The Minnesota Gophers will enter next season with the best point guard in New York City running their offense. Isaiah Washington, a four-star recruit, is in the middle of finishing his senior year at St. Raymond High School (Bronx, NY). His tantalizing play makes him a must-see attraction in the NYC-area and his backcourt partner, Omar Silverio, is helping the Ravens become serious contenders.
The dynamic-duo is a pair unlike any other in the city, often barraging opponents with a slew of points from both inside and behind the arc. Few guards can hold their ground against Washington and that’s because of his sheer strength. Despite often being the smallest guy on the court, Washington is an absolute bully. His explosive first step often leaves defenders in the dust and any contact along the way does very little to slow him down. He’s exceptionally good at finishing through contact and getting to the free throw line.
One concern is that he’s somewhat of a volume shooter. When he’s on, he shoots as well as anyone, and his lightning-quick ball-handling truly allows him to create space off the bounce. However, he’s fairly streaky and often needs a few shots to get warmed up.
“He has a bad habit of doing that,” says head coach Jorge Lopez. “He’s had a couple of games where he’s had a phenomenal performance when you look at the final stat-line, but he usually starts off missing a couple of shots. A guy like that, sometimes he needs to take a couple of shots, which aren’t his greatest shots, just to get himself going. He gets some leeway because ultimately we know he’s going to put on a good performance.”
Despite his early outings, he’s an unstoppable force as the game progresses. Earlier in the season, with the Ravens missing multiple players due to injury, Washington exploded for 48 points in a 100-98 loss to the Stepinac Crusaders. His most recent outburst of 55 points secured a 91-83 win over Cardinal Hayes. He’s a dynamite scorer and when Silverio has it going, the two become nearly unguardable.
Due to his physique and great penetration ability, playing man-to-man versus Washington is often ineffective. Thus, playing zone and clogging up the middle seems like the most logical strategy to try to slow down the 6-foot-1 guard. However, such a strategy doesn’t last too long; Omar Silverio is the kryptonite to any zone St. Raymond sees.
The junior wing from the Dominican Republican is often the recipient of Washington’s assists. Furthermore, he eases the pressure off Washington’s shoulders with his phenomenal shooting. Despite some recent shooting slumps, Silverio is easily the most lethal spot-up shooter in the city. His range is limitless, his light is always green and he does not shy away from the big moments. Silverio drains some of the most devastating bombs imaginable and they’re often a result of Washington.
The two complement each other perfectly on the court. If any team attempts to run a zone defense to stop Washington, the Ravens work the ball around until Silverio can connect on a soul-draining three. After enough punishment, teams will often realize they have to go back to man-to-man, and Silverio’s defender has to stay glued to the sharpshooter. This opens up the driving lanes for Washington and the rest takes care of itself.
They do a phenomenal job of reading the passing lanes and really making things happen in transition. And, despite Washington being the penetrator and Silverio being the shooter, the two can often reverse roles. When Washington gets hot, he’s as good as anyone shooting the ball. When defenses try to run Silverio off the three point line, he makes his way to the rim.
With their team captain Dallas Watson recently going down to injury (fractured arm), both will have to step up and help carry the team’s scoring load. St. Raymond currently has five losses, but their record is a bit deceiving. Three of their losses came against out-of-state teams, including a 5-point loss to Patrick School (Elizabeth, NJ), ranked number 8th in the country.
“With four minutes left in the game, we were up. There’s a reason they’re the number 8 team in the country, and we’re not ranked,” said coach Lopez. “We just made some really poor decisions, which allowed them to capitalize and get the win. I was really disappointed because we had an opportunity to really make some noise against a top-ranked opponent in the country. Going back home, I told our guys we’re battle-tested. I told our guys, we aren’t going to see anybody in New York City that as good as the teams we played [out-of-state].”
Their other two losses came during the stretch in which they were missing players to injuries. Since getting healthy, Watson’s injury aside, they have two wins over Bishop Loughlin and a win over Cardinal Hayes—both teams were atop their respective divisions at the time of the Ravens’ victories.
“We lost because of us, not the opponent,” said Washington. “We had lackadaisical turnovers and easy missed layups. We’ve turned it around and [have] played harder, and it’s become easier now. We just started playing more together and trusting each other.”
The Ravens have now won five straight and sit atop the NY AA division in the NYCHSAA. If Washington and Silverio can click in the same game, they’re nearly unbeatable. In the absence of Watson, production from the two will be vital for them to make a deep playoff run.