Fifth-year guard Desmond Cambridge Jr. and senior center Warren Washington will take the stage for ASU men's basketball in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament against their former squad, the University of Nevada, Reno Wolf Pack, Wednesday night in Dayton, Ohio.
In his last year of playing eligibility, Cambridge Jr. said he was excited to learn he'd be playing against his former team and still keeps up with some of his "great teammates" from his Nevada days. But he most looked forward to finally realizing his dream of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Cambridge Jr. and Washington played 104 games and 101 starts together in their careers at Nevada. During that time, the Wolf Pack did not go to the tournament. Neither player went to the tournament with the teams they played for before Nevada, making this the first time they would both be dancing.
"I was shocked. It was cool to see that we were matched up with them," Cambridge Jr. said. "At the end of the day, I was just excited to be picked to play in the NCAA Tournament, especially with this being my last year in college, so that was a big dream come true. But to play against a team I just transferred from, that's really cool."
Washington and Cambridge Jr., along with the latter's brother, Devan Cambridge, who transferred from Auburn University, arrived in Tempe as part of a group of transfers that's revitalized the Sun Devil basketball team.
Last season at Nevada, Cambridge Jr. was the Wolf Pack's second-leading scorer. On top of difficult shots and late-game heroics, he emerged as ASU's leading scorer this season, averaging 13.7.
"They're both great kids. Hard workers," Hurley said. "Both bring dimensions to our team. Des was must-need scoring. We struggled to score last year, that's probably what held us back the most, and he provides instant offense."
Hurley said Cambridge Jr. is "never afraid of the moment."
Washington arrived in Tempe in a unique situation playing under Hurley, who lacked a 7-footer in the previous three seasons. Finishing the year averaging a little over nine points and close to seven rebounds, Washington was a significant entity to the Sun Devils, who possessed one of the more robust defenses in the nation.
"Warren has just been our anchor around the basket," Hurley said. "Just his ability to challenge shots, block shots and rebound the ball."
Washington said he chose to go to ASU after graduating from Nevada to give himself a chance to play in March.
"I felt like the group, with coach Hurley and the rest of the staff, I feel like they have the right kind of goal and the right type of mindset this year coming off a couple of years where they struggled," Washington said in November 2022. "So, I felt like this was the year for them, and I want to be a part of that."
Now with similar roles in a similar landscape, Cambridge Jr. and Washington stare down their former team that's threatening to jeopardize everything they've worked for.
Cambridge Jr., who played two seasons at Nevada, red-shirting a third, said after Selection Sunday, he spoke on the phone with one of his friends from his time in Nevada, junior forward Tré Coleman.
"It was just crazy that we got matched up. I said he couldn't go at me; he said he could lock me up. But we guard(ed) each other every day at practice; he made me better, and I made him better," Cambridge Jr. said. "This is what it's all about. It's just been great."
Unavoidably, when the Sun Devils take the floor Wednesday night against the Wolf Pack, there will be layers of emotion for Cambridge Jr. and Washington to peel back as they face their former team with their season on the line and college playing days hanging in the balance.
The Sun Devils tip off their March Madness campaign on Wednesday around 6 p.m. MST from the University of Dayton Arena.
Edited by Walker Smith, Piper Hansen and Greta Forslund.
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