Off-the-court trouble jeopardizes Wyoming star’s career

Jeff Eisenberg

One of the feel-good stories in last year's Mountain West was Wyoming forward Leonard Washington putting his troubled tenure at USC behind him and making the most of his fresh start.

That's why it's unfortunate to see the senior-to-be jeopardizing the good will he built up in Laramie last season because of recent off-the-court issues.

Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt suspended Washington indefinitely April 4 for unspecified team rules violations. Then Tuesday, Washington was sentenced for battery and criminal entry as a result of an April 15 incident in which he allegedly entered a house party without invitation and punched a guest with a closed fist.

An incident like this one isn't all that unusual in college, but Washington's judgment was especially poor considering it happened less than two weeks after his suspension. It's unclear at this point what punishment Washington will face from the Wyoming staff since coach Larry Shyatt has only said he's aware of the situation and monitoring it closely.

Complicating Shyatt's decision is the importance of Washington to a Wyoming team that won 21 games last season against a modest schedule but loses three of its top five scorers to graduation. Washington led Wyoming in scoring and rebounding as a junior, averaging 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, shooting 56 percent from the floor and displaying the same fiery competitiveness he did at USC without any of the issues that came with it.

At USC, Washington was best known for the punch to the groin he delivered to Oklahoma star Blake Griffin during his freshman season. Washington also began his sophomore year academically ineligible for the fall semester and later clashed with new coach Kevin O'Neill so many times that he was dismissed from the team at the end of the season.

It seemed like Washington was making the most of his second chance last season. Now he'll have to hope he's lucky enough to get a third one.