Husky Basketball Is In Desperate Need For A Shooter To Emerge

There’s an argument to be made that if the Washington Huskies had even one quality outside shooter, they’d be 4-0 right now and among the front-runners in the Pac-12. I think they definitely would’ve beaten Wyoming last night in this scenario, and a good chance they also would’ve taken out Northern Illinois in the opener (a game where we hit only 3/18 from behind the arc). But, literally every Husky shooter has struggled from long range. Even Jamal Bey’s numbers are deceiving because he doesn’t shoot enough to be taken seriously; he’s aggressive when the defense is all over him, but he’s weirdly passive when he’s wide open. It’s infuriating to watch Jamal Bey, and I can’t stand him as a basketball player.

Last night’s 77-72 overtime loss to the Cowboys was a heartbreaker. I’m not even that mad, really, because as I’ve said before, I have no expectations for this Husky team. But, I’m sad for the guys who really played their asses off in a tough matchup. What’s worse is that WE HAD IT! Terrell Brown had the ball in his hands, score tied, clock winding down in regulation; he even had a free lane to the hoop with just one man to beat, and his game-winning runner BARELY missed its mark, over the outstretched arms of Graham Ike.

It hurts all the more because I freaking love Brown, he has been everything I’ve ever wanted out of a Husky point guard and then some. Once again, with the offense scuffling, Brown took it upon himself to pick up the slack and single-handedly keep us in that game. He finished with a game-high 30 points on 10/29 shooting, while hitting 9/10 at the free throw line. It’s obviously not the greatest shooting percentage – especially when he only shot 1/4 from beyond the arc – but I’m not going to fault him when every other Husky struggled.

The Huskies didn’t deserve to lose this one. Obviously, they didn’t deserve to win it either, but they didn’t just have a poor percentage from three (5/26), they also missed a lot of runners and lay-ups in the paint, which under most other circumstances will fall in the future. It was one of those games! Compound that with a whistle-happy referee crew (thanks #Pac12Refs) that clearly got sloppier with their calls as the game went on, and there was a lot karmically going against the Huskies they just couldn’t overcome.

Nevertheless, if Brown had help from literally anyone else, I think the Huskies would’ve easily won this in regulation.

I mean, you could literally say if just Daejon Davis was better from long range (he’s currently hit 25% – 4/16 – on the season), the Huskies would be 4-0. Or, if Emmitt Matthews was better (21.4%, 3/14 on the season), or P.J. Fuller (28.6%, 4/14 on the season), or supposed sharp-shooter Cole Bajema (16.7%, 1/6 on the season). But, no one has been able to consistently step up and stretch the defense this year.

That’s going to be a problem eventually, because teams are going to scout us and realize our only offensive weapon is Terrell Brown drives into the paint, and the ensuing chaos on the offensive glass with put-backs and whatnot. Teams will, in turn, start to clog the paint and give us wide open looks on the outside. If we’re not hitting those outside shots, it’s going to be another LONG season.

I mean, just look at the last few minutes of regulation last night. The Huskies had a relatively comfortable 62-55 lead with about five minutes left. That’s right around when the Cowboys switched to a zone defense, which utterly befuddled the Huskies. Isn’t that Mike Hopkins’ thing? Doesn’t he feature the zone defense as his core philosophy? Wouldn’t that mean, in turn, that the Husky offense regularly goes up against other Huskies playing a zone defense in practice? How are we not prepared to score against this?! Don’t we watch the teams we go up against, and how they have no trouble whatsoever scoring against us in these situations?!

Anyway, that 62-55 lead turned into a 64-62 deficit before Brown scored a miraculous 3-point play the old fashioned way to momentarily give us the lead, before Ike hit one of two free throws to tie it.

Graham Ike, by the way, was phenomenal. I don’t usually spend a lot of time writing about guys on other teams, but he was an animal out there. If he wasn’t in foul trouble for almost the entire second half, he might’ve put up 40 points. He abused everyone who guarded him with his low post moves, and the Huskies adamantly refused to double-team him until it was too late (he finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds)

The Cowboys overall look like they’re a Tournament team this year. They’re tall across the board, and with point-forward Hunter Maldonado leading the way (he had 24 points and 10 rebounds, shooting 50% from the field, with a wicked low post game of his own), I look forward to betting on them getting a first round upset when I’m in Reno for March Madness.

