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Husky Basketball In-Depth Preview Part I- Freshmen

We start a 3 part look at the UW MBB team with the 4 incoming freshmen

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

This is the first part in a series providing an in-depth look at each scholarship player for the Washington Huskies in 2018-19 along with my predicted stat lines leading you up to the season opener against Western Kentucky. First up are the true freshmen.

SF Jamal Bey, Fr. 6’6, 200

247 Composite Recruiting Ranking: 4 stars, #23 SF, #109 Overall

Bey was the Gatorade state player of the year in Nevada last season after averaging 22.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game to lead his team to the state title. He was viewed as a mid-3 star recruit prior to that senior season but saw a meteoric rise up the recruiting rankings with his stellar play.

Bey is an all-around player who may not be exceptional at anything but is above average at basically everything. He has the length and quickness to be a plus defender although as always that skill may not be fully developed yet (but will improve with experience). He has a smooth shooting stroke and should end up somewhere between 35-40% from downtown over a full season. Bey might not be an athlete like Naz Carter but he has good instincts and good enough bounce to put up very strong rebounding numbers.

While Bey was the highest rated recruit in this class there doesn’t seem to be an obvious path to playing time for him. The coaching staff views him as the heir apparent to Matisse Thybulle but Matisse is going to be playing a ton of minutes this season. It seems likely that Bey will be behind Nowell, Thybulle, Green, and Carter on the depth chart for playing time at 2-3 spots. He’s not going to redshirt but I can’t see him getting crunch time minutes on this roster barring injury or Green completely reverting back to a pumpkin.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): Not a part of the regular rotation*.

*I’m considering a player as not being a part of the regular rotation if they appear in less than 2/3rd of games and average less than 10 minutes per game.

PF Nate Roberts, Fr. 6’10, 235

247 Composite Recruiting Ranking: 3 stars, #35 C, #244 Overall

Roberts was still viewed as a SF prospect when Washington began recruiting him but he gained 3-4 inches over his senior season and now projects as a PF/C hybrid. There are advantages and disadvantages to that growth spurt. The good news is that Roberts has a lot of perimeter skills in a big man’s body. He has a good handle for a big man and a solid shooting stroke to potentially serve as a stretch 4 in the Washington offense.

The bad news is that on the defensive end he hasn’t had a lot of time to adjust to his size. It will take time for Roberts to fully become comfortable playing defense in the post and gaining strength to survive down low. He has gained a lot of weight since arriving on campus which is good for his long term development but it may take him a while to learn to use it effectively. Once the strength is there, length won’t be a problem as Roberts has a 7’6 wingspan.

Coach Hopkins loves the flexibility of being able to play someone on the perimeter on offense but at center in the zone. Roberts will likely be used like Hameir Wright was last year. Starting off playing the corner but getting some time at center as well. I think there’s only enough playing time for one of the Husky freshman bigs. Roberts is likely the better offensive player and BPJ the better on defense. Since BPJ got playing time yesterday against Nevada and Roberts didn’t, I’m going to assume that carries some serious weight. It’s probably in both the program’s and Roberts’ best interest if he redshirts but I haven’t seen Hop address the possibility so we’ll find out once the season starts.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): Not a part of the regular rotation.

PG Elijah Hardy, Fr. 6’2, 170

247 Composite Recruiting Ranking: 3 stars, #33 PG, #201 Overall

Hardy has the clearest path to playing time of any of the Husky freshmen. Point guard was the biggest weakness of last season’s team and the backup PG role was vacated when Michael Carter III transferred to South Dakota State.

Elijah is the closest thing to a true point guard that the Huskies currently have on the roster. He can certainly score the ball but he’s capable of making passes that no one else on Washington ever attempts. Early on in his career there’s a good chance that this trait leads to a high turnover rate as he tries to fit the ball in to a window that’s tighter than it was in high school. The shot is a work in progress and he doesn’t have the same length that Michael Carter III did to imagine him being a true plus in the zone. But he’s taller and longer than David Crisp so he can still fit in fine although likely not playing next to Crisp.

Hardy didn’t get into the game against Nevada but it was clear that Hop treated it like an NCAA tourney game from a playing time perspective. Against easier opponents I think he’ll get some run. That said, there’s also a chance that Hop just doesn’t think he’s ready to make an impact this season and that he’s comfortable with Crisp and Nowell splitting all of the point guard duties in which case Hardy redshirts. However, since there’s absolutely no one else if Crisp or Nowell miss any time due to injury I think it’s most likely that Hardy sees good minutes on the back end of the frontloaded non-con schedule to prepare him if needed in conference play.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 6.1 minutes, 1.2 points, 0.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 41.7% FG, 25% 3pt, 61.5% FT

C Bryan Penn-Johnson, Fr. 7’0, 245

247 Composite Recruiting Ranking: 3 stars, #21 C, #175 Overall

From the day that Coach Hopkins took the Washington gig his primary recruiting job was to find an elite rim protector to anchor the zone. He set his sites almost immediately on Bryan Penn-Johnson and after almost a year of effort finally reeled him in the boat.

The measurables are what stand out immediately for BPJ. (I mean look at him!)

He’s all of 7 feet tall and has a 7’7 wingspan to boot. It’s only an extra few inches more than Nate Roberts but that extra inch or two can often be the difference in getting to a shot. In 2017 playing on the Adidas summer circuit he averaged one block every 6.5 minutes of on court time. Last season Sam Timmins averaged one block every 18 minutes for the Huskies and Hameir Wright averaged about one every 14 minutes. There’s a chance that he can be a true difference maker as a rim protector although he’ll likely pick up his fair share of fouls to do it.

The concern for BPJ relates to his development. While Jamal Bey made a huge leap in his senior season, BPJ was relegated to a bench role and didn’t see much of the court. He has since said that he was battling a nagging injury throughout the season so we’ll see how much that really held him back. During workouts this summer BPJ seemed further along on offense than anticipated but we should still expect his offensive game to look like Sam Timmins’ first year at times.

BPJ was the only freshman to see playing time against Nevada while the game was still in doubt but it comes with the caveat that Dickerson didn’t play and Timmins got into immediate foul trouble. There’s a good chance that most of his playing time will come in a similar scenario: the Huskies are playing against a team that is good at getting big men into foul trouble and they need someone to soak up 5 fouls while preventing a layup line. Anything beyond that should be a bonus for someone this raw before he’s turned loose next season.

2018-19 Predicted Stat Line (per game): 6.1 minutes, 0.9 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.5 blocks, 45.8% FG, 50% FT

Check in next week when we look at the sophomores and juniors.

You can follow me @UWDP_maxvroom for all your UW Men’s Basketball News and Notes