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Men’s Basketball 2018 Recruiting Primer

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A look at the potential 2018 recruiting class

NCAA Basketball: Cal St. Fullerton at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 recruiting cycle was without a doubt the most interesting in the history of the program. UW had their most storied class ever, including #1 overall prospect Michael Porter Jr, before firing Coach Lorenzo Romar . When the dust settled, the Dawgs were left with a consensus 4-star shooting guard prospect in Jaylen Nowell, an under the radar local star point guard in Nate Pryor, and a 10 miles below the radar wing in Michael Carter III. While there’s still a chance for a late addition to the 2017 class, let’s turn our attention to 2018. There’s one senior on UW’s roster next season (Dan Kingma) and one currently vacant spot. Given the state of college basketball and the fact that some players may not like adjusting to a new coach in Hopkins, let’s assume that there will likely be 3 open slots for the following players.

Kevin Porter Jr.

SG; Rainier Beach High School, WA; 6’5”, 205

Scout: 4 stars, #28 Overall; 247 Sports: 4 stars, #67 Overall; ESPN: 4 stars

For everyone who already is scrolling down the page to let me know in the comments that UW has no shot with anyone from the Porter family, calm down. This one is unrelated to the assistant coach from last season who has gone back to Missouri. Porter Jr. is the next in a long line of 6’4-6’5 combo guards out of the Seattle area that includes several former and current Huskies such as Tony Wroten, Dejounte Murray, and Jaylen Nowell.

Porter Jr. is an elite scorer who can get his points either by driving to the basket or by shooting from long range. While he resembles several of the guards above, his game appears most similar to Dejounte Murray although he has a much more well-developed frame. Porter’s signature move is his crossover. At the high school level he can use it to get open whenever he wants and then use his height to shoot over a defender. Right now, he needs the ball in his hands to be effective but his passing isn’t quite there to be called a point guard. It’ll help him at the next level if he can start developing some off ball skills as well.

Primary Competition: UCLA, Oregon, USC, Cal, Oregon State

Porter Jr. talked with Scout in an article here about the state of his recruitment last month. He noted that Will Conroy “is like my big brother” and it certainly doesn’t seem as if the loss of Coach Romar has dampened his enthusiasm for UW too greatly. He cut down his list on June 5th to the 5 schools listed above plus UW and plans to make a decision in September. It seems like UCLA will be the biggest competitor but UW appears to be in the driver’s seat for now.

J’Raan Brooks

PF; Garfield High School, WA; 6’8”, 215

Scout: 4 stars, #80 Overall; 247 Sports: 4 stars, #77 Overall; ESPN: 4 stars

Brooks is considered to be the top big man in the state for the 2018 class and one of the best on the West Coast. He’s not an incredibly bouncy athlete in the mold of a Marquese Chriss but instead has an arsenal of post moves including a hook shot and the ability to hit mid-range jumpers. He’ll need to get a bit stronger when he gets to college but he’s got a good motor and is an above average rebounder.

Primary Competition: Stanford, Cal, Virginia, Oklahoma, Notre Dame

Brooks hasn’t really given a big clue as to which way he’s leaning so it’s anyone’s guess. The fact that Brandon Roy recently took over as the head coach at Garfield for Brooks’s senior year can’t be viewed as anything but a positive for UW’s chances of securing a commitment. It should be noted that Washington State hired former-Garfield coach Ed Haskins after the season so they also have a logical connection to J’Raan. But come on, it’s Wazzu. Brooks has received a lot more national offers than Porter and it’s unclear if that’s because he’s shown more of an interest towards leaving the West Coast or just that it’s harder to find good big guys. Washington will have every opportunity but Brooks may be the type of prospect who will need to see proof of success from Hopkins before buying in enough to actually commit.

