While the Lorenzo Romar's Huskies run a high-post offense, there is still a need for low-post players. The offense needs guys who can bang down low defensively, rebound, block shots, score on the block, or play defense on the pick and roll. Preferably, a team would have someone who could do all of them. As odd as it sounds, Aziz N'Diaye could do that. He was not the most skilled back-to-the-basket scorer - okay, he was below-average, but developed a hook shot and a drop-step.
Finding an impact low-post scorer is a difficult proposition for coaches. For one, they are going out of style. Gone are the days where a team will feed the ball to a big man on the block 20 times in a game. Basketball has morphed into an up-tempo game that relies on quickness and athleticism over strength inside. No matter how good a low post guy is at pivoting, he won't get the opportunity to dominate his man on the block if there is no opportunity to settle down in the low post and gain position.
With that shift, the number of players who have grown up being fed the ball on the block and going to work are dwindling. When a coach finds one, they have to latch on. Right now, Romar has one guy with the ability to be a dominant low-post threat and another developing that ability: Perris Blackwell and Shawn Kemp Jr., respectively.
The low post for Washington isn't just relegated to being a back-to-the-basket scorer. Someone who could be featured prominently in gameplans is Gilles Dierickx. Jernard Jarreau had some good things to say about Dierickx, which I will get into more later on in the article. Jarreau referenced Dierickx as "G." I am going to do the same because oh my gosh I have no interest in typing Dierickx all the time. I google "Washington Huskies Basketball Roster" at least once per week just to double check on the spelling for his name.
The low post player for Romar will have several different roles, and the roles will also depend upon who is manning the position. When Blackwell is out there, his duty will be to sit his booty down on the block and scream, holler, and shout until he gets the ball. "We are going to demand that we throw Perris Blackwell the ball," Romar said.
G will do a lot more flashing, cutting, and diving, spending more time away from the basket using his jumper along with his surprising fluidity for a 6-foot 11-inch man.
Kemp Jr. will be a mix of all three. He is the most athletic of the low post guys (just look at those genes!) and also has a developing back-to-the-basket game along with a semi-respectable mid-range shot. He will be running the floor and setting up shop on the block. His versatility will open up the UW offense at times.
On defense, the low post is typically the center. Manning the paint, he will have to defend other low post threats, whether on the block or going out to mid-range like G will be doing. He has several duties: provide good help defense in pick-n-roll situations, defend the low post area, send shots backwards, and clean up the glass.
With that being said, let's take a look at the three guys who will be getting the most playing time in the low post.*
*Desmond Simmons and Jernard Jarreau will both be getting time down low, but for the most part they will handle the high post with these guys dealing with the dirtier work down low.
When G agreed to transfer to UW, many didn't like the move. It was seen as a scholarship that could have been given to a "stud" recruit like Jabari Bird, Marcus Lee, or Aaron Gordon. I was on the fence. I didn't know whether or not to like the move by Romar. At this point, I am starting to like the move, as I read more and more about what the redshirt sophomore is able to do.
From Belgium, G fits the mold of a European big man with the ability to hit the mid-range jumper. When he is the center of a high post set, that weapon will be valuable in keeping the cutting lanes open as it won't allow his man to sag off of him when he has the ball in his hands.
G likened himself to Spencer Hawes back when he signed with UW, and Jarreau compared G to Hawes as well. His range extends out to 15-17 feet, he is surprisingly strong (I am assuming this was one of his focuses in his season off per transfer rules), and according to Jarreau he is a good defender.
Percy believes Dierickx has good hands, and that he has good awareness around the rim. Both of those will be a very big difference from the man taking up space in the middle last season.
As of yet, just like with quite a bit of the roster, we don't know what exactly we are getting in Dierickx. All of this positive talk could turn into nothing if he doesn't contribute early on, and gets forced out of the rotation. It is possible, given the amount of depth UW has inside.
Shawn Kemp Jr.
Did you know that Shawn Kemp Jr.'s father played for the Sonics? I hope so.
As I mentioned before, Kemp is the most athletic of the three low post options. He can do this. He has the hands to catch difficult passes and finish above the rim.
