Who’s back: Noah Dickerson, Malik Dime, Devenir Duruisseau
Who’s New: Matthew Atewe (redshirted last season) Sam Timmins (redshirted last season)
Who’s gone: Marquese Chriss
Arguably the biggest storyline for this Huskies team coming into this season is how they will replace freshman forward and phenom Marquese Chriss. He exploded onto the scene last season averaging 13.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. While Chriss’s stats were certainly well above average for a freshman, it was his seemingly unlimited potential that so infatuated the NBA. After just one season on Montlake, Chriss elected to forgo his sophomore season and declare for the NBA draft, and was selected eighth overall by the Sacramento Kings (and was traded to the Phoenix Suns on draft night), tied for the second highest draft pick in Huskies basketball history.
Having to replace Chriss is the bad news for this group. But don’t write the big men off just yet, as they should still be a very solid group.
This group is headlined by senior Malik Dime, who is coming off a solid junior year. Dime didn’t do much scoring damage with the ball, averaging a pedestrian 6.9 points per game, but he made his presence felt on the defensive end. He averaged 5.6 rebounds per game last season, and was second in the Pac-12 in shots blocked with 2.6 rejections per game. The Huskies will lean on Dime once again to be their rim protector on defense this season. As the lone senior, the Huskies will also look to Dime to be their emotional leader on the court.
The Freshman from Palmdale, California impressed many Huskies fans out of the gates after he put up 7 points and 7 rebounds in the Huskies’ season-opening victory over Texas in China last season. However, Duruisseau wasn’t able to find consistent playing time his freshman year behind Chriss, Dickerson, and Dime. He averaged 1.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, and just 8.4 minutes during his freshman campaign. With Atewe and Timmins added to the equation, not to mention “small ball” lineups that may see players like Matisse Thybulle playing the power forward position, Duruisseau seems to be facing an uphill battle for playing time again this season.
The Huskies also return sophomore forward Noah Dickerson. Dickerson put together a solid freshman campaign last season, even though he was plagued by inconsistency at times. Dickerson averaged 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season. The four-star forward from Atlanta, Georgia, is undoubtedly the most talented big man on the roster at this point. (Sam Timmins may have something to say about that by the end of the year, but we will get to him in a little bit.) Dickerson showed last season that he is capable of scoring in multiple ways. He possesses very good instincts when posting up in the low post, albeit with his back to the basket or facing up and attacking the hoop. He has also shown a consistent ability to knock down a fifteen-foot elbow jump shot.
However, Dickerson did seem to struggle with bigger opponents last season on both offense and defense. Luckily for Dickerson, he most likely will not have to play as many minutes at the center position, thanks to the newcomers. Speaking of which…
This 6-8, 250-pound junior transfer from Auburn will bring some much-needed muscle to the Huskies’ front court. Atewe averaged just 1.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game off the bench during his lone season as a Tiger. He will undoubtedly have to shake off some rust at the start of the season, as he hasn’t played in a college basketball game since the 2013-2014 season. Once he gets reacclimated to the speed of the game, expect Atewe to be a solid contributor for the Huskies. There is very limited game tape on Atewe as yet, but I expect Atewe to do the dirty work for the Huskies. I expect him to fill the much-needed role of pulling down both offensive and defensive rebounds, and also provide physicality on the defensive end. He should be able to catch and finish layups and dunks created by penetration from his teammates. He likely won’t be able to provide much of an offensive threat with his back to the basket, but with the amount of talent on this Huskies team, it shouldn’t be an issue.
Markelle Fultz is obviously the prized possession of the Huskies 2016 recruiting class, and for good reason. But in many other years, Timmins, a four-star from New Zealand, would’ve been the talk of the class. At 6-11, 265 pounds, Timmins will provide the height and size desperately needed in a Pac-12 loaded with seven-foot centers. The freshman from New Zealand redshirted in the second part of the season last year, with the goal of helping him acclimate himself to all the lifestyle changes on and off the court that come with moving across the globe at 18 years old.
After watching some of Timmins’s highlight film, he is a physical, athletic big man who is comfortable scoring over either shoulder, and can also utilize a spin move when facing up in the low post. He should be able to provide some serious size for the Huskies on the defensive glass as well, and should help shore up their rebounding issues. I for one am excited to watch Timmins play next to Dime. Once Timmins comes into his own, that could be a very fun combination to watch, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.