Overtime didn’t go our way, because Brown literally can’t do it all himself. Nate Roberts and Emmitt Matthews fouled out, which set us back quite a bit in our defense. And after Davis got his fourth foul relatively early in the second half, we didn’t see him again, which was odd. Bajema has, for whatever reason, earned an insane amount of playing time, even though he doesn’t appear to do anything well. Practice Darlings are nice, but I’m going to need to see him step up in an actual game – and SOON – or I am going to start getting upset that he’s hogging minutes that should go elsewhere.

I was encouraged by Langston Wilson in this one, who was sort of the last big man standing at the end. He finished with 8 points and 12 boards off the bench (7 of those boards coming on the offensive glass). For someone as raw and inexperienced, I think he could blossom into a special player over the next two years.

Anyway, that’s it for a relatively disappointing 2-2 homestand. Now the Huskies go off to play in some weird tournament in South Dakota next week. I’m glad most of our non-conference schedule – except for Gonzaga, of course – is made up of lower-tier teams. Wyoming was a nice little test, but clearly we have some things to work on before we get to Pac-12 play. I don’t think we’re TOO far away from stepping up and surprising some teams, but a shooter WILL have to emerge. Otherwise … yikes.

The Huskies Found A Way To Take Care Of Business Against Texas Southern

Watching this No Expectations Husky Basketball Team is, I have to admit, pretty entertaining! Don’t get me wrong, this team isn’t good. It’s deeply flawed for any number of reasons – many of them, we saw examples of in this very game – but they play hard and they play a brand of basketball I can get behind.

I think I’m a fan of the full-court press defense! Who knew that’s what I’ve been missing all this time?! It’s exciting, it pressures the other team for the full amount of shot clock, and if done properly it can force them into turning the ball over. This has been a HUGE development for this Husky team that otherwise has been just okay in man-to-man, but has been truly God-awful at the zone.

The zone, at its best, is supposed to limit three-point opportunities. When we were running it at its best – with Matisse Thybulle dominating everyone in his path – we still weren’t perfect, but for the most part we could shut down an outside game and funnel shots to the mid-range. That has decidedly NOT been the case since Thybulle went pro; teams have been doing whatever they want against our zone.

Thankfully, Mike Hopkins has recognized that he doesn’t necessarily have the guys to properly enforce the zone. He also recognized that if he has another season like the last two, he’s probably out on his ass, so it’s time to adapt to the personnel he has. The man-to-man has been a breath of fresh air; we’re at least able to stop the bleeding caused by the zone leaving guys with wide-open looks all over the court. But, the full-court press has been a jolt of caffeine straight to the heart! Teams aren’t expecting it, and at least in the early going, it’s almost single-handedly kept us in ballgames.

The Texas Southern Tigers came out absolutely on fire in the early going last night. They were making shot after shot, but luckily so were we. They didn’t necessarily have the long-range game going – not for lack of opportunity, as they were 2 of 18 on the night, many of them wide open – but everything else was on the table.

That was, in large part, thanks to their offensive rebounding. They didn’t have any one huge behemoth out there dominating us; it was a true team effort. I can’t remember the last time I saw a team so pesky on the offensive glass. They CONSTANTLY had guys crashing after balls, and we were fundamentally incapable of boxing them out. I do recall games in the last couple years where giving up offensive rebounds was an issue, but not like this! They had 29! They had more offensive rebounds (29) than defensive rebounds (23). I was absolutely blown away. As a result, they were able to put up 72 shots to our 57. But, they only hit 36.1% of them to our 40.4%.

We also, as indicated above, made ample use of the press to help force 21 Tigers turnovers. We had 7 blocks and 8 steals as a team, and we made 20/28 from the free throw line (we’re getting better!). While our three-point shooting wasn’t terrific (6/22), it was just good enough. All told, it amounted to a 72-65 victory for the Huskies.

