Pearl River's Tristen Washington - Determined Dreamer
Tristen Washington loves the game of basketball, and she is great at it. But as a player moves up the ranks into college and hopefully beyond, it becomes ever more difficult to balance real life and basketball life. Each player must find a way to deal with that challenge or must eventually stop playing competitively. For her part, Tristen is working on meditation alongside her dedication to push through the hardest challenges of her life.
Tristen picked up a basketball at five-years-old and has never looked back. She learned the game from her father, then took it to the next level when playing for the varsity basketball team at East Ascension High School. Tristen helped lead the school to a state championship in her junior year, when she was named team MVP. She finished high school as a 3-time all-district and 2-time all-state selection. She then signed to play for D1 Northwestern State, about three hours from home. Tristen played at Northwestern State for two years before she decided to transfer and work on her game somewhere else. That led her to Pearl River Community College.
Deciding to move to a JUCO team seems surprising, but Tristen had entered the transfer portal late in the process. So Tristen took a chance with the JUCO route and, with that extra COVID year, intends to develop her game under Pearl River head coach Scotty Fletcher.
Tristen played well at Northwestern State. But she’s set the goal of eventually playing for a higher level D1 school. She chose the JUCO route hoping it will give her a chance to make that jump. There are no guarantees that another D1 team will pick her up after Pearl River and Tristen knows that, but it is a risk that she was willing to take. Tristen is confident in her ability to reach her goal based on her play and that has shown so far at Pearl River.
Tristen loves her new team and has played the best basketball of her career so far. She is leading her team in points, averaging more than 10 points a game while shooting better than 36% from the field. She has been the spark this team has needed and steps up when her number is called.
Tristen always wanted to play college ball, but found out that life on campus brings a number of difficulties that she did not have to endure in high school.
“Transitioning to college and struggling with time management was the hardest part for me but I think that as I got older it is something that I have gotten better at,” Tristen said. “Playing at Northwestern [State] I had seven classes, practice, weights, and conditioning so I was really struggling, and I was overwhelmed with everything.”
Being apart from her parents and two brothers has not been an easy transition either, especially when balancing that workload coming out of high school. Northwestern State taught her that time management is crucial. The need to find balance led Tristen to seek ways to manage the rigorous workload of a student athlete.
“I needed to take that moment to find a feeling of peace and meditation to breath and to tell myself that I got this,” Tristen said. “My dad would always tell me that I know how good I am and that I could always get better.” Finding that peace in meditation connected Tristen with her faith at a higher level and helped her grow her relationship with God.
That connection with her faith is not the only thing that’s helping her. Tristen's mom was someone who saw the positivity in her daughter's eyes thoughout her life and helped support her through those trying times.
“My mom would want people to know that I have a really good attitude when it comes to most things,” she said. “It definitely helped me through the transition in college and the large workload,” Tristen said.
Positivity is not the only aspect of her personality. Quiet, hard-working, attentive, caring, and selfless: all these adjectives describe Tristen. Add funny: Assistant coach Mendy McNeese says Tristen keeps things loose.
“Since she is so quiet you just would not expect her to do little things that she does.” Mendy goes on to say, “I will be going over assignments and asking questions to the team and she will just be standing right behind me staring at me and it is just funny coming from her because she is so quiet. We would just be in the office, and she would just peek her head around the corner and just start staring at us. Just funny stuff like that,” she says.
Pearl River is living through an exciting season. The team has already dealt with a bus crash, visiting a Chick-fil-A inside a hospital before a game, managing league-wide rule changes, and enduring various tornado watches. All of these events occurred with a game coming right up. Still, it is impossible to throw Tristen off her game or stop her from enjoying her experiences with the team. After all of that, they had a tough loss in overtime as they fell to Coahoma, but Tristen still managed to have a productive 10 point game. That is what shows coaches and players how great a person and teammate she is.
Tristen's teammate Tae Burrage explains how Tristen handles herself as a teammate and friend. “There just never seems to be a dull moment with her every time we spend time together,” she said. “When it comes to on the court, when she is hot, I always try to give her the ball and when I am hot, she always makes sure she feeds me the ball. She is a teammate that any team would love to have because she is always motivating everyone. Even if I am having a bad night shooting, she always encourages me to keep going and not to give up, which it is great to have someone like that on your team.”
Tristen loves scoring, of course. But she prides herself on being a productive player on both sides of the ball. Tristen is not afraid of getting hacked down low if it means generating offense for the team. Good coaching is helping.
“After a tough loss to Mississippi Gulf Coast we stayed in the locker room till around midnight and we just felt that pain,” Coach McNeese says. “The next morning, going over film we were tough on her after making some wrong plays and we told her, being a D1 transfer we need you in these big moments.”
The lesson stuck. “The next morning she came in straight face like nothing ever happened and it was like a switch was flipped that took her game to the next level. I always have a lot of respect for a player that can take that kind of criticism, showed how tough of a kid she was, and responded well to it.”
Accountability is not a new concept for Tristen. Knowing how good she can be, her dad always made sure to push her. Sometimes it was rough, but Tristen always knew that it was coming from a place of love and always valued those experiences with her dad. This helps her when she gets held accountable by her college coaches.
Even as Tristen continues her incredible season at Pearl River, she is already thinking she does not want to look back on her basketball career and say, “what if." She hopes to transfer after two years to another D1 college. She is convinced she can persevere through the hurdles of transferring to a new school for a third time and manage the many struggles that come with that. Tristen knows how to use her meditation and positive attitude to keep her focused wherever her next venture takes her.
After graduation, she hopes to play international basketball and dreams of the WNBA. If she achieves that dream, she’s already eyeing her dream car: A lime green Camero. It will require effort, but Tristen believes in striving. A bright dream car for a future star.
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