Sitting in the crowd at Madison Square Garden for the matchup between Connecticut and Villanova last week, Isaiah Washington snapped a pic and posted to social media he was there to support Jahvon Quinerly, a fellow Jelly Fam member.
Washington was glad to see Quinerly forget about the rough start to his freshman season and play well in a Villanova victory.
“He played with confidence,” the Gophers sophomore guard said. “I guess just us being there cheering him on, it made him a lot more comfortable.”
Washington, a former New York high school player of the year, still headlines the Jelly Fam movement, which he says is more than just a flashy finger roll that made him a social media sensation in high school.
“Jelly Fam, it’s not really just a layup,” Washington said. “It’s trying to be good role models for the kids on what to do and what not to do.”
Separating his social media status and popularity in New York City from trying to be the best college basketball player he can be hasn’t been easy for Mr. Jelly Fam, though.
Like Quinerly, Washington has struggled this season, but he too is gaining more confidence, especially coming off two victories where he recorded double-digit assists. He is the first player in Gophers history to do that in consecutive games.
Washington’s 14-point, 13-assist performance vs. North Florida on Dec. 11 was the second-highest assist game ever for the Gophers (10-2), who play Mount St. Mary’s (3-9) on Sunday at Williams Arena.
“It’s me being able to change the pace of the game and making the right reads on the floor,” Washington said. “Making everybody else better is making my game a lot better.”
Washington’s success and failures are magnified being coach Richard Pitino’s most-hyped recruit, but mostly because he’s got 628,000 followers on Instagram as the co-founder of Jelly Fam. The movement was started with his basketball buddies in high school, and it blew up because of the “Jelly” finger roll.
He has always been a crowd-pleaser, but Washington will go several games without even attempting a jelly now. He doesn’t want that shot to define him or his group.
When he returned home during Christmas break, Washington hung out and spoke to youth at Milbank Children’s Center in Harlem. Staying involved in the community and with the younger generation of ballplayers is a huge part of what Jelly Fam is about.
Jelly Day the past two years was in event (at Dyckman Park and recently Milbank) in August where people from all over New York came together to have fun, eat and watch hoops. Folks still are asking Washington about leftover Jelly Day shirts, which were handed out for free.
“Some of them growing up don’t got that role model,” he said. “We want them to know if we can do it, then they can do it, too. It’s a great experience just to be around kids who look up to you.”
Streetball legend and former NBA point guard Rafer “Skip To My Lou” Alston said recently on the Combos Court podcast that he loves the Jelly Fam movement but hopes Washington doesn’t get caught up in the hype.
“My thing on him is I know he can do this,” Alston said. “You got to get the movement out of your mind when you’re playing at Minnesota … It’s not just Isaiah. I just put his name out there, because he’s intriguing and I love his movement. I love his Jelly Fam movement. But you got to keep your eye on the prize. If you’re playing this game, you want to go far. And the biggest stage is the NBA. I think he can make it, but can you leave Jelly Fam where it’s at and go ahead for these next five months concentrate on what you can do to help Minnesota?”
Washington has shown what he can do to help the Gophers win. Now it’s all about making sure he can perform that way on a consistent basis, Pitino said.
“That’s the important thing is him being consistent with his mentality, mind-set and the way he plays on the court,” Pitino said. “Taking good shots, playing defense and not turning the ball over. He’s very important to our team. We’re better when he’s playing well.”