Given the recent basketball commitments of New Yorkers Nahz Carter and Hameir Wright, we decided now might be a good time to do a Q&A with our Syracuse sister site: Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. Side Note: Can you imagine if the UWDP were named after a Troy Nunes equivalent like Isaiah Stanback? James Szubek from TNIAAM was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about Mike Hopkins, the state of Syracuse basketball, and the newest UW recruits. Also, feel free to check out the questions I answered for James here.
UWDP: What are Washington fans getting in Coach Mike Hopkins?
TNIAAM: Washington is getting a tireless, passionate worker in Hop. He's full of energy and isn't afraid to wear his emotions on his sleeve. He's also tremendously loyal despite what some people may think about him leaving Syracuse -- he's constantly given praise to Jim Boeheim and thanked him for his mentorship. He's also a tremendous recruiter and although it might be tough to replace his predecessor at Washington in terms of recruiting, he has a proven track record by securing commitments from guys like Hakim Warrick, Gerry McNamara, Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Willaims and Rakeem Christmas to name a few.
UWDP: Are Syracuse fans upset at either Hopkins for leaving or at the administration for being unable to put their supposed succession plan into practice?
TNIAAM: I think there is a portion of the fan base that's angry the succession didn't take place much sooner, but part of that cohort questioned Hopkins being the heir apparent to Jim Boeheim to begin with. Most of the fan base is excited to have Boeheim around a little while longer. Even if the administration just decided to kick the can down the road, it was the best decision at the time. Who better to run the basketball program than the man who built it?
UWDP: What are the expectations for the future of the program now that the coach-in-waiting has left?
TNIAAM: Most are expecting recruiting to ramp up as playing for a Hall of Fame head coach at Syracuse has regained its luster. Syracuse has missed on more kids in the last two years than it otherwise would have, but the staff was still able to secure some solid commits. With the NCAA sanctions lingering, but mostly in the rearview, the fan base is hoping for an upswing.
UWDP: How in the mix was Syracuse for Nahziah Carter or Hameir Wright? Locally, what were the opinions on each as prospects?
TNIAAM: Hopkins was the lead recruiter for both of those guys but Wright was the bigger Syracuse target. The staff was looking to recruit Wright for the 2018-2019 season, but likely was targeting some higher ranked players at the forward spot. Nonetheless, it stings a bit especially considering Wright plays AAU with Boeheim's son, Buddy Boeheim.
UWDP: With the commitments of Carter and Wright, do Syracuse fans now view Hopkins as a legitimate recruiting competitor?
TNIAAM: To a degree, yes. Soup to nuts, if Syracuse really wants a local kid to come play I think the influence of the program regionally will have an effect on most kids. But that doesn't mean Hopkins can't be competitive and he's already proven he can recruit talented kids from the same state. I personally don't view it as Hopkins vs. Syracuse, but some will.
UWDP: Lastly, Hopkins has talked about wanting to make the 2-3 zone part of his arsenal but not necessarily the default defensive system. Can you share for our readers what the strengths and weaknesses of the Syracuse zone are and what type of players are needed to make it effective?
TNIAAM: My pleasure! There are actually about five variants of the 2-3 zone that Boeheim will run based on the other team's personnel. For more on that, former Syracuse assistant and current Eastern Michigan head coach Rob Murphy broke that down with the post. The Syracuse 2-3 is traditionally effective at making teams shoot a low percentage from distance and turning the ball over while sacrificing the glass. The staff prefers tall, active guards up top and long, athletic wings who can cover ground. The best centers in the zone are cerebral, talkative players who anchor the back line. The center sees the entire zone so it's important for whoever is playing that position to communicate at all times. There are a lot of moving parts, but when all five guys are operating together the zone can feel almost impossible to beat (see: 2013 Final Four run).
Thanks again to James for doing this!
You can follow me @UWDP_maxvroom