.
The bottom line is both hate losing. And when the team does not perform well Washington can chip the paint off the walls with his fire and brimstone speeches. A couple of times Kampe wanted to make sure I would not use some of Washington’s colorful language for my blogs at Goldengrizzlies.com.
I already knew.
Washington is ready to step into the Big Ten as a coach and recruiter. He spent the last 10 seasons with the Golden Grizzlies and last three as associate head coach. During a rocky beginning this past season it was often Washington that shook the cobwebs out of players and motivated them to improved play on the floor.
He was Oakland’s primary recruiter and motivator. He helped bring in Kay Felder and sharp shooter Travis Bader.
I first knew of Washington during his playing days at Western Michigan University. The guy was smooth on the floor and scored at an alarming clip. He was a fighter back then. Washington overcame two knee injuries to be named twice to the All Mid-American Conference team. He played during the golden era of MAC basketball when he competed against future pros Wally Szczerbiak, Antonio Daniels, Earl Boykins, Ira Newble and Gary Trent.
Washington was a final cut with the Utah Jazz and mostly played professional ball overseas.
During his senior season Washington averaged 21.6 points per game and scored 24 points during a 75-72 victory over Clemson in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
He was later inducted into the WMU Athletic Hall of Fame.
It is a tough blow for the Golden Grizzlies after Felder declared for the NBA draft and signed with an agent meaning he won’t return.
But this is the next step for Washington who should someday return to his alma mater Western Michigan as a head coach and torment the MAC again.