Coach Hop Is Rounding Out His 2017 Class

After all the defections and transfers, we’re finally at a point where a team is starting to take shape for the 2017/2018 season.  First, there were a couple of lower-level pick-ups in Michael Carter III and Nate Pryor, both guards.  Then, they were able to hang onto erstwhile Romar recruit Jaylen Nowell, who is also a guard.  In lieu of going after some JuCo transfers (who are notoriously difficult for the Huskies to bring in, due to our stupid high academic standards), Coach Hop has opted to poach from his old New York stomping grounds, in picking up shooting guard Nahziah Carter (who just so happens to be Jay-Z’s nephew), and 6’8 small forward Hameir Wright (who was thought to be a 2018 recruit, but is planning to reclassify to this year).

What this continues to emphasize is the Huskies’ considerable lack of big men.  Dickerson is the only real true power forward on the roster, and our two centers are a couple of nobodies in Sam Timmins and Devenir Duruisseau.  Which means that we’re either going to be playing A LOT of small ball, or we’re going to be giving considerable playing time to a couple of ineffective centers just to play defense and hopefully not get in anyone’s way.

Ideally, the Huskies would find a way to make quasi-small ball work, with Dickerson at center and Wright at power forward, but that’s going to hinge on those two not getting into constant foul trouble.  If they can manage that, this isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  Mostly because the Huskies have a lot of good height among their swingmen.  Nahziah Carter is 6’5, Nowell is 6’4, Thybulle is 6’5, Green is 6’6, Carlos Johnson is 6’4, Carter III is 6’4.  The only guy who really figures to get a lot of playing time who’s under 6’4 is David Crisp.  As long as we defend well and give a lot of effort in the rebounding department, we shouldn’t get too killed for being undersized (except when we play the Arizonas of the world, which is what it is).

I’m keeping my expectations pretty low in his first season, understanding that these types of transitions take time to really make an impact.  At this point, I’d settle for a team that’s fun to watch and maybe wins a few games it shouldn’t, but ultimately loses too many games it should, and finds itself in the N.I.T. range.  With the way the NBA is turning into a long-range shooting league, you’d think that sort of strategy would be ideal for a small-ish team like the Huskies, to just spread everyone out, drive the lane, and pass the ball well.  Ultimately, where size might kill us is defensively, if teams continuously decide to go after the likes of Dickerson to get him into foul trouble.  Hopefully, the coaching staff is working on making up for this deficiency somehow.

Noah Dickerson Is Staying With The Huskies

By crikey, it’s been nothing but reasonably good news for the Washington Huskies men’s basketball program since its nadir about a month ago!  I mean, honestly, how could it get much worse?  The Dawgs just finished the season 9-22 (including only a whopping 2 wins in conference play).  They fired longtime head coach (and one of the best-ever in program history) Lorenzo Romar.  They lost out on 4/5 of their top-notch recruiting class (and one of the best two or three in the entire nation).  And, they were looking at a bevy of potential defections from last year’s team, including the aforementioned Noah Dickerson.

Well, after testing the waters as it were, including a trip to the University of Virginia (where I’m certain the chances of playing for a winning program and an NCAA Tournament berth were paramount among the coaching staff’s sales pitch), Noah Dickerson has indeed decided to stay with the University of Washington.

WHEW!

I know that looked sarcastic, but it actually is a relief that Dickerson is staying.  Obviously, Husky basketball has been on a downward spiral for a while now, but Dickerson is still a capable and productive big man at the Pac-12 level.  Among returning players, he’s second in scoring and first in rebounds from last season.  He also – as has been pointed out in various articles and blog posts – really came on late in the season, particularly in the last four games where he averaged 21 points and 10 boards in the absence of Markelle Fultz.  Now, obviously, you could look at that and say, “Of COURSE his numbers went up with Fultz going out!  Who else was going to pick up the slack on that team?”  And, obviously, the answer is no one.  The Huskies had no one else last year.  Not a God damned person.  But, you know, from the eye test, if nothing else, it looked like Dickerson really made some strides in his game.  Now, we’re going to pair that with a fresh set of coaching eyes in Mike Hopkins, who will hopefully be able to bring out even more in a talented ball of clay like Dickerson.

So, looking at the 2017/2018 Huskies now, we have an even clearer picture.  Returning, we have:  Crisp, Thybulle, Dickerson, and Carlos Johnson.  We’ve also got Dominic Green, who from what I’ve read, appears to be some sort of special project for Coach Hop.  He was quoted as saying something to the effect of how fans won’t even recognize Green next season, with all the improvements to his game.  If that’s the case, color me intrigued.  Also, for what it’s worth, Sam Timmins returns as another big man to throw onto the pile.  As has been noted pretty much everywhere, the Huskies have room to recruit more big men – almost certainly from the JuCo Transfer scrap heap – so stay tuned there.

On top of those returning players, we have Jaylen Nowell, who most certainly has the talent to step in and start right away.  You can pair him with Crisp at guard, with Johnson as a spark off the bench, with Thybulle and Green as your swing men, and Dickerson as your forward (or center, if you want to play small ball), on top of whatever we’re able to get out of our two other recruits – Michael Carter and Nate Pryor (who I still contend will be bench guys who hopefully see more playing time as the season progresses) – and I’m still not going to go overboard on this team’s potential, but I could be talked into the Huskies being something of a “surprise” team.  One that’s projected to be among the dregs, but out-plays its projections to be middle-of-the-road.