Terrell Brown led the way with 20 points and 9 assists. It was a steady, quiet performance that nevertheless showed up in a big way late, as he finished the game making 6 of 7 free throws. Daejon Davis stood out to me, having his best game as a Husky so far. He had 15 points, hitting 2 of 5 threes (4 of 7 overall) and 5 of 7 free throws (tack on 2 steals and a block to his line). Jamal Bey had 10 points, 7 boards, 2 blocks, and a steal. P.J. Fuller had 11 points, 3 boards, 2 steals, and 2 blocks in 23 minutes off the bench. And Langston Wilson had 7 points and 7 boards in 22 minutes off the bench.

This was a really well-rounded Husky victory, with lots of people contributing. And if you shield your eyes from who the opponent was, and how they were able to push us to the last minute of the game, this was a nice little victory.

Right now, the Huskies just need to learn how to play together and learn how to win some ballgames again. Get a little confidence as we head into conference play. It’s probably going to be a long year, but I still don’t see why we can’t at least improve upon expectations and be a Top 10 team in the Pac-12.

Husky Basketball Looked Slightly Improved

I’m obviously not going to go nuts about one win against a crap team, but I think we all need to adjust our thinking on the Washington Huskies. For starters, as much as the Pac-12 Network wants to push this narrative that their basketball teams are BACK, let’s calm down. They had one good run in the NCAA Tournament last season, but let’s see this take place over multiple years before we make any proclamations.

I’m not going to just take for granted that the Pac-12 is a Power Five conference. I’ll believe it when I see it. I’m also not going to just take it for granted that since Washington is in a so-called Power Five conference, that they automatically deserve the respect normally granted those teams. I see Washington as no better than any of these low-level schools coming in here that no one has heard of. They’re no different than the Northern Illinois Huskies (who they lost to on Tuesday), and they’re no different than the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (who they defeated last night, 73-62).

It can be easy to get angry at the games we’ve watched this week. As Washington fans, we tend to have high expectations. We expect, for instance, to see our Huskies blow out the types of teams we’ve played this week. So, when we struggle to eke one out, it’s just as aggravating and galling as if we lost to them. You can’t have that mindset with this team, though. They’re not this elite collection of basketball players; they’re mostly transfer guys who couldn’t hack it anywhere else, so they returned home – tails between their legs – to see if they could salvage something of their college careers before they run out of eligibility.

If you see Washington as on the same level as these other teams, then you got to witness two pretty entertaining – if sloppy – games this week! Sure, the shooting is pretty horrendous from the Huskies. But, they’re much more active on defense than they were the last couple years, and they’ve actually got guys who can drive the paint and draw fouls. It beats what we’ve had here recently, where they couldn’t drive AND they couldn’t shoot.

The key last night was not continually digging themselves into a hole. The Huskies mostly kept it close through the first half, before pulling away late in the game.

This one had a slightly different feel, in that it wasn’t so Nate Roberts-centric. He still managed to finish with 8 boards and 2 blocks, and was really active in the second half. The star of this one was Emmitt Matthews, who is quickly becoming my favorite player on this team. He’s always slashing, always deflecting balls, always putting back rebounds, and he even hit a couple outside shots (which doesn’t appear to be his game, but I’ll be happy to be wrong if he continues to hit 50% from long range). Matthews tore up the box score: 21 points and 9 boards. He shot 7/14 from the field, 2/4 from three, and hit 5/7 free throws. Excellent!

Bey, Brown, and Davis all scored in double-figures as well. Jamal Bey had a REALLY frustrating game to watch. He turned down too many wide open jumpers (even though he hit 2/3 from beyond the arc) for reckless drives in the paint that had no chance of going in. Also, he had 3 turnovers, but it felt like he had 8. Everything about this game felt off, but he still had 15 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals. Which goes to show you he’s gifted; it just doesn’t feel like he has the confidence to take charge on this team.

Brown’s game was much more quiet than on Tuesday, but he still finished with 11 points, 4 boards, and 2 steals. I’d like to say he spent more of the game distributing the basketball, but with everyone driving instead of shooting the open shots he was dishing to them, he only finished with 1 assist (and, again, the Huskies as a team had only 5 assists, after having that many on Tuesday). I was encouraged to see Brown start to assert himself late in the game, as the Lumberjacks started to pull the game close (he was 3/3 on free throws, and that seems like it’ll be a good source of points for him in games where the Huskies lead late). Davis was also a big part of this one, finishing with 10 points (on 3/9 shooting), with 5 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block.

