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Huskies get Commitment from 4-Star Center

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Bryan Penn-Johnson verbally commits to being a Dawg

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies received very welcome news today when 4-star center Bryan Penn-Johnson verbally committed to UW. BPJ played this season at Wasatch Academy in Utah. He becomes the Huskies’ 5th verbal commitment of the class although it’s almost certain that Washington doesn’t end up taking 5 players.

The Huskies made Bryan Penn-Johnson a priority from the moment that Mike Hopkins took over as coach last spring. And it’s easy to see why. From a physical standpoint, BPJ has everything you want in a center. He’s reportedly 7’0 with a 7’6 wingspan and 9’6 standing reach. Even if those numbers are off by an inch or two (as they often are when unofficial) it’s clear that he looks like the ideal center at the heart of a zone defense.

Last summer he received offers from a number of major programs including Kansas and Arizona and it seemed unlikely the Huskies would stay in the lead. But Hopkins kept his interest while those schools changed their minds. Bryan originally planned on committing in December but that deadline came and went and a month ago he announced he would make a decision Thursday. Yesterday he tweeted he would commit last night but ended up doing so tonight. It was a 3-team race between Washington, DePaul, and UCLA. The Bruins signed 5-star C Moses Brown which took them out of the running and DePaul continued to struggle while Washington had a surprise year.

Part of the waning interest from other schools came because BPJ struggled mightily during his senior year. The partial stats I was able to find show he averaged about 5 points and 4 rebounds per game coming off the bench. On the AAU circuit this summer he averaged similar numbers with 5 points and 3 rebounds playing 16 minutes per game (but with 2.4 blocks!) on a team with Seattle area guys Pierre Cockrell and J’Raan Brooks.

Some scouting services had him as a top-50 player in the 2018 class for a while. He’s now listed at 85th per ESPN, 110th at Rivals, and 151st at 24/7. Putting everything together, he’s the 98th ranked prospect per 24/7’s composite system (just ahead of 100th ranked UW commit Jamal Bey).

Bryan is raw and will likely need a year or two to realize his full potential especially on the offensive end. But all the tools are there to have a Robert Upshaw like defender on the court (but hopefully without the problems off the court) who can transform a defense.

The question becomes how will they fit him in? SF Jamal Bey, PG Elijah Hardy, and PF/C Nate Roberts have all signed their letters of intent already while F Ed Chang verbally committed but did not sign in the fall. There are rumors that Chang will end up reclassifying to 2019 because of academic eligibility issues (he didn’t play for Garfield this season after transferring from Nebraska in the fall). There are similar rumors about Nate Roberts and it’s unclear how real those are. Roberts is already signed but Nate Pryor last season signed with UW in the spring and still ended up not qualifying.

Dan Kingma is the only senior on the roster so there’s one scholarship freed. Devenir Duruisseau announced his transfer at the beginning of the year so that’s two. Bitumba Baruti redshirted this season so he could go elsewhere and be eligible immediately. It’s expected that will happen and he will be three. If neither Roberts or Chang qualify then that’s enough space. If one of them gets in then another move will have to be made.

The most likely scenario is a transfer by either sophomore G Carlos Johnson or freshman PG Michael Carter III, both of whom saw their playing time shrink to almost zero at the end of the year. There’s also the possibility that something unexpected could happen like Matisse Thybulle trying to go pro or Noah Dickerson graduating early and transferring close to home for his senior year. But right now those scenarios are just expecting the worst because that’s happened time and again to this team over the last few seasons.

Let’s just assume that Roberts and BPJ both show up in the fall. The Huskies will be adding a pair of long, raw, 7-footers with tremendous upside. This serves as a giant (literally) infusion to the Husky big man rotation. Sam Timmins will likely see his playing time at around 10-15 minutes per game although he may still start. Hameir Wright saw a lot more playing time at center at the end of the season but the new pair will allow him to move back to the wing if that’s where Hopkins wants him. I would expect one of the two to redshirt as a foursome of Dickerson, Timmins, Wright, and BPJ/Roberts should be enough to get through the season barring injury.

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