Nic Lynch

C; Seattle Prep High School, WA; 6’10”, 255

Scout: 3 stars; ESPN: 2 stars

Lynch is probably the closest thing that Washington can get to having another copy of Sam Timmins. The two of them squared off last month when Lynch had the opportunity to play pick-up against the current UW players. Lynch has good size for a 5 in college but is young enough that he could grow another inch or two. He isn’t going to be an elite rim protector but has enough athleticism to be serviceable on the defensive end and be an above average rebounder. Lynch has a mid-range jumper as well as a few low post moves. However, he needs to improve his footwork and become more fluid in the post. You can tell that he has to think about which move and counter move to try before executing them.

Primary Competition: Washington State

Unless Lynch grows another 3 inches or absolutely blows up on the AAU circuit this summer, it seems like Washington has a commitment if they want one. Hopkins reaffirmed the offer from Coach Romar and Lynch seems very interested. Lynch grew up 5 minutes from the UW campus and his family has season tickets so it’d be a shock if another school overtook UW unless it was due to a lack of interest on the Huskies’ end. The only other Pac-12 school to offer at this point is Washington State. Unless Brandon Roy does one heck of a sell job to J’Raan Brooks this season, I would expect Lynch to have the best chance of being the big man for this class.

Spencer Freedman

PG; Mater Dei High School, CA; 6’1”, 160

Scout: 3 stars; 247 Sports: 3 stars; ESPN: 4 stars

Unlike many primary ball handlers these days, Freedman is considered to be a true floor general style point guard. Every evaluation of him speaks to his high basketball IQ and “craftiness” which make up for a lack of athleticism. Just because they’re adjectives used to describe every white point guard ever doesn’t mean they aren’t necessarily true. He’s a good shooter and an elite passer and seems like the kind of player with which Hopkins would like to build the program.

Primary Competition: Harvard, Stanford

EDIT 6/10/17: Well, the thought that Harvard was the primary competition was correct because Freedman committed to Harvard yesterday. We’ll see whether the focus shifts to someone like Marcus Zegarowski or Elijah Hardy. Or if they feel comfortable enough that either Nate Pryor will be ready to be the guy at PG once Crisp graduates or that some of the combo guys like Nowell or Porter could play enough point to get by there.

Freedman is known for being a high IQ player and that translates off the court as well as it appears Harvard may be the front runner for his services at the moment. Freedman attends Hopkins’ Alma Mater (Dei) but Hopkins hasn’t been there in decades so it’s unclear whether Coach Hop’s name has any extra draw. The fact that Freedman was Hopkins’ first offer shows that there is strong interest on UW’s part but we’ll see if it came too late in the game to overcome the allure of Harvard’s academics.

The Others

UW has out offers to many other prospects but they are mostly in one of two categories. Either they haven’t shown much meaningful reciprocal attention to UW despite receiving an offer. Or they’re a lower level local prospect for which UW will wait on Porter Jr. and Brooks before accepting a potential commitment. Here’s the list right now in approximate order of likelihood to end up a Dawg. If something changes then we’ll re-examine adding them to the above list with more analysis.

Emmitt Matthews Jr.

SF; Wilson High School, WA; 6’7”, 175

Scout: 3 stars; 247 Sports: 3 stars

Oregon State has shown the most interest so far but he has offers from Wichita State and Washington State as well.

Highlights

Ed Chang

SF; Papillon-La Vista High School, NE; 6’7”, 180

Scout: 3 stars; 247 Sports: 3 stars; ESPN: 4 stars

The top recruit in Nebraska said he plans to visit Washington soon. He has offers from Nebraska and Creighton but unofficially visited UCLA and USC recently.

Highlights

Erik Stevenson

SG; Timberline High School, WA; 6’4”, 180

Scout: 3 stars; 247 Sports: 3 stars

Hop has clearly prioritized Porter Jr. at SG but if he goes elsewhere UW may re-engage. Stevenson has offers from LSU, Wichita State, and Utah.

Highlights

Bryan Penn-Johnson

C; Coronado High School, NV; 6’10”, 200

Scout: 3 stars; 247 Sports: 3 stars; ESPN: 4 stars

He says that Washington is in contact every day so it sounds like UW is plenty interested but it’s unsure if that interest is mutual. I understand Hopkins’s infatuation because he looks like he could be a Robert Upshaw type force (minus the off-court stuff) to anchor a defense around as he has a 10-foot standing reach and 7’6.5” wingspan. The favorites are LSU and Utah with Purdue, St. Mary’s, and Gonzaga also in the mix.