The bench hasn’t been a significant contributor to this team just yet, but I liked what I saw from P.J. Fuller (4 points, 3 steals, and 2 blocks). And I want to shout out freshman Jackson Grant. I didn’t even know we HAD high schoolers coming here anymore; I thought Washington was strictly a transfer program now! It’s nice to see us not only trying to bring in high schoolers, but actually getting them minutes on this team. He’s a forward, which helps, since we’re so thin there. But, he hasn’t looked bad at all! Indeed, in this one, he led the bench in scoring with 7 points, and also had 4 boards. Most importantly, he passed the eye test; he looked like he belonged out there, and he wasn’t just some gangly white guy getting minutes because he’s tall and wide.

It’s not all roses and sunshine, of course. In the old way of thinking, I would say this is a game the Huskies are supposed to win. I’m trying to quit that mindset, because then I’d be upset we didn’t beat them by more. The Huskies can be maddening to watch. Lots and LOTS of unforced errors, on both sides of the court. There were still a distressing number of wide-open threes attempted by the Lumberjacks; fortunately they weren’t nearly as hot as Northern Illinois (hitting just 4/12). I don’t know if the perimeter defense is something that’s going to get better. I think it is what it is, and sometimes teams will be hot, and sometimes they’ll be cold. Some teams will look to make that a focus, and some teams will try to get their points inside.

I’m more concerned with the Huskies offensively. I like that the drive into the paint is still a thing; I like that we’re still getting to the free throw line (hitting 24/35 in this one; slight improvement over Tuesday). I think those are sustainable modes of scoring that we can count on for the entire season. The outside shooting gets an Incomplete grade from me, though it’s not looking good. It would be nice if ONE guy could step up and not only be aggressive shooting the ball, but hit a relatively high percentage of those shots.

How long of a leash are we giving Cole Bajema, by the way? He’s supposedly the team’s best 3-point shooter, yet he’s attempted exactly one of them in two games (over 37 combined minutes off the bench). What are we doing here? He’s looked lost in all the time I’ve watched him this week. It doesn’t look like he knows how to shoot, how to pass, how to defend; he fails the eye test. If he’s playing because of his perimeter jumper, then he needs to start busting it out in a big way, otherwise I can’t justify giving him these extended minutes in games.

Next game’s on Monday. I’ll be watching. This is fun! It’s a crappy team, but it’s an entertaining kind of crap that I can get behind!

Husky Basketball Is Back! Oh, Yeah … Husky Basketball Is Back

Excitement is a VERY strong word when it comes to the new season of Husky basketball starting last night. Even something like “interest” needs a qualifier, but I’ll give you that I had mild interest in taking a look at what this team has morphed into. I knew what time the game started last night, I made plans ahead of time that I would sit in front of my television at that set time, and indeed I watched the entirety of said game (up until the final 90 seconds or so, when the outcome was fully decided).

The interest – mild as it was – came about because of all the transfers that took place in this past offseason. The broadcast said eight Huskies from last year went elsewhere, and that we brought in seven new players to replace them. I don’t know where all those guys went, but considering they made up the vast majority of a TERRIBLE basketball team, that’s a case of 100% addition-by-subtraction.

So, the newness of this squad alone piqued my curiosity. It’s hard to imagine a basketball team being much worse than the Huskies were last year; maybe this team would be better? At the very least, it’s different, and that’s enough for me. For now, anyway.

I’ll also say that the Huskies not looking like total dogshit in their exhibition game last week was at least somewhat encouraging. So many times the last couple seasons, the Huskies have played down to vastly inferior opponents (or not-so-inferior opponents, as it turned out). Teams from major conferences shouldn’t lose to teams you’ve never heard of in their non-conference slates.

The Northern Illinois Huskies are a team I’ve never heard of. Last night, Washington lost to them 71-64.