Obviously, without seeing these guys in action, I’m making some HUGE assumptions here.  I think a lot of it depends on what we’re able to get out of Timmins in his second season.  I highly doubt Romar ever wanted him to be our starter, but with the Dime injury in the middle of the season, Timmins got a lot more minutes than he probably deserved.  And, quite frankly, he didn’t look good at all.  You’re certainly not counting on him to be a heavy scorer, or even get a lot of looks down in the post, but you need Timmins to play good defense and clean up on the boards.  If you can just get that, and something similar from the JuCo ranks, and you can get the rest of this team to really buy in to the whole “playing defense” thing, I think that’s really your best bet for a fun and exciting Husky basketball season.

Somewhere out there, there’s an alternate universe that’s almost exactly the same as this one, except in that universe Lorenzo Romar didn’t get fired, and we’re looking at a team with his recruiting class coming in.  I feel like the alternate universe version of myself would be about as jacked up as can be about the prospects of that team; either it would be fantastic, and we’d ride that wave into the Tourney, or it would be a disaster, and we’d be out of our minds with fear and loathing.

In this universe, I’m still pretty jacked up for the upcoming season, but for very different reasons.  I can’t wait to see Coach Hop in action, I can’t wait to see how the players respond, and I really can’t wait to see the Huskies start winning some games they’re supposed to lose.  It’s been a while since I can remember the last honest-to-goodness upset go in our favor; usually it’s the other way around and it’s the Yale’s of the world upsetting us on our home court.  Any way you slice it, there’s going to be a lot to discuss about the Washington Husky basketball season later this year, and when was the last time you could say that?

Mike Hopkins Has A Couple New Recruits For Husky Basketball

Things were looking pretty dire a couple weeks ago, when I last looked over the state of Washington Husky basketball.  So, how are they looking now?

Well, for starters, there are conflicting reports out there about Noah Dickerson’s future.  People are saying he’s still weighing his options, but from the look of the Husky basketball twitter page, I see he’s been involved in some off-season program work under coach Hopkins.  So, we’ll see, I guess.  There’s no way the fate of next season hinges on Dickerson’s staying or leaving – the Huskies are still bound to be pretty terrible – but it will mean the difference between being bad vs. one of the worst teams in the entire country.  At least with Dickerson and some of the holdovers in the fold, we should be able to stay in some games anyway.

In other news, considering most of the erstwhile Romar recruits have gone on to other programs, what’s Coach Hop doing to further this program right now?  Well, for starters, he got local product Michael Carter III to switch from the University of San Francisco to the University of Washington.  Carter is a shooting guard who has had a recent growth spurt (up to 6’5 now) and has really buckled down on his game.  I have no idea what that will translate to at the Pac-12 level, but I don’t think we’re talking about a superstar here.  He’s anywhere from Unranked to 2-stars coming out of high school, so obviously there’s work to be done.  I think, best case scenario, he develops slowly over time, to become a big contributor as an upper classman.  I’d say the better his outside shot, the better his chances of playing right away as a Freshman.  Dear lord, please tell me he has an outside shot!

I like that he’s coming in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  It’s served the Seahawks well, anyway.  But, here’s a guy who couldn’t get a shot with a major conference basketball team – hell, not even with the Cougars! – who now has his life turned around thanks to this coaching change at Washington.  There are no delusions that Carter can even hold the jock of Michael Porter Jr., but that’s not really the point right now.  He’s someone who wants to be here, right now that has to be enough.  As Washington fans, we’ve had a pretty crappy last few weeks in the wake of Romar’s firing, with guys wanting out.  It’s nice just to have a couple guys who want to come in.  Carter sounds like a kid who will come in, fight hard, compete, and if he puts in the work, should develop into a nice player for us down the line.  So, I’ll take it.

The other recruit we were able to snag was Nate Pryor, who had committed to Seattle U back when Cameron Dollar was still their coach.  As Dollar has since returned to the Huskies in an assistant capacity, this was a no-brainer.  Pryor is a 6’1 point guard out of West Seattle and appears to be a prototypical floor leader.  Again, though, we’re not talking about a guy coming over from a major conference team; this is a case of the Huskies targeting some local guys Romar had passed over in favor of some more athletic and talented options.

What that doesn’t tell us though is who will be better.  Obviously, high school scouting is an inexact science, but more often than not 4- and 5-star guys end up being worth the hype.  That doesn’t mean that guys like Carter or Pryor are destined to stink, but it probably does mean the learning curve is greater, and that they might not make a big impact on the program until later in their careers.  The question we’ll always be asking ourselves is:  will Coach Hop get more out of guys like Carter and Pryor than Romar would’ve gotten out of guys like Porter and Davis?  In Year 1, you’d have to think Romar would’ve had the edge.  But, considering those guys were likely to be One & Done, maybe in the long run Carter and Pryor pan out?  Or, shit, maybe the Huskies still would’ve stunk with Porter and Davis this year; the point is, we’ll never REALLY know.  But, we’ve got the next four years to speculate.

In Erstwhile Romar Recruits news, apparently Jaylen Nowell hasn’t made a decision on where he’ll be playing basketball next year.  Which means, technically, he’s still a Husky recruit.  And a pretty great one at that.  4-stars, 6’4, out of Garfield High, with a quality dribble drive, but some work to do on his outside shot.  I’m not holding my breath on this one, but it would be a real boon to the program if we could get him to stay.  Particularly considering WSU recently hired his old high school coach to be an assistant over in Pullman.  I could see that committment flipping anytime now, which would be a real drag.  It’s one thing to lose the Porter Brothers to Missouri and their dad’s new sham assistant coaching job, but to lose a highly-rated Seattle kid to Wazzu?  I mean, is there any coming back from that?

From here, it looks like the Huskies need to get one big man to round things out (two big men, if Dickerson decides to jump ship).  Pickin’s are pretty slim, this late in the recruiting period, so again, I wouldn’t expect a whole lot.  Let’s just hope Coach Hop and Co. are better able to recruit big men than Romar was.  For my own sanity, if nothing else.