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.

Washington Husky Basketball Review Preview

OK, so I KINDA dropped the ball a little bit on this one.  With all the back and forth between the football teams, not to mention this being a pivotal offseason for the Mariners, Husky B-Ball got lost in the shuffle.  Well, NO MORE!

Flyin' Chickens In The Barnyard!

Anyway, I can’t rightly call this an official preview because I’ve seen them play a little bit.  I’ve also seen some of these other teams in the Pac-12 play and I’ve gotta say:  so far, I’m not really all that impressed.

Everyone seems to be picking Cal as their favorites, mostly because they’re so veteran.  What that means to ME is:  they’re the same team they were last year, but a little bit better.  What they’re really banking on is:  all the other schools in the Pac-12 getting worse, so they look better in comparison.  In other words, a team that lost in the 2nd round of the NIT last year is all-of-a-sudden the class of the entire conference.

The Huskies, by comparison, have only five guys returning from a team that lost in the 2nd round of the REAL NCAA Tournament.  The Huskies lost their top three scorers, their best overall defenders, and their most consistent big man.  The five guys returning:  C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross, Darnell Gant, Aziz N’Diaye, and Abdul Gaddy (who, really, hardly counts because he missed most of the season last year with injury; honestly, if you count Gaddy, then you kinda have to count Desmond Simmons who red-shirted last year).

The point is:  we’re young.  However, what we lack in experience we make up for in zazz!  Yes, we lost IT, but that just opens things up for Tony Wroten Jr. to blow our minds!  At 6’5 … I mean, can you even remember the last time the Huskies had a point guard so huge???  I’m used to these tiny, musclebound menaces like IT and Nate Rob; what’s it going to be like to have a legitimate advantage across the board at the guard position?

And, yeah, losing Justin Holiday hurts a little bit.  But, who’s that athletic freak who’s sliding right into that defensive stopper catagory?  That’s Desmond Simmons!

No Venoy Overton?  No problem!  Here’s Abdul Gaddy, the old soul of the team who’s going to lock down the other team’s premiere scorer while settling things down on offense when we need to run our half-court game.

Losing MBA kinda hurts a little bit, because he was (and still kinda is, in a way, which shows how bad we really are) our only low-post threat.  But, Aziz has been working out like a maniac in the offseason and shouldn’t be the Total Liability he was with the basketball in his hands last year!

There is just enough experience left over on this team (headlined by Darnell Gant and Scott Suggs when he returns; not to mention Gaddy and Wilcox who have a couple years in the system already) combined with some real flashy specimens of talent (Wroten, Ross, Wilcox again) that I don’t think it’s impossible for this team to win the Pac-12!

It won’t be easy, though.  Any time we go up against a team with a huge front court, we’re going to have problems.  Aziz in foul trouble, Gant being too skinny and undersized, Breunig being too raw, Shawn Kemp Jr. being even moreso … this team could very well be outboarded more often than not.  In fact, I would take that bet right now and lay the points.

The keys to this Husky team will be, much like last year:  can we hit the outside shot?  Wilcox and Ross will surely lead that charge, as will Suggs when he comes back from injury.  You gotta figure with those three guys, at least ONE of them will be hot in any given game.  Also, can Gaddy knock down enough jumpers to keep other teams honest?  He could be our most valuable weapon if he can hit anywhere near 40% of his threes.

But, it can’t all be threes.  This team is going to have to find a way to score in the paint!  With IT and MBA, we had points in the paint on lockdown.  This year, it’s going to be up to guys like Ross and Wilcox.  We know Ross has the talent to break guys down off the dribble; does he have the discipline to do it enough to be the force he should be on the basketball court?  Or will he essentially be Kevin Durant’s rookie season with the Sonics?  All jumpshot and no inside game whatsoever.  Furthermore, will one offseason’s worth of working on his game make Wilcox the kind of slashing driver with the ball he needs to be?  His jumpshot alone will take him into the NBA and give him a considerable role off of some team’s bench; but if he figures out how to score in traffic, he’ll be unstoppable.

I’m really not expecting there to be any low post scoring, but I would hope that we can be active enough on the offensive glass to make that point moot.  We’ll need guys like N’Diaye, Gant, and Simmons to crash the boards on an every-possession basis if we want this to happen.  They certainly have the length and athleticism to do so; whether or not they have the size or the heart is another question.

Regardless of how we score, I’ll guarantee you one thing:  this team won’t be boring on the basketball court (let’s just hope they ARE boring off of it).  We’ve got BALLERS on this team!  They’re going to run and gun like they always have; their fastbreak baskets are going to have regular appearances on Sportscenter-type shows.  This year is going to be fun, without a doubt.

My guess?  I think people are right when they say this team is going to lose some games it shouldn’t, and it’s also going to win some games it shouldn’t.  I expect there to be some really frustrating periods – maybe a 4 or 5 game losing streak somewhere in the middle of the season; maybe even towards the end of the season – but I also expect this team to grow and pull it all together for another NCAA Tournament run.  Who knows?  This team could be 15-15 going into the Pac-12 Tournament and then run the table to nab a 12-seed.  From there?  The sky’s the limit!

I think I’ll like this team, even if it pisses me off at times.  We’ve got four legitimate NBA players on this team!  Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten should be lottery picks after this season; Gaddy and Wilcox should be effective role players at the next level.  It’s really too bad we don’t have one solid big man to round things out; because this is a team that SHOULD contend for a Final Four slot.  We HAVE the talent!  We’ve just got to figure out a way to put it all together.

If only Terrence Jones hadn’t reneged on his original decision … we’d easily be a Top 10 team right now.

Suck It Kentucky Wildcats

Sour grapesmuch?

I’m not gonna blow this one out too much, but I thought I’d take a moment to revel in Kentucky’s failure.  After all, since my teams never actually WIN anything, the next best thing is to take delight in watching teams that I hate lose.  Of course, what bigger stage could there be to lose on than the Final Four (except MAYBE the BCS Championship game … suck it Ducks).

Let’s face it, Kentucky already has an advantage over most other teams because they cheat.  They (read:  John Calipari) break NCAA rules, they steal players who’ve committed to other teams, and they don’t really build a solid foundation of a program because they just reload with One-And-Done players every year.  They’re pathetic, and they don’t deserve to win a damn thing.

They NEEDED to lose.  Kentucky winning a championship is just another thing they can point to when they’re trying to steal recruits who’ve verbally committed to other schools.  As it is, it sickens me that they made it as far as the Final Four, but you know what?  The further you go, the farther you fall.

Losing on Saturday must have been simply heartbreaking, wasn’t it Kentucky?  Believing you had a team good enough to go all the way, getting OH SO CLOSE, and then choking at the end.  Boy, that must have been totally ruining your night, huh?

HA.  Fuck you Wildcats and Wildcats fans.  That goes for you too Arizona.  GLAD you lost too.

Now Terrence Jones can go off and make millions of dollars knowing he was a loser in his college basketball “career”.