- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

As a freshman at American University, Tim Washington had the perfect last name for his locale. He had the game to go with it, too, winning the 2000 Rookie of the Year Award in the Colonial Athletic Association.
But after Washington's first season, when the Eagles switched to the Patriot League and hired Jeff Jones as coach, the 6-foot-9 forward decided to take his game 15 or so miles outside the Beltway to Bowie State. The presidential puns may not be as present but his game remains strong.
"I wanted to play for someone who recruited me, someone who could give me their word where I fit in," said Washington who was one of the area's best players coming out of Archbishop Carroll High School in 1998 and spent a post-graduate year at Winchendon Academy in Massachusetts. "I checked out many other schools like George Washington and Maryland. … I came up here on a visit, and they told me [the program] was coming up on the rise."
Apparently, they weren't kidding.
Washington has been a vital part of Bowie State's evolution from a perennial cellar-dweller to one of the nation's best Division II programs, averaging 20.1 points and 9.3 rebounds in his senior season.
The Bulldogs, 21-3 after finishing 20-8 last season, recently found themselves ranked in the Division II national top 10 (ninth) for the first time in school history, helped along by the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association's best overall record (12-2). After two straight losses earlier in the month, Bowie State is ranked 19th.
"When I started, we were basically looked at as an easy game for everyone," coach Luke D'Alessio said of a program that went from 1979 to 1999 without a 10-win season.
Since, Bowie State has pieced together a program on the cusp of its first trip to the NCAA Division II tournament. The team is ranked second in the South Atlantic region and is a favorite to win the CIAA tournament and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The team's three defeats have been margins of three or fewer points, including a 99-96 loss to Virginia Union on Feb.4 that snapped a school-record 15-game winning streak. Washington was the leading scorer or rebounder in every game but one during that stretch, including a 33-point, 12-rebound effort at Virginia Union on Jan22.
"He's not really into talking that much," senior Omarr Smith said of the team's star. "He says what needs to be said, but he just shows it out on the court. When all else fails, we go to him."
Smith also credited 6-8 senior Jon Smith's contributions when Washington encounters double-teams, and 6-9 senior Shawn Hampton, who comes off the bench to spell Washington.
Said point guard Cornelius McMurray, whose 7.3 assists per game are second in the conference: "The players around him make Tim Washington a good player. If [other] players aren't hitting shots, he's ineffective. There's always double teams and triple teams coming at him."
McMurray concedes he isn't sure how a team filled with numerous transfers, from Division I and junior colleges programs managed to jell as Bowie State has.
"Last year was a learning period," he said. "This year we're learning to finish out games. We're smart ballplayers, and we're on the same page."
D'Alessio credited Washington's smarts as his best asset, adding, "He's a very intelligent player, very fundamentally sound, and has a lot of talent. He gives defenses problems because he's a 6-foot-9 player who can handle the ball, shoot the ball, and play with his back to the basket. You basically have to double team him to succeed."
Washington, a criminal justice major who enjoys spending time with his 2-year-old daughter, landed a flurry of awards last season, including All-CIAA and All-CIAA tournament honors. With 16 points in the loss to Shaw last Saturday, Washington moved into second place on Bowie State's all-time scoring list with 1,232 points. He trails only Chuck Gholston, who scored 1,675 over four seasons from 1989 to 1993.
"I'm not too into individual awards," Washington said. "I think I'm a great team player I like to get everyone involved, and I score when I have to."
Despite its record, Bowie State must win the CIAA tournament later this month to get that berth in the NCAA tournament. At-large bids are available CIAA teams got two last season but the Bulldogs would rather not take a chance.
"Our goal is to win it all," Omarr Smith said. "We worked hard all summer and in summer leagues to be at this level."
The Bulldogs' confidence isn't unusual for a team with nine seniors. Each player in the starting lineup Washington, Jon Smith (14.7), Omarr Smith (12.3), McMurray (10.3) and Stephen Moss-Kelley (13.5) averages double figures for an offense that puts up 86.3 points a game.
"Division II is a good level to play at," D'Alessio said. "It's pretty much a second opportunity for a lot of kids. There's a niche here. I like giving kids a second chance."
And Washington and his teammates are making the most of it.

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