Tyson Washington, middle, with team captains E.J. Miller, left, and Nick Godfrey.
There are thousands of high school basketball players who over value their potential and under value their opportunity to play the sport. Tyson Washington is not one of them.
His playing time is a gift, not to Washington, but to everyone fortunate enough to witness him play. He is a true game-changer for West Columbus and its opponents. Tyson Washington has taught players, coaches and fans a great life lesson with his perseverance, work ethic and unwillingness to let life’s obstacles get in the way of his goals. His story epitomizes the value of high school athletics.
Washington is a special young person. According to his mother, he is served by the school’s Exceptional Children program.
Though academics and athletics present challenges for the West Columbus senior, he has not let those challenges keep him from pursuing his dreams. One of those dreams was to make the high school basketball team.
West Columbus varsity basketball coach W.T. Edwards knew Tyson had been unsuccessful in his three previous attempts at making the team. The first-year coach was faced with the choice of keeping a freshman with the potential to help the team in the coming years or choosing Washington for the final spot. Edwards decided more playing time on the junior varsity would benefit the freshman, so Washington made the squad.
“I was confident coming into the season that I had improved.” Washington said, “I knew my love for basketball was stronger than ever.” Edwards is extremely happy with his choice. “Having Tyson on our team this season has not only united our team with an unbreakable bond, but it has also ignited the entire school with their support of us.” He said, “The joy that basketball brings to Tyson is what we should all strive for in life. He has truly changed my life for the better and I hope that others can find the same joy from his story.”
For Washington, the camaraderie is special. “I love being around my teammates every day.” He said, “I believe the team has become more confident because I am always positive. I am excited that more people are coming to watch us play and how much our support has grown.” Washington realizes there is a loud response from the crowd when he enters the game. “I love hearing the crowd cheering when I get in the game.”
Washington’s playing time is limited, but he makes the most of it. Typically his insertion into the game comes in the final minutes. Even though the outcome of the game isn’t in doubt, the excitement and anticipation of seeing Washington in action is palpable. Sometimes it is necessary for Washington to “steal” an opponent’s pass to get a shot opportunity. Against South Robeson, Washington intercepted a pass near midcourt, dribbled into the frontcourt and nailed a three-pointer. His teammates and the Viking fans went crazy. The greatest reactions were the smiles on the faces of the South Robeson players after he sank the shot despite their team losing by double digits.
Red Springs had its game with West Columbus well in hand when coach Glen Patterson was made “aware” of Washington’s entry into the game. Patterson agreed the Red Devils would play their part. Afterwards, he shared his observations. “Tyson was an inspiration to watch.” Patterson said, “I was surprised that he chose to shoot a three-pointer, but he was successful after a couple of tries. It was a special event that Red Springs’ players and fans witnessed and a moment in my coaching career that I will not forget. I shared with my players afterwards that they just saw an example of whatever challenges face us in life, we can find a way to inspire others. It was a proud moment for Red Springs High School and me personally.” Red Springs was also the West Columbus opponent on Senior Night. Washington scored the game’s first two points and ended up with five points in his final home contest.
If Washington has that effect on the opposition, how large is his impact on the Vikings?
“Tyson means everything to this team,” senior and co-captain Nick Godfrey said. “He is honest with us when we need to do better, but he also constantly encourages us to keep working hard. Tyson is very aware of what’s going on in the game and he isn’t shy to let others know he thinks we can beat anyone around.”
E.J. Miller is also a Viking co-captain. “I have grown into loving Tyson like he was my own brother.” Miller said, “I really love his character because no matter how bad the situation may be, or how tough it is, Tyson always is right there by your side. Tyson is not of afraid of failure and he inspires our team to constantly be fearless. When asked about his best basketball moment for the McDonald’s Athletic Spotlight, Miller’s answer was “seeing Tyson score his first basket.”
Tyson Washington (21) high-fives with Viking teammate Tayvon Tyler after connecting on a three-pointer against South Robeson.
The “Washington Effect” is not limited to the basketball arena.
“Tyson is a student who always brings that smile to your day,” West Columbus teacher Shella Long said. “He is always positive and enjoys helping in activities in class, and most times he volunteers. Tyson enables students and adults to see the best in any situation. I can’t think of another student who has made as powerful of an impact to our school over the last four years as Tyson Washington.”
“As Tyson’s teacher, one of the proudest moments I have ever had was when I found out that he made the basketball team,” Leigh Ann Pate said. “He is one of the most hardworking, determined students I have ever taught. On the worst of days, he can always bring a smile to your face. What I wouldn’t do for a classroom full of Tyson Washingtons.”
At this writing, Washington has scored 23 points. In addition to the layup opening the scoring on his senior night, Washington has connected on seven of 21 shots behind the three-point arc.
West Columbus has a proud basketball heritage. Edwards is just the third varsity basketball coach in the school’s 51-year history. The 1969-70 team won the 2A state championship. Numerous conference titles have been earned through the years. Regardless of how this season turns out record-wise, the 2016-17 edition can be viewed with pride and as one of the school’s most successful.