Touted freshman Isaiah Washington gets tough love from Gophers’ senior Nate Mason

October 29, 2017 GMT

Richard Pitino recently noticed Isaiah Washington wasnt practicing as hard as he normally does, but it wasnt something he had to personally handle with his talented freshman.

Senior captain Nate Mason talked to his fellow point guard away from the team. And the next day, Washington had a completely different mind-set.

He comes in [Saturday], and hes got this big smile on his face, Pitino said Saturday at Gophers basketball media day. He said to me, I had a great talk with Nate last night about me playing hard.andthinsp;

Mason already has that type of tough-love relationship and mutual respect with Washington where he is always competing and demanding the most out of his younger teammate.

Im telling him a lot, Mason said. I dont take any plays off. I go at his head like hes not a freshman, because were going to need him. The way I come at him is, This is how its going to be in the Big Ten.andthinsp;

The Gophers are deeper at point guard than they were last season as a 24-win NCAA tournament team because of Washington, a highly rated recruit and social media sensation from Harlem. How much New Yorks top prep player can adjust to playing with Mason and at the college level will go a long way toward Minnesota having one of the best backcourts in the nation.

Mason, junior Dupree McBrayer and sophomore Amir Coffey likely will be the three starting guards entering this season. Washington and freshman Jamir Harris are expected to play prominent roles.

Washington hopes he plays a lot with Mason because of what they can do together.

I believe nobody can stay in front of me, and he believes nobody can stay in front of him, Washington said. If I get in the lane and find Nate, hes one hell of a shooter. He can score in many types of ways. And so can I. Were just hungry to be successful. If we play together, its going to be a long season for [opponents].