What Kemp developed last season was a consistent post game. He was UW's most consistent scorer down low last season. Specifically, he used a jump hook more than any other move. Personally, if a player was to learn one post move and master it (other than the sky hook), I believe that the best choice would be a jump hook. It is one of the most difficult shots in the game to block. The range can extend out to 15 feet with some accuracy. It is a very lethal weapon.
In my memory of Kemp on defense, he was very willing to be a physical defender in the post, using his strength to move offensive players off of the block. The athleticism he holds has a big effect on his pick n roll and help defense, as his ability to quickly get into position and defend smaller ball-handlers stands out as a strong skill for someone who plays post.
Defensively, Kemp is still growing, as he will make mistakes and get beat at times, as will any young player. One issue that Kemp should be looking to improve is the fact that for a post player, he is not a very good rebounder. Looking above you should be able to see his total rebound percentage for his career. It is less than half of what N'Diaye put up. Kemp will never be N'Diaye on the boards, but someone with the athleticism of a Kemp should be able to garner more caroms off of the orange circle than what he has mustered so far.
Despite that flaw, Kemp Jr. holds the talent and skill to be a real impact player for Washington. He is battling with Jarreau to be the starter next to Blackwell. I expect Jarreau to win that battle. I also expect Jarreau to be much more than a standard role player, and for him to have a very large impact on the UW season. That isn't to say that Kemp can't take the spot, as I would not be surprised if he did. I just wonder if it would clog the offense to have two guys on the floor who are back-to-the-basket bangers.
Kemp has a decent mid-range jumper that he has no doubt been working on all offseason, which could very well open things up for him to operate more in the 14-17-foot range this coming season.
He is playing under his father's shadow, but Shawn Kemp Jr. is starting to make a little bit of a name for himself at the University of Washington.
Asked who the team's No. 2 scoring option will be behind Wilcox, Romar didn't hesitate: "Perris Blackwell. Mark that down.
"He's 270 pounds, and he's a nimble 270 pounds.
"We are going to demand that we throw Perris Blackwell the ball," Romar said.
Husky fans are going to see a lot Blackwell with his back to the basket, working to score inside. Despite being eligible to play only one season, Romar sees that Blackwell can be very much a focal point of the UW attack, and won't be shy about using him.
(Who is in the core group and who is the leader? Looking from the outside in, I might say C.J. Wilcox, but he's not a vocal, rah-rah guy. So who's leading the team and who is in the core?) "I would say the core group of guys are the guys that are returning because we went through two years without making the tourney and it's kind of frustrating. We went to Spain, we went overseas and we had high expectations to making it and not making it is a real heartbreaker. We look up to C.J. because he's been here the longest, but I feel like our emotional leader has been Perris in practice. He's that guy that gets guys up and get ready for practice. He's not going to let you take a day off."
(For people who haven't Blackwell, what type of player is he?) "Perris is a monster. He's a monster on the boards. He's a monster on offense. He's a monster on defense. You're going to notice on the court. He's loud. He energetic. And he wants to win. He's hungry. He makes me play better in practice everyday. He's just a monster. He's a beast in every aspect of the game."
(Sounds like he's a vocal player.) "He's real vocal. He's going to challenge you to get better. If he sees you slacking off, he's going to to yell at you but it's never in a way to belittle you. It's in a way that you're either going to work or get off the court. He's not going to take a day off."
(It seems he brings a grown-man experience and demeanor to the team.) "Exactly. The gold squad is usually the younger guys either sophomores or freshmen or people redshirting. With him coming in, he was on the gold squad but he was like get after these guys. He made me elevate my game a lot."
Blackwell was an honorable mention for All-West Coast Conference when he last played for the University of San Fransisco. He averaged 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game while playing 25 minutes a night. Blackwell doesn't think he was used to his top potential at USF, telling Gregg Bell, "Yeah, I mean, I like to score, and I like to do it in a variety of ways. I just want to show it here. I didn't really get to show that at my last school."
Blackwell has the ability to have a very large impact on the UW season. If Romar considers him the number-two scoring option, then he will have to be efficient and play well in order for Washington to make noise this year and make the NCAA Tournament.
These are Washington's options to man the low post for long stretches of time for the season. What are you expecting to see out of this group?