In Ragin' Cajun land you might call Bryce Washington the "King of the Court."
“How can you not love a guy that rebounds the basketball the way he does?” says Louisiana head coach Bob Marlin. “You can shoot too much. You can dribble too much. You can pass too much. But you can never rebound too much.”
Bryce is turning heads nationally as well. He’s ranked in the top 15 in the country rebounding and currently on pace to finish third in Sun Belt Conference history in that category.
But when it comes to the Washington family, the 6' 6" senior isn’t the only royalty.
"I knew that he was going to become king my senior year of college,” says Bryce. “This is the ultimate goal. This is his Sun Belt Tournament championship. Him being at the top right now and having a blast and seeing his smile, it brings joy to me and my older brother."
Brent Washington, Sr. and Troye Washington, Bryce's parents, will reign as King and Queen Zulu this year, and it's the culmination of an entire career, so to speak, that the whole family shares.
“Zulu has been a part of my life for a long time,” says Troye. “I grew up uptown right at the start of the parade. So that's where I watched it.”
“It's one thing my dad always talked about as we grew up,” says Bryce. “My older brother was the first to ride because I wasn't old enough to ride yet. Just to see him on the float on my mother's neck when I was a child, it was so joyful to see my brother and dad on the float.”
And on Tuesday morning, for the first time in four years, the family will be reunited in the parade.
“Usually, I just have the Mardi Gras music playing in my room for these couple of weeks during Mardi Gras,” says Bryce. “But just to come back for this weekend and just to come back on Mardi Gras Day to experience this moment and ride on the float, that's really all I ever wanted.”
Because if you haven't ridden in one of New Orleans most historic parades, the Washington family will tell you it quickly becomes an addiction.
“It's really a rush,” says Brent. “Once you get on the float at 8 o'clock in the morning, the parade starts at the corner of Jackson and Claiborne. And once you turn that corner, it's like you part the sea. The float is coming up the middle, and all you see is droves of people.”
“Everyone wants you to know that they're there, but you really don't because everybody's calling your name,” says Troye. “But it's a wonderful experience.”
“Once you ride that first time, you're going to want to ride every year until you can't ride anymore,” says Bryce.
But to this family and thousands more, the Zulu organization stands for much more than just a beautiful parade.
“I repeat this over and over,” says Brent. “Zulu's not about just having fun. We are very heavily involved in community services and giving back. That's the main reason why I wanted to be a member. It attracted me because of that. You have to give back, and that's one thing that we all as a family believe in.”
Brent Sr. also says Zulu stands for higher achievement, and his two sons couldn't embody that more. Bryce was born January 25, 1996 less than a month before Mardi Gras Day and was almost literally introduced to the Zulu culture from birth.
“Being young, all I really knew was Zulu,” says Bryce. “To see all of the posters and paintings everywhere in the house about Zulu. They're really like family.”
They’re a family that's pushed him to extraordinary heights off the court, finishing 2nd in the class of 2014 at St. Augustine, and on the verge of graduating with honors at Louisiana Lafayette. On the court, he’s going down in the history books as one of the best to ever come through the Ragin' Cajuns program. Bryce watched his dad climb the ranks in Zulu as the Mr. Big Shot in 2013 before becoming King this year. Now, he's ready to reign on a thrown of his own as well.
“Growing up, I had a lot of doubters,” says Bryce. “Even in high school, a lot of football coaches wanted me to play football. They looked me in my face and said, ‘If you're not growing to 6'8", you won't play college ball. You won't play in the pros or do anything.’ I took that personal, just like I took a lot of things personal. A lot of people thought I wouldn't reach 1,000 rebounds. A lot of people thought I wouldn't reach 1,000 points.”
He's reached both, and those doubters couldn't have been more wrong. Bryce says he actually takes a similar approach to both basketball and riding in Zulu. It's year round, not just one day or one week in February, or one championship game. The hard work he puts into representing the Ragin Cajuns on the court and the Zulu nation during Mardi Gras never stops.
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