The only reason Coach Romar can be confident in his ability to field a starting five come late autumn is a bunch of high school kids. Luckily, we have been told that they are an impressive bunch, and seem poised to contribute right away.
Lucas Shannon has already discussed the outlook in the front court, so I'll do my best to bring you up to speed on the guards and wings. Players are pretty versatile in college, and the game is increasingly position-less, but that will basically mean point guards, shooting guards, and forwards that don't belong in the post.
Nigel Williams-Goss, Jahmel Taylor, and Darin Johnson transferred out. PG/SG Andrew Andrews, SF Donaven Dorsey, and PG/SG Dan Kingma are the only returning contributors. In addition to those three, reinforcements will arrive in the form of PG David Crisp, SG Dejounte Murray, SF Matisse Thybulle, and SF Dominic Green.
That crop of seven players will need to produce three starters and several bench contributors. I would be surprised if more than one of the four freshmen is able to sit out and red-shirt next season. Before we try to figure out how these pieces fit together, let's brush up on individuals.
Andrews is the only proven ball-handler returning. Despite a reputation for high-volume, low-efficiency scoring, the then-junior managed to average 15ppg on an acceptable 40% shooting from the field and 37% from three-point range last season.He was also one of the only Huskies capable of earning reliable points at the free-throw line, averaging 82% shooting on 5.6 attempts per contest.
Started off the year as a pleasant surprise, a true freshman capable of contributing as an efficient spot-up shooter as he adjusted to the college game. As the year went on Dorsey's shooting stroke abandoned him while the rest of his game remained mostly static, and it became obvious that under better circumstances he would have fallen out of the rotation not too long into conference play.
Somehow managed to earn solid minutes as a walk-on late in the conference season. The initial reaction was dismissive, as many assumed Kingma played as a sort of statement to under-achieving peers. At the very least he proved that his shot translates to this level, even if his lack of size and athleticism lead me to question if he has a realistic chance seeing the floor after this infusion of young talent.
Has to be the freshman walking on campus with the most buzz. The long, bouncy guard from Rainier Beach High School ranked 49th on ESPN's top-100, the top local prospect in the state. His extreme talent and versatility helped lead Beach to outrageous success during his four-year stay. Murray will likely need some time on the ball to thrive, though he is likely to play the two or three. He was a constant triple-double threat in high school, but it remains to be seen if he will need to bulk up for that rebounding to translate.
Spent his first three years with Murray at Beach running the point and launching up threes. After winning another state title after his junior year, he decided to spend one last year at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. With Williams-Goss gone, he will be the only true point guard on the roster, meaning his level of preparedness will go a long way towards determining how the rotation solidifies.
Edit: As has been pointed out, Crisp actually started out at Clover Park HS. He then transferred for one year to Beach and played an extra season at Brewster.
Classically built wing out of Eastside Catholic. Arguably the third best local prospect in the class behind Murray, assuming you count Crisp as local. He flew under the radar for the most part until his final AAU season, when he began to shoot up the state rankings. Coaches and scouts praise his defense and rebounding, while he received a bit of internet fame for this showcase of athleticism.
It's tough to avoid connecting Thybulle and Green when it comes to this class. Both are 6-6 wings from the greater King County region. Green was a late addition to the class, only committing in late April after securing his release from his letter of intent to Arizona State. Given the presence of Dorsey and Thybulle, he strikes me as the only obvious redshirt candidate.
How will they fit?
I've had a really tough time trying to reason out how Romar might best take advantage of these seven talented young players. I've come to two conclusions: 1.) I really don't know who will start. 2.) If I knew what Romar planned to do at point guard, I wouldn't be so clueless.
Andrews is the one returning upperclassman. He, out of everyone, turned out to be the one who stayed for Romar. He is also a mercurial player whose lows sometimes feel too low to be justified by the highs, and he really is not a point guard. I have a hard time believing Romar will leave him out of the initial starting five, but I also have a hard time picturing an offense completely piloted by Andrews.
Thing is, Romar will not have much of a choice but to roll with that experiment unless David Crisp is actually ready to function as a starting point guard in the Pac-12. Even considering that he has been a key cog in two very different high school basketball machines, that's asking a lot.
Still, let's just imagine that Crisp is ready (or Romar thinks he is ready) to start. Then it would follow for Andrews to return in a similar role as last season, as a secondary ball handler and steady supply of free throw attempts.
Alright, great. Two out of three starters figured out. Now, obviously, we throw Dejounte Murray at the three. Except that a lineup featuring Crisp as primary ball-handler alongside Andrews and Murray, two guards that love to create offense all by their damn selves, could result in some issues.
Obviously Murray and Crisp have played together before. I just worry about the two of them seeing enough time with the ball in their hands to actually adjust to the college game and grow with Andrews running around doing his high-usage thing.
One solution would be to keep Murray or Andrews on the bench as a sixth man, meaning either Dorsey or perhaps Thybulle could start at the third guard spot. Considering that Murray, even with all the hype and talent in the world, is still an unknown until he succeeds in the purple and gold, it's a tough call to make from my couch.
My best guess would be Crisp, Andrews, and Dorsey to start the first non-conference game, with Murray as a sixth man receiving minutes comparable to a starter and Thybulle entering early and often to spell Dorsey.
Romar hopefully understands how poor a fit Andrews and Murray are as pure point guards, and will give Crisp an opportunity to learn on the job through the autumn. I lean towards Andrews as the initial starter based on a sense of loyalty from Romar, as well as a hesitance to start two completely inexperienced players in the same back court. Dorsey over Thybulle assuming he will come back in year two in improved shape and ready to contribute defensively. His shooting will be key to decent spacing, and Thybulle can show flashes as a high-energy defensive sub.
Will that actually happen? Who knows. That's the best part about this season. Who knows who is going to start, or if they'll even be good. Crisp might not be ready at all, in which case we will see illogical point guard-less lineups that I don't even want to talk about.
We'll see. Your guess is as good as anyone else's. At the very least, in contrast to recent years, it is sure to be interesting.
Edit: I promise I totally included Quevyn Winters in this preview, even if I waited until my final draft. Somehow I failed to save it! So, anyway, there are actually four returning contributors and eight total guard/wing players available for next season. Winters will be a senior and one can assume the team will still need shooting off the bench. The problem is that Winters failed to earn minutes last season when the need for long-range shooting was extreme. Unless this has been a huge off season, it's tough to see him suddenly earning a bigger role now that the team has been infused with young talent. Unfortunately, it's telling that the answer to "how will they fit?" is no less accurate based on the omission.