In large part, it looked like the Same Old Huskies, by which I mean the bad teams of the last two seasons, not the two good ones where Mike Hopkins was the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. The defense was slightly improved over last season (mostly thanks to the incorporation of more man-schemes over zone), but they still managed to give up too many WIDE open looks from beyond the arc. Northern Illinois took advantage, hitting 12 of 23.

When a team is that red-hot shooting the ball, holding them to 71 points isn’t the worst thing in the world for a defense. Washington also introduced more of a full-court press-style defense that forced a lot of Northern Illinois turnovers; I loved this! There were 20 Northern Illinois turnovers, plus another 12 steals for the Huskies. The defense was NOT the problem (though, it could always be better).

The story of this game was the Washington offense, and more specifically, the Washington free throw shooting.

21 of 36. In a game we lost by 7. Make HALF of the free throws we missed, and this is a different ballgame. That includes at least two front-ends of one-and-ones in the first half that were bricked. And don’t think I’m putting this on Nate Roberts and his 4 for 9 effort (I’ll say more on him in a bit); I don’t expect big men to hit more than 50% of their FTs. These were misses by bona fide shooters! Jamal Bey was 3 for 7! Terrell Brown was 4 for 8! These are guards who are supposed to be BETTER than this.

The thing is, I loved how aggressive Washington was in driving the paint. Northern Illinois was in foul trouble early in both halves, with two guys fouling out completely. We had SO MANY chances to take control of this game at the line, and we failed miserably.

Shooting in general has been a problem for Washington for a couple years now; last night, we hit only 3 of 18 from behind the arc. That’s going to happen. I would hope there are MORE games than in years past when we can approach 45-50% from three (those have been a rare luxury of late), but we were also straight-up God-awful with our overall shooting percentage (20 for 75).

Northern Illinois did a pretty good job of slowing our fast break opportunities and forcing us into half-court sets. I was not encourged by what I saw from the offense in this capacity, other than our ability to get to the free throw line. Jamal Bey still hasn’t taken that next step in his aggressiveness; Emmitt Matthews was very active, but off-the-mark all night; and Daejon Davis was an offensive nightmare for Washington, hitting only 1 of 10 shots.

Terrell Brown was encouraging, leading the way with 22 points on 9/24 shooting. He was driving the lane with regularity and making things happen for this team; I look forward to seeing more of him as the season progresses (ideally with a better shooting percentage on drives in the paint).

The player of the game for Washington, though, was Nate Roberts. I’ll admit, my hopes were awfully low for him heading into the year. He’s always struck me as a lumbering oaf who is a foul machine and incompetent at both ends of the court. But, last night was a revelation! For starters, he’s really worked on his body; dude is jacked up. And that seems to have translated into improved play on both ends of the court, and maybe more importantly, improved confidence. He finished the game with 10 points and 19 rebounds! 12 of those boards were on the offensive glass! He was single-handedly keeping us in this game during the vast middle stretch; it was unfortunate he ended up fouling out the way he did (on a loose ball dive where the other guy ran into him), but the game was already getting out of hand by this point and I don’t think there was anything he could’ve done once Northern Illinois started hitting those daggers late in the second half.

I’ll tell ya, Nate Roberts impressed the hell out of me! I don’t know if he can keep it up, but it’s clear he’ll be no pushover. It is fair to wonder if Roberts will find himself in foul trouble more often than not, but if he starts getting the benefit of the doubt, he could be among the best big men in the Pac-12 this season. Given our lack of depth along the front, this was the most pleasant surprise I could’ve been given.

All that being said, I’m still annoyed Washington lost this one. I don’t think Northern Illinois is very good at all. I do think they had one guy – Trendon Hankerson – who was absolutely amazing, and on fire (hitting 9 of 15 shots, including 6/11 from three, for 28 points to lead the way). He might be that good, or he might’ve just had an abnormally-hot shooting night, which makes the defeat all the more unfortunate, because Northern Illinois didn’t have anyone else who could beat us. The thing is, Hankerson was setting up for shots SO FAR beyond the arc that I’m not sure how you defend that with our zone. He cooled off considerably when we went man-to-man, but as soon as we went back to zone late in the game, he started ripping off wide open threes again, and that was that.

