Earlier this decade , Washington
was one of the best high school basketball players in the Seattle , Wash. , area -- and one of its most poorly motivated students.He
started at point guard for two seasons at West Seattle High School
, winning his
team's most valuable player award and a spot on the All-Metro League second team.At the same time , his
academic achievements were much less noteworthy.My grades in high school were horrible , he
admits.I didn't have the same appreciation for education that I do now.I used to hate school.Now I love it..Washington
skipped through high school with a 2.0 grade point average ( on a 4.0 scale ) , and he
replicated those mediocre marks during his
first year at Bellevue ( Wash. ) Community College
continued to excel at basketball , however , capping his
sophomore season at Bellevue by earning MVP honors at the Northwest community college all-star game.Despite his
ongoing successes on the basketball court , there were no athletic scholarships from four-year schools looming on the horizon.With that in mind , Washington
was taking academics more seriously by his
second year at Bellevue.Once idle thoughts about a medical career began to take flight , he
cumulative college grade point average to 3.4 during his
third academic year at Bellevue ; and he
gained admission to Whitman , a school that takes pride in the high percentage of its graduates who gain admittance to medical school.
During the summer of 1997 , before his
first semester at Whitman , Washington spent six weeks in the Minority Medical Education Program at the University of Washington School of Medicine.Later that summer , he
spent three more weeks as an intern in the office of Dr. Sigvard Ted Hansen , a 1957 Whitman graduate and orthopedic surgeon who has offices at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
As a biology major at Whitman in the fall of 1997 , Washington
earned a 3.6 grade point average while starting his
first basketball season for the Missionaries.Shaking off nagging injuries , Washington
averaged 13.3 points , 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists.By the end of the academic year , he
had raised his
cumulative grade point average to 3.7 and was one of 41 Whitman students who earned Scholar Athlete honors by maintaining grade point averages of 3.5 or higher.Washington
returned to Harborview last June , spending a full summer internship with Dr. Hansen , who is recognized internationally for the innovations he
brought to reconstructive surgery under trauma conditions.As an intern , he
worked with Dr. Hansen as he
examined and diagnosed patients in his
clinic office , observed numerous orthopedic surgeries , and helped in the Harborview Emergency Room.Washington
also assisted an orthopedic clinic surgeon who is using his
engineering background to test the strength of bones and connective.in the foot and ankle , which is Dr. Hansen's area of anatomical expertise.
developed an athletic kinship of sorts with the graduate orthopedists in Dr. Hansen's office , he
learned one very basic lesson.
is a great surgeon , but he
also is very good with his
patients , Washington
said.Working with him showed me how important it is to communicate with people.He
has a great relationship with the patients he
sees in his
Dr. Hansen also taught me a lot about hard work , right from the beginning , Washington
added.When I first called about an internship , he
had me go to his
house the next day so he
could get to know me. It was about 90 degrees outside and we carried bricks up three flights of stairs all day.The next day it was raining and we carried bricks all day in the rain.I don't know , but I think it was a test to see if I was willing to work hard..
It was Washington's willingness to work hard , both on and off the basketball court , that most impressed his
new teammates last year at Whitman , according to head basketball coach Skip Molitor.We have a few science majors on our roster , and it was very clear to them that not only was Will a gifted athlete , but he
was working very hard in the classrooms and laboratories.
Other Whitman basketball players who can relate to Washington's
determined pursuit of a medical career are seniors Cameron Evans of Roosevelt , Utah , and Tom Storey of Spokane , Wash. Evans , the son of an obstetrician/gynecologist , spent last summer at the University
...Washington remains a committed athlete and intense competitor in the gym , but he isn't about to forget there is more to life than athletics
.For one thing , it is a lesson his
parents , Willie and Juanita Washington , worked too long and hard to teach him.His mother has been an elementary school teacher in Seattle for as long as he can remember
.His father , now retired from the Boeing Co. , was a record-setting track & field athlete who also led his high school basketball team to a state title as a 5-foot-10 center
I was just too hard-headed to listen to them when I was younger , Washington
said.They stayed on me about working hard in school.They didn't give up.They did the best they could to get me to listen..
Even though his
father was the athlete in days gone by , it was his
mother the school teacher , who started turning cartwheels once her
oldest son starting hitting the books with a vengeance , Washington
Speaking from first-hand experience , Washington
has plenty of advice for his
youngest brother and other talented high school athletes.It's great for young guys to play sports and have dreams about pro ball , but they should be realistic , he
said.They should pay attention in class , do well in school and get involved in their community.For me , it's a good feeling now that basketball is not my whole life in college..
Now in his
second year as president of Whitman's Black Student Union
( BSU ) , Washington
is developing a Big Brother/Big Sister mentoring program that matches the BSU with at-risk youngsters in the local community.He
also has worked in a variety of community service projects , volunteering his
time with the Special Olympics program and at a local farm labor camp and the Whitman Health Center.
We have always had great high school basketball players in the Metro League in Seattle , some of the best players in the country , and it's too bad that some of them never get the chance to play beyond high school , Washington
said.Too many of them never pass their college admission test.Or , if they do , they aren't able to handle the academics in college.That's sad.Really sad..