Highlights

Kamaka Hepa

PF; Jefferson High School, OR; 6’9”, 215

Scout: 4 stars, #36 overall; 247 Sports: 4 stars, #37 overall; ESPN: 4 stars; #48 Overall

Hepa has said that he is visiting Washington this month but he has offers from most of the Pac-12 and is also visiting Texas so we have to consider ourselves heavy longshots at this point.

Highlights

EDIT: 6/10/17

Elijah Hardy

PG; Bishop O’Dowd High School, CA; 6’1”, 165

Scout: 4 stars; 247 Sports: 4 stars; ESPN: 4 stars

Hardy also has Pac-12 offers from USC and Cal but I haven’t seen him asked about the state of his recruitment since UW offered in May so it’s tough to say where he’s leaning.

Highlights

Nate Roberts

PF; Brewster Academy, NH; 6’8”, 205

Scout: 4 stars; 247 Sports: 3 stars; ESPN: 4 stars

Roberts appears to be a Syracuse lean despite Hopkins leaving but Hop’s time recruiting him at least got UW in the door.

Highlights

Marcus Zegarowski

PG; Tilton High School, NH; 6’1”, 165

Scout: 2 stars; 247 Sports: 4 stars; ESPN: 4 stars

The step-brother of former NBA rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams also has offers from ASU, Minnesota, Pitt, and Penn State as well as interest from Gonzaga.

Highlights

EDIT: 6/10/17

Ignas Brazdeikis

SF; Orangeville Prep, Ontario; 6’7”, 220

Scout: 4 stars, # 39 overall; 247 Sports: 4 stars; Rivals: 4 stars

When asked who the schools recruiting him the hardest were he listed off UCONN, Florida, Michigan, SMU, Vanderbilt, Oklahoma, and Washington so there’s pretty heavy competition for him.

Highlights

Marcus Bingham

PF; Catholic Central High School, MI; 6’10”, 195

Scout: 3 stars; 247 Sports: 4 stars, #83 overall

Bingham has grown 8 inches in the past two years and has similarly shot up recruiting rankings. Michigan State is considered the favorite with offers from Butler, Xavier, and Missouri as well.

Luguentz Dort

SG; Calusa Prep, Quebec; 6’5”, 220

Scout: 4 stars, #29 overall; 247 Sports: 4 stars, #64 overall; ESPN: 4 stars

Dort has offers from half the country and no ties to UW so we’re at 0% on this one.

Highlights

Final Comments

It’s absolutely mandatory that UW come away with at least one big man in this class. This is essentially the same as the DT situation for the football team. UW couldn’t really afford to miss in the 2017 class either but since they did, it’s absolutely imperative that they capitalize in 2018. Technically, there’s only 2 open roster spots but I’d expect someone (with Baruti or Green being the most likely candidates) to transfer. It’s also possible that UW signs someone in the next month or so for the 2017 class which would take away a spot for next year. Given the talent available at this point this year versus all of next year though I’d rather just leave that spot vacant.

UW has to be looking two years down the road. The 2018 class will be sophomores when the core trio of Crisp, Thybulle, and Dickerson graduate. They have to be ready to step in and be major contributors at that point. If a 3rd spot does open it up it would make sense for UW to target a ball handler, wing, and big man to fill the gaps left by the prior three.

At this point in time it looks like the most likely outcome will be having Kevin Porter Jr. and Nic Lynch become Dawgs. If there is a 3rd opening via transfer then I’d prefer that UW takes two bigs rather than two guards. The dream scenario for me would be Porter Jr, Brooks, and Penn-Johnson. But if UW could reel in just two of those three it would have to be considered a tremendous success. If the third person (with Porter Jr and Lynch) in that trio were a 6’7” wing like Emmitt Matthews or Ed Chang that would be a pretty solid class as well.