Thankfully, there’s another home game tomorrow against another directional school I’ve never heard of (Northern Arizona Lumberjacks). We’ll see really quickly whether or not this was an unlucky first game, or if this was an omen of more bad games to come.

The media picked Washington to be eleventh out of the twelve Pac-12 teams. So far, I’d say that feels about right. BUT, I’m more encouraged by this team’s potential than I was about last year’s squad. I think it’s far likelier that Washington out-performs expectations than living down to them. I’m not saying we’ll make the NCAA Tournament or anything; I’d say the chances of that are remote-at-best. But, we could make some noise and score some upsets, for sure. The NIT might even be in play, if we manage to come together.

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.

Shit Is Hitting The God Damned Fan In The Husky Basketball Program

It’s incredibly difficult to keep up with all of this, but I’m going to try my damnedest to give a recap.

So, remember all that excitement when the Huskies hired Mike Hopkins away from Syracuse and we thought we were getting someone with the potential to be special?  Well, I hope there’s some magic in that old silk hat he found, because the Huskies are hemorrhaging players, prospects, and even prospective assistant coaching candidates, with no relief in sight!  Where do I even begin?

Jason Hart, an assistant at USC many believed would be coming over with Hopkins, decided to stay in Southern California (probably with a hefty raise attached to his contract), so there goes our California recruiting connection.  Instead, the Huskies were able to hire unemployed Cameron Dollar – fresh off being fired by Seattle U for 8 years of head coaching mediocrity – so I guess that gives us maybe an “In” with the Seattle-area high schools.  You know, in case Will Conroy wasn’t enough.

Know that I’m writing this tight-lipped and a little bit annoyed:  we fired Romar … then we hired one of his top assistants from back in the Romar glory days?  If the idea is We Need To Make A Change, how exactly is Dollar bringing about this change?

It’s obviously not helping us keep the players we have on roster, nor the recruits we tabbed coming in our 2017 class!  The Huskies have officially lost 4 of the 5 recruits from our best-ever recruiting class, as Michael Porter Jr., Daejon Davis, Blake Harris, and Mamoudou Diarra have all de-committed/asked to be released from their LOI.  On top of that, reserve big man Matthew Atewe and starting big man Noah Dickerson have both decided they’re going to transfer, which ultimately leaves the Husky program in shambles heading into the 2017/2018 season.

On the bright side, we’ve got re-commits from the likes of David Crisp, Dominic Green, Carlos Johnson, and Matisse Thybulle, which I guess is better than nothing.  No word yet from Sam Timmins, Dan Kingma, or Devenir Duruisseau, but if you’re like me, you forgot Devenir Duruisseau was even on the roster (I thought he transferred ages ago!).  And, also, no word on potential incoming recruit Jaylen Nowell, but it fucking feels like only a matter of time before he asks for his release as well.

There might be a couple of other guys on the roster, walk-ons or whatnot, but they’re not important.  By my count, that’s 7 guys returning and 1 guy from our incoming Freshman class (for now).  Considering how late it is in the recruiting period, and considering the coaching staff isn’t even fully formed yet, I don’t know what we’re supposed to expect out of the Huskies come this fall, but get ready for an overwhelmingly last place finish!

Even if we were able to keep Dickerson, Atewe, and just the two local recruits, next season would’ve been a struggle.  But this is insanity times!  I hate to say I told you so, but this is what happens when you fire a head coach that’s this beloved.  When you sign on to join a university – particularly in basketball, because they’re such a close-knit unit – you sign because of a coach, not the school.  These guys signed on to play for Lorenzo Romar, not the University of Washington, for better or for worse.

I shudder to think of what this will mean for the program going forward.  I mean, if you thought last year was bad, get a load of 2018!  If you thought we bottomed out before, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  So, on top of having the stink of being the worst Pac-12 basketball team next year, we’ve got the stink of a school that fired a beloved, long-term head coach.  So, you know, not for nothing but we all better hope Mike Hopkins can coach his ass off, or this year of “growing pains” or whatever could build into an entire tenure of utter humiliation.

Fancy that, it’s like Washington ISN’T a destination program for college basketball or something!  Weird!

Are We Entering A Golden Age Of Husky Basketball?

