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UW MBB Off-Season/Recruiting Primer

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Who might be on the team in 2018 and 2019 and when will we know?

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

We have now entered the off-season which can be broken down into three phases. The first, which we’re in now, is transfer/draft season. I’d hoped to get this out before it impacted UW but this week has shown we’re well in the swing of things. The withdrawal deadline for the NBA draft is June 11th at which point every team should know for sure who is returning.

That overlaps with the recruiting period. The spring signing period begins on April 11th for the remaining 2018 recruits. Once those players are taken it becomes 2019 evaluation time with the various AAU summer circuits and tournaments. Then post-summer we’ll get into prediction season. But this will serve as a primer going into the first two parts.

Who Will Return?

The team announced on Tuesday that Carlos Johnson would be transferring from the program. He joins the graduating Dan Kingma and previously announced transfer Devenir Duruisseau in leaving the team. That makes 3 players out to balance with 3 players who have signed letters of intent. The problem is that at the moment there are also two players (Ed Chang and Brian Penn-Johnson) who are verbally committed. 2 more players would have to leave to make room for both.

There are still questions about how many 2018 recruits UW takes but most likely 1 will be required and there’s a chance that 2 could. Here are the 4 players who I think could be a part of those defections.

  1. Bitumba Baruti- The 6’6 Baruti was a late addition to the 2017 class after Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss bolted for the NBA. He was known as an elite athlete but was very new to basketball. Baruti appeared in just 17 of 31 games for the 9-22 Huskies in year one and played double digit minutes only twice then redshirted this season. His athletic profile is a good fit for the zone but he was a Romar guy. There’s also not an obvious path to playing time with Jaylen Nowell, Matisse Thybulle, Dominic Green, Naz Carter, and incoming Jamal Bey all with similar height/length and all 5 are almost certainly better offensive players right now.
  2. Michael Carter III- The 6’4 combo guard from O’Dea was the first recruit to sign with Hopkins last year. He had no other power conference offers and so some people saw it as a bit of an emergency signing before Hopkins knew the caliber of recruit he’d be able to get. He was the only backup point guard on the roster but still struggled to find playing time. A broken hand cost him 11 games in the non-conference and while he saw some success upon his return, his playing time also dwindled with 18 minutes in the last 10 games.
  3. Noah Dickerson- The 1st team all-conference PF was the closest to transferring last season after Romar’s firing and is originally from Georgia. He announced on Wednesday night that he would be declaring for the NBA Draft but would not be hiring an agent. His statement certainly made it sound like he plans on returning at this point and he’s unlikely to hear anything that would change his mind. There’s always the chance that he can catch on through the G league but he’s not getting drafted. I still expect him to return but it’s not quite 100%.
  4. Matisse Thybulle- Matisse is the only Husky who has appeared in Jonathan Givony’s Top 100 NBA Draft big board at any point this season capping out around #80. However, he has fallen off in the latest editions. Thybulle’s ceiling in the draft this season is as a late 2nd round pick but he’d most likely go undrafted. It wouldn’t shock me if he decides to test the waters but I would be surprised if he actually went through with it.

Rounding out the 2018 Class

As stated above there are currently 5 verbally committed or signed recruits for the class of 2018. You may have also noted from above that there isn’t confidence that all 5 will show up. Last season, West Seattle PG Nate Pryor signed his letter of intent and was announced by the school but within a month was never mentioned again and ended up at a prep school after academic eligibility issues.

There are 2 players who have had academic eligibility issues raised. The first is for Ed Chang. Chang verbally committed last summer and then moved from Nebraska to Seattