Trinity Washington doesn’t play chess, but she’d probably be good at it.
Like the great passers throughout sports history, the Merced College point guard sees things develop two to three plays in advance.
Whether it’s Utah Jazz Hall of Famer John Stockton, Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta or all-time hockey great Wayne Gretzky, playmakers anticipate as opposed to react. It’s a trait that defines Washington’s play and has helped elevate the Lady Devils to a No. 7 ranking in Northern California and No. 16 in the state.
And odds are the freshman is just getting started.
Washington leads Northern California with 6.2 assists per game and is ranked fifth in the state. She etched her name into MC lore last week with six assists in a road victory over Reedley. Those dimes gave her 154 assists for the season, breaking Karen McGill’s single-season record of 150 set in 1993. Washington accomplished the feat in seven fewer games and still has four regular-season games and what the Lady Devils hope will be a deep playoff run to build upon it.
“I’ve always known I see things on the court differently,” Washington said. “I’ve always been able to see the floor well and people compliment me on my court vision. I tell my teammates it doesn’t matter whether they think I see them or not. I see them, and if they’re open, they better be ready for the ball.
“I thought I could come and do well here. I never thought I’d be breaking records, but I knew I could make this team better. I didn’t have any idea I was close to it (the assists record). Coach (Allen Huddleston) called timeout and told me I’d done it.”
Huddleston said he didn’t trust Washington’s teammates to keep the accomplishment secret, so only he and his staff were aware of when the 21-year-old mark fell.
“I told them I didn’t call timeout because I wanted them to do anything differently, but I just wanted them to know they were playing with Merced College’s all-time leading passer,” Huddleston said. “Trinity just looked at me.
“It’s funny how you become spoiled. When she doesn’t have 10 assists, I feel like it’s a bad night. But it’s a lot of fun to watch her and see how well she understands the game.
“We’ve had a lot of great guards at MC, but I don’t know if we’ve ever had a better point guard.”
Blessed with a sixth sense in passing, a quick first step, a nonstop motor, natural toughness and contempt for losing, Huddleston said Washington is a Division 1 talent. Teams overlooked her intangibles, however, and just focused in on her 5-foot-3 frame.
Not that Huddleston is complaining.
With one of the state’s best front-court tandems in Sonji Green (19.4 points, 11.8 rebounds per game) and Rogeene Russell (10.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg) already in the fold, Washington’s presence as a floor general and a lock-down defender has made Merced a genuine state-tournament contender.
The Blue Devils have wins over NorCal No.1 Fresno City (twice), No. 2 San Francisco City, No. 3 Santa Rosa and No. 8 Solano. The freshman guard has played her best against the top competition, averaging over 11 points and seven assists in those games.
Washington will try to keep that run going as the Lady Devils (17-8, 6-2 Central Valley Conference) attempt to close out their last four CVC games undefeated and secure at least a second-place finish.
“We were huddled up at practice the other day and she asked me if she could say something,” Huddleston said. “She said, ‘Just so you all know, we’re not losing again. Do what you have to do to get on board with that.’
“As a coach, you long for that kind of leadership. Her teammates know that if she commits a turnover and it’s because they weren’t ready for the ball, she’s going to be in their ear going down the court. She demands that her teammates step up to he level of play and they’re responding to it.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.