Head Coach Lorenzo Romar announced that Jernard Jarreau will be available to play against the Cougars in Pullman this Sunday.
On Friday, he confirmed this, saying that Jarreau will make his return after missing 10 games due to re-injuring his right knee against the Cougars on January 10. Reports on Jarreau's status via The Seattle Times Percy Allen. Jarreau's return will be welcomed with open arms by Husky fans assuming he does play this weekend.
The Huskies are currently reeling and have fallen to 14-11 after an 11-0 start, and have seen their NCAA tournament hopes evaporate in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. Jarreau's return will likely do little to reverse the Huskies fortunes enough to go dancing in March. However, his presence should help the Huskies on both sides of the ball and in terms of their depth.
The Huskies offense has been below average all season, regardless of what combination of players has taken the floor. While the offense has picked up slightly with the introduction of five guard lineups. However, those lineups have not fared well on the defensive side of the ball, and they have not scored at a high enough rate to see the floor for extended stretches of the game. The return of Jarreau will allow the Huskies to re-utilize the high post offense that the Huskies have introduced the last few years. Jarreau is the prototypical high post player, he can handle the ball very well for his height and is quick enough to take most of the power forwards in the Pac-12 off the bounce. He is also a skilled passer and can take some of the playmaking responsibilities off of Nigel Williams Goss. He can stretch the floor to a degree, though he doesn't seem overly comfortable shooting threes, as he seems to prefers shooting mid-range jump shots.
According to Allen, Romar said that Jarreau's return will benefit his team the most on the defensive end. I have to agree with Romar, mainly because the Huskies defense has been in tatters since the dismissal of Robert Upshaw. Since his dismissal, opponents have shot 53.1% from the field and 38.4% against the Huskies. The Dawgs lack any currently lack any sort of interior presence on defense, Shawn Kemp Jr. competes, but has never been much of a rim protector. Couple that with the fact that seven-footer Giles Dierickx has been so inept that he can hardly find the floor, and what the Huskies are left with is Kemp Jr. having to play very conservative defense in order to not get into foul trouble. Jarreau has never been much of a shot blocker, but his length will be a welcome change to the Huskies undersized front court. The player that will likely benefit the most from Jarreau's return will likely be Freshman forward Donaven Dorsey. Though he will probably return to his reserve role, Dorsey will likely have to spend much less time at the power forward position and can move back to small forward, his natural position. Though Dorsey has largely done the same thing on offense at both positions, -- shoot threes -- he has looked over-matched defensively guarding power forwards.
Allen also reported that Romar does not expect Jarreau to start on Sunday on account of his conditioning, and Jarreau himself said that he has not yet talked to the training staff about how much he will be allowed to play. However, any minutes he will be able to provide will be welcomed. The Huskies have only been able to play 7-8 players a game, and have one of the least productive benches in the conference.
I think what is lost here is just how important it is for Jarreau to be able to get back on the floor this season. Before getting hurt last season, he was expected to be one of the biggest contributors to the team. There was a lot of excitement within the fanbase at the idea of his return to the floor this season, especially when it was reported that he put on 20 pounds of muscle to his skinny frame. This is why his most recent injury was so disappointing. The Huskies season has fallen off the rails, and the possibility of finishing last in the conference is still looming. I do not expect Jarreau's return to miraculously turn the Huskies season around. However, if he is able to get back, healthy, and increase his minutes by the end of the season, that should go along way for his development this coming spring and summer. He will likely be a big contributor next season if he can stay healthy (which is a pretty big if at this point).
The way this season is going, it is about time to look ahead toward next year.