Quarantine in Abbotsford has passed quickly for Julian Washburn.
The newest member of the Fraser Valley Bandits has run through pretty much every Apple TV offering — “Anything that looks like it might be entertaining” — but also spent a good chunk of it watching Canadian Elite Basketball League games, research into a league he hadn’t known of until last year.
“I wanted to be more active, so I told my agent to go out there and see if there were any good leagues that I could play in this summer, and he told me (the CEBL) was really good. So I was like ‘Yeah, if you’re able to get me here, let’s do it,’” Washburn said. “I don’t know much about it, but I’ve heard about it. It looks like it’s a really competitive league, and there’s a lot more talent than people think. It looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Washburn is the final piece of the Bandits 2021 roster, after the team added a Shaq and a NAIA Goat in Shaquille Keith and Kenny Manigault earlier this week. The team opens the CEBL season on Saturday, June 26 when they host the Saskatchewan Rattlers at the Abbotsford Centre (4 p.m. PT, CBC.ca)
The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Washburn brings both NBA and G-League experience, appearing in 18 games for the Memphis Grizzlies in 2018-19, and winning a G-League title when his Austin Spurs swept the Raptors 905 in the championship series in 2017-18.
Keith, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound swingman from Toronto, was a teammate of recent Bandits signing Alex Campbell on the 2019 CEBL championship Saskatchewan Rattlers team. In his 2019 league debut, he dropped a season-high 27 points for the Rattlers against … the Bandits.
Manigault caught the eye of Fraser Valley GM Kyle Julius when he coached against him as the bench boss of the Formosa Dreamers. Another versatile 6-foot-5 swingman, Manigault led the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) in scoring as a member of the Macau Black Bears. He was also the NAIA Div. I men’s basketball player of the year in 2015 with the University of Pikeville in Kentucky after transferring from NCAA Div. 1 school Wichita State.
The 29-year-old Washburn has been a player in the ‘3-and-D’ mold since his days starring for the University of Texas at El Paso, where he ranks first in school history in total minutes (4,448), fourth in field goals (592) and sixth in scoring (1,526 points). In his final season with the Miners, he was named 2015 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, Conference USA All-Defensive Team and was one of 26 finalists for the Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award.
It didn’t translate into an NBA opportunity immediately, as he went undrafted when he graduated in 2015. He had stints with Golden State and San Antonio in the Summer League, but wound up first with the Austin Spurs, then overseas with the Tigers Tübingen in Germany. Two more stints with Austin sandwiched a season with the Canterbury Rams in New Zealand before he achieved his dream — making the NBA.
“I think I’ve had a pretty good career. There’s always gonna be up and downs,” Washburn said. “I accomplished one of my biggest goals, which was being able to play an NBA game, so that was pretty cool. I’ve been able to travel to a few places that without basketball I’m sure I wouldn’t have travelled to and met a lot of good people.”
His NBA career in Memphis concluded in a trade to the Warriors for Andre Iguodala — how many players can say they were traded straight up for a future NBA Hall of Famer? — and he’s spent the past two summers with the 76ers G-League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats.
In high school, he starred at point guard, shooting guard and small forward for Duncanville, leading his school to a No. 1 national ranking, honing his skills against players like DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors, John Wall and Austin Rivers.
His father, Chris Washburn, was drafted third overall in the 1986 Draft by the Golden State Warriors, but was a spectacular flame-out — Sports Illustrated considered him the second-biggest NBA bust of all time — his career going down because of drug and fitness issues.
Broke and addicted to drugs, living in abandoned buildings and crack houses and eating out of garbage cans, the elder Washburn’s relationship with his sons was strained. At one point, their mother warned UTEP coach Tim Floyd if he let Chris contact his sons — Julian’s younger brother Chris Jr. also played at UTEP before going on to a pro career — he’d yank them both from the program.
The elder Washburn is now sober, running his own business in North Carolina, and back in his sons’ lives, even being there when Julian made his 89-second NBA debut.
One of the lessons Julian Washburn took from his father’s story is to value what you have, and work hard to get what you don’t. Now in the fourth quarter of his pro career, he’s still grinding.
“I guess these last however many years I have left in my career, I just want to finish out strong and try to keep getting better,” he said, adding he’s eyeing another tour overseas after the CEBL season.
“This season is about just getting better, and having a great summer. Playing well here … I’ll have a lot of momentum going into my next opportunity, whatever that may be.”