I did the bare minimum amount of research yesterday, which is pretty rare for me, I know.  Mostly, this is just a forum for my random bitching and hare-brained theories.  But, seeing as this is Husky Basketball Week, Monday brought us a broad recap of events in the season so far, Tuesday brought us my case for Andrew Andrews to be Pac-12 Player of the Year, and Wednesday brought us my overview on the rest of the 7-man rotation.  What else is there really to talk about?

I’m not normally one who gets his jollies by keeping informed on college recruitment.  Especially in football, but even in basketball, there’s a lot of downside to this practice.  You’ve got highly-rated players who decommit, you’ve got highly-rated players who flame out, you’ve got guys who get injured, you’ve got guys who red shirt and you don’t hear about for a full year, and on and on and on.  I couldn’t possibly imagine how one could keep his head straight with all the names and all the rankings and all the comings and all the goings.

The way I usually go about my Husky fandom is:  I glean whatever I can from Twitter and sports radio and the like – not REALLY paying attention, but sometimes certain names and such seep in – and then I wait until the games are actually played, and wait for people to stand out.  THEN, I’ll dig into them a little deeper to find out the story.  That way, there’s no surprises.  I’m not reading about an incoming recruit for six months, and then all of a sudden he decides to go play for Kentucky or something.

Did Terrence Jones ruin me on the recruitment side of college sports?  Ehh, maybe it’s for the best.

Anyway, I wanted to take a look at who the Huskies might be bringing in for future classes.  With the promise of this 2015/2016 season, and with the possibility that we can bring most of these guys back for at least a second season, I wondered if this would be a minor blip in an otherwise flatlining program, or if this could be the start of something major.

As a cool little quick reference, pull up this link and scroll down to the Basketball Recruiting Scholarship Chart.  It’s got all the guys currently on the roster, what class they’re in, and some essential facts about them when you scroll over their names.  It’s also got all the players who WOULD have been here, but transferred, or otherwise are no longer in the program.  I mean, Jesus, just look at the rest of that senior class under Andrews; what a crap sandwich!

Then, over there, to the right of the Freshmen, you get our future commits, either verbally or the regular kind, as well as the players we have offers out to (you’ll notice them in the royal blue, or also known as: “medium interest prospects”).

You’ll notice for 2016, not a lot of names.  That’s because, let’s be honest, Lorenzo Romar went hog-wild for this 2015 incoming class, so there just isn’t that much room.  We’ll lose Andrews for sure, and beyond that, you just never know who’s going to transfer (maybe guys who didn’t get the playing time they thought they were going to get; or guys looking at their futures and wondering where the minutes are going to come from with more exciting prospects on the way).

The 2016 guys with offers don’t look to be all that amazing.  But, the two guys who appear to be on their way to Washington certainly raise some eyebrows.

Sam Timmins is a 6’10, 250 pound center out of New Zealand, who looks like he could be the real deal.  He’s in for sure.  Only a 3-star prospect, but I feel like if he’s able to play right away – even off the bench at first – he’s going to REALLY help our depth among our bigs, while also help us tangle with the beefy center types on other teams (I know Arizona and Utah come immediately to mind as two teams who dominated us with their bigs, and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting).  Pair Timmins with Dime, and you’ve got some shot-blocking maniacs.  And, if he comes in with the type of skills on the block that they’re saying he has, it shouldn’t take him long to move up the ranks of quality centers in the Pac-12.

The real find is Markelle Fultz, a 6’5, 5-star guard from the D.C. area, with no ties whatsoever to the Pacific Northwest.  I highly encourage you to read this post on what his committment means to the Husky program.  I know it’s only a verbal committment, and like Terrence Jones, he could just as easily be swayed by a last-ditch effort from a bigger program.  But, I’d like to think with the way we’ve been playing of late, and the renewed excitement for the Husky basketball program, he knows he’s coming into a good thing.

Obviously, there are downsides, like we know without a shadow of a doubt, barring injury, Fultz is a 1 & Done player, no question.  It would be a waste of breath or finger strength to try to argue otherwise.  But, the big upside here is that the Huskies are FINALLY starting to become a national player for big-name prospects.

