What a difference a year makes. At this time last year, most Husky fans were not exactly sure what to make of the team. if any of you were like me, you were cautiously optimistic that Nigel Williams Goss would be able to build off of an impressive Freshman season and step up as the Huskies leading scorer, that Robert Upshaw would live up to the hype that surrounded him, and that he would be able to keep his act together.
And If you are a fan of Husky basketball, you know the rest of this story all too well.
The Huskies got off to a fantastic start, as they rattled off eleven straight wins and looked poised to seriously contend for a Pac-12 title. Then, the wheels fell off. The Huskies fell as quickly and dramatically as they had risen, as they dropped 15 of their last 20 games and finished 16-15, and a meager 5-13 in conference play. To make matters worse, the uber talented Upshaw was kicked off the team mid-season for a violation of team rules.
After Goss and Jernard Jarreau announced that they would be transferring shortly after the season ended,-- Darin Johnson, Dierckx Gilles and Quevyn Winters also elected to transfer-- it seemed the program was in complete disarray.
However, head coach Lorenzo Romar seemed to rediscover his recruiting mojo, as he brought the sixth highest rated recruiting class in the country according to scout.com, and the highest rated class in program history at that. The class is made up of eight players, and headlined by Rainer Beach phenom Dejounte "Baby Boy" Murray, and big man Marquese Chriss from California. The late additions of Dominic Green- A four star shooting guard who was granted his release from letter of intent from Arizona State after the firing of Herb Sendek-- and Noah Dickerson-- A four star forward from Montverde Academy in Florida, who was granted his release from Florida after long time head coach Billy Donovan accepted the Oklahoma City Thunder's head coaching position-- transformed the class.
The coaching staff is looking to usher in a new era of Husky basketball by returning to the style that many fans came to love. For the uninitiated, that means the Huskies will look to once again push the pace on offense, and play unrelenting, full court pressure defense.
Make no mistake, this team is incredibly young and inexperienced-- they return only three scholarship players (counting Dan Kingma, who was awarded a scholarship this fall) from last season-- and will take their lumps along the way as a result of that youth. But they are also immensely talented and will show flashes of what will be to come in the near future.
The Huskies take on Seattle Pacific tonight at 7 p.m. in an exhibition game at Hec Ed. Unfortunately, there is no way to watch this game that I know of, so the only way to catch the Huskies will be to watch the game in person. (Admission is free of charge.) In lieu of a preview of the Falcons, here is a list of the top three questions on my mind about the team heading into this season, including my best --and completely speculative-- guess at who will start for the Dawgs.
Which Freshman will have the most success this season?
Answer: Marquese Chriss
This may come as a surprise to some, considering that local star Dejounte Murray was the most highly rated player coming out of highschool-- Murray was ranked as the 39th player nationally according to scout.com, Chriss checked in at 55.However, I would argue that Chriss was the biggest steal of the 2015 class.He committed to the Huskies relatively early in the process as he gave his pledge in January 2014, and at the time the Huskies were one of the highest profile teams after the talented big man. Kim Grinolds from Dawgman.com has long reported that the coaching staff felt like they had to get Chriss to commit before he hit the AAU Circuit following the completion of his unior season, because they knew that he would garner major attention from schools around the Pac-12. Sure enough, Chriss committed to the Huskies, and the staff was able to fend off late pushes made by Arizona and California, and the signing seems to being pay dividends already.
The Huskies held their annual intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday, and Chriss tallied 40 points, including going sixfor seven from behind the arc, and also pulled down 12 rebounds. Romar told the media after the scrimmage that no player has ever scored 40 points in their intrasquad scrimmage. Obviously I don't expect Chriss to replicate that performance this season, but if he can produce even a fraction of what he did Tuesday, he may end up on the short list for Pac-12 Freshman of the year come March.
2. How will the team re-discover their fast paced tempo, and also stick to their high post offense?
As I already mentioned, Romar has expressed his desire to re-discover both the fast paced offensive tempo and also the rather frantic full court defense that the Huskies came to be known for during the mid to late 2000s. However, Romar also stated that the team will also run the high-post offense the team has implemented over the last three or so years. While Romar has stated that he would like to keep both, I wouldn't be surprised if the team moved away from the high post offense as the season wore on. That's not to say that they don't have the talent to run the high post offense, Chriss and Noah Dickerson seem to both have the skill set to run the high post system, as do Devinir Durrieseau and Malik Dime, though to a lesser extent. However I think there is simply too much perimeter talent on this team to excluvisely run a post oriented offense, and execpt to see them re-integrate their motion offense. Also, don't discount the impact a 30 second shot clock will have on their pace of play on the offensive side of the ball.
3. So, who is going to start?
Without further ado, here is my best guess at who the Huskies will start tonight, and for the majority of the season.
Point guard: Andrew Andrews
Shooting guard: Dejounte Murray
Small Forward: Donaven Dorsey
Power Forward: Marquese Chriss
Center: Malik Dime