There was a small piece of news last year about the Washington Huskies offense that some of you may not have known. Washington switched to a high-post offense last season. Yeah, big shocker, I know. Gone were the motion offenses of Lorenzo Romar's past, replaced with the old UCLA high post offense the late John Wooden used to garner his paltry ten National Championships and win 88 consecutive games.
Sarcasm aside, that offense was extremely successful - in the 60's and 70's. That is not to say that it could not be successful today, but its glory days are well behind, and it was a puzzling move considering that Washington's personnel didn't exactly fit the offense. It required high posts with very strong decision-making skills (Jernard Jarreau could be this, and Aaron Gordon would have been a perfect fit). It is aided greatly by a point guard whose strength is getting creating his own shot and turning nothing into something when the shot clock winds down. That was not Abdul Gaddy's game.
I have two big caveats when it comes to this system. Now, nothing is going to be perfect, but I didn't see this as a match made in heaven. Romar has traditionally been a motion offense kind of guy who pushed the pace both offensively and defensively. The high post allows the opposition to push the pace, because oftentimes the wings are along the baseline. Being along the baseline makes it difficult to get back in transition in time to stop the opponent from scoring transition baskets.
Romar wants to push the tempo with this year's team. The high post will allow the opponents to push the pace in a way that Romar won't like: two-on-one and three-on-two fastbreaks.
My other caveat was: Romar has spent his career coaching the motion offense with a few high post principles. He brought in Brad Jackson from WWU (my school!) to - we assume - teach him and the players the high post system, and the finer points of it. Jackson rode the offense to a Division-II National Championship before he went to UW.
A coach needs to adapt or risk getting stale, losing touch with recruits, players, and becoming easy to figure out by opposing coaches. Usually they will do this by tweaking their offensive and defensive schemes and play-calling. Granted, my knowledge base is limited, but it is very rare to see a coach totally change their offensive philosophy.
Steve Sarkisian changed his philosophy, but not really by too much. He just made it faster and tweaked it. Romar went from a Georgia Tech Triple Option team to a Mike Leach Air Raid offense. Maybe not that extreme, but you get my point.
Anyways, the offense is called the high post, and today we are going to preview the players that man that position. Both post players will be used in the high post in this offense, but the 4 will be put into the high post more often, so I am going to preview the "power forwards."
The redshirt junior Simmons is your classic "glue guy." He knows how to do things that don't show up in the statsheet: set solid screens, play great defense whether it is down on the block, on the perimeter, or on the pick-n-roll. He is great at getting 50-50 loose balls thanks to his hustle and his length. Simmons's length, oh my gosh. The guy could have saved Mufasa from falling. His arms are just so long. He is listed as 6-7 but defensively he plays much more like he is 6-10. It is very rare that a player can be looked at (especially in basketball, where everyone is long) and the response is "those arms are so long." That was the first thing I noticed when I saw Simmons for the first time.
When he was playing the high post handling the ball, an event occurred that those around the Dawg Pound coined the "Simmons death grip." Basically, Simmons would attempt to pop the ball by squeezing his hands together with the ball in-between them.
Simmons was obviously attempting to prevent turnovers. The problem was that it made it difficult for him to make a move to the basket or hit cutters, as squeezing the ball with all your might doesn't lend itself to being able to get rid of the ball quickly.
I assume that will be rectified somewhat this upcoming season. Now, if he has turnover issues ten it will crop right back up again, but he should be more comfortable passing the ball from the high post.
Simmons has a semi-reliable mid-range and three-point jumper. He is basically limited to taking them only in wide-open catch-and-shoot situations. He will never be a knockdown shooter, but it is reasonable to expect him to improve his jumper as years go by. I remember thinking to myself why is Simmons taking a jumper? It would go in. Oh yeah, he can make those. He has a very high release making it difficult to block.
Last season, he was second on the Dawgs in total, defensive, and offensive rebounding percentage. He was in the top ten in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounding percentage and also total offensive rebounds. Again, hustle and length are a very big part as to why he is so effective at this.
Overall, Dezzy (part of his Twitter handle, and also I write Dezzy! in my notes every time he makes a hustle play, I am going to keep a running tally in my game recaps to see how many 50/50 balls and long rebounds he gets thanks to his motor and length). Okay, need to start this sentence over. Overall, Dezzy is a great player to have on the team, a perfect complementary piece to a good team. There are very few teams in the country that would not prefer to have Simmons on their team.
This redshirt sophomore from New Orleans just oozes potential. He is a guard with a 6-foot 11-inch frame. For those of you who don't know, Jarreau hit a massive growth spurt in high school (he still isn't done: last season he was at 6 feet, 10 inches). Percy Allen had an interview with him, and Jarreau said that he will probably reach seven feet one day.
Playing his entire life as a guard, Jarreau has spent quite a bit of time as working on his ball-handling and passing skills. He will never again have the handle of the smaller players he goes up against, but that skillset has helped to carry over into his game at the college level.
Something we didn't see too much of last season was Jarreau with the ball outside of the high post. With the size inside and the dearth of wing talent, Washington will run with some very big lineups this season. "This year I think we have more size on the inside to rotate a lot of guys. All of have a good skill-set for the high-post offense. We'll be more physical - I promise you that - inside. We'll help our guards out as much as we can." He later stated that he will not be playing the five much at all this season, as he did at times last year. He will be playing a 3-4 position, manning the 4 in smaller lineups and the 3 when the team wants to go big.
When the team goes big, Jarreau hypothesized a lineup that featured him at small forward, Shawn Kemp Jr. at power forward, and Perris Blackwell at center. That would mean that he will be around the perimeter. Someone with the length that Jarreau has is extremely difficult to keep away from the basket. Length is a much underrated trait that aids an offensive player driving to the basket
But, back to Jarreau. He is still a high post player. His skillset is almost perfect to be running the high post offense. He is comfortable handling the ball, can hit a 15-foot jumper, and has the vision to see cutting teammates. Time will tell if he can capitalize on the scheme fit.
On defense, Jarreau's length and quickness come into play. He was a good shot-blocker last season, and a decent rebounder. Gaining strength will help in both of those areas. When defending smaller ball-handlers, his length stymied any ball-handling and quickness advantage. That made him invaluable defending pick and rolls. He should only improve in that area as well.
With Jarreau's growth spurt came one downside: he was very, very lean. He came to UW. Scout.com very generously listed him at 200 pounds. ESPN had him at 190. I had heard 185 bandied about more than any other number. He redshirted to pack on some weight, and got himself up to about 215 last season. This year, he is around 225 and is hoping to be at 230 before the season starts.
Jarreau has a solid mid-range jumper, and his range may or may not have been extended (Seattle Times paywall is getting in my way of reading more about him.). What I do know is that Romar viewed him as the most improved player over the offseason.
Jarreau could really be a star for the Dawgs. He has the ability to do so. The question remains, however, how much can he tap into his potential? He has shown flashes. "I did. Next year I just have to be more consistent. That's what the coaches have been asking me. Be more consistent. I just got to bring it to the table. Be more consistent and be more relaxed out there," he said.
While C.J. Wilcox is the best player on the Huskies this season, next year it very well could be Jarreau. Heck, it is feasible that Jarreau plays well enough to get drafted by the NBA. Scouts have talked (can't find a link at the moment. If I find one I will plug it in) about his potential. He could be Kevin Durant VERY-lite. But a skillset similar to KD is a skillset worth investing into.