THIS is where our patience with Lorenzo Romar has paid off, my friends.  And THIS is where our patience with all the down seasons of late has paid off.  Even though the Huskies have been struggling, Romar has still been able to mold college athletes into NBA players.  The official list can be found here, ten players in a decade – most recently C.J. Wilcox – have been drafted, with a few others here and there cracking rosters.  So, Romar has that pedigree.  Also, not for nothing, but the stability has to be pretty nice.  Romar’s in his 14th year, and to be honest, his recruiting skills are better than ever!

Also, this might be an underrated aspect that doesn’t get enough press, but I have to think that his being not only one of the few African American head coaches of a major college program, but also one of the longest-tenured African American head coaches, plays a pretty sizable role in developing relationships with some of the African American players he’s able to bring in.  That combined with the fact that, by all accounts, Lorenzo Romar is just a fantastic human being, and I think Washington offers a unique advantage over most other schools in the country.  Romar’s going to work you hard, but he’s going to reward those who buy in.  He’s not going to stand there and berate you in front of thousands.  And, probably most importantly, he’s not out there looking for the next bigger, more high-profile job.  With guys like Calipari, or some of these younger coaches who recently flipped to a bigger school, you never know when the other shoe is going to drop.  They have no loyalty to a program, and quite frankly, the programs don’t really have a loyalty to them.  If a hot young coach goes to a bigger school and struggles, how long of a leash will he have before they cut ties and move on to the next hot young coach?

With Romar, like I said, you’ve got stability.  He is Washington, and Washington is Romar.  The fact that he’s doing some of his best work, 14 years into his time here, just goes to show he still has that fire, still has that desire to be great, and to see Washington be great.  High school kids are going to pick up on that for sure.  Once that’s ingrained, then it’s just a matter of Winning Begetting Winning.  The iron is hot right now, so it’s time for the Huskies to strike.  Enter:  Markelle Fultz.

He’s an immediate replacement for the outgoing Andrew Andrews next year.  Given his pedigree, it’s not unreasonable to expect him to match the type of production Andrews has given us this season.  If Dejounte Murray sticks around for another season, with all the other players from this year carrying over, we are looking at an absolute MONSTER of a team for the 2016/2017 season.  I’m talking about the Huskies picked to be 1st in the Pac-12, with a very good chance of the Huskies being ranked in the Top 25, even as high as the Top 10!  I mean, shit, look at this lineup for next year:

  • Fultz – G
  • Murray – G
  • Thybulle – G/F
  • Chriss – F
  • Dickerson – F
  • Dime – F/C
  • Crisp – G
  • Green – G/F
  • Timmins – C
  • Dorsey – G/F

That’s a roster 10-deep, with equal measure defense and scoring.  Guys who can shoot, guys who can dribble-drive, big men who can post up, big men who can hit the mid-range jumper.  Granted, nothing is set in stone, but the hope is, if we can keep it all together, that’s the type of talent that can carry this program to the Final Four.

Where does that leave us for 2017 and beyond?  Well, we’re a way out on that, but you figure the Huskies will lose Fultz and Murray, as well as Dime (who will have exhausted his eligibility).  With the usual rash of transfers and whatnot, you might consider 2017 something of a rebuild.

But, looking back at that Verbal Commits chart, you can see we have a verbal from a 4-star recruit at guard, Daejon Davis, with a number of other offers out to various 4-star and 5-star recruits.  Given a successful couple of years, you’d have to think we’d be able to lock more and more of those types down.

Then, WAAAAY out into the 2018 incoming class, there’s an early verbal commit from Jontay Porter, a 4-star power forward, whose older brother is a 5-star small forward who has yet to commit.  Mmm hmm.  Things could get really interesting around Montlake in the coming years.

Time will tell if this is the start of something big, or if it’s another instance of getting jerked around by high hopes.  The influx of Wroten, Ross, and the like were supposed to jumpstart this thing too, and look at what happened.  But, I dunno.  This time, it feels different.  Instead of coming OH SO CLOSE to landing some of these whales, Romar is actually getting them to sign on the line which is dotted.  This could be real.  This could be spectacular.

Of course, talk to me if these verbal commits start to renege.  I’ll be the guy lowering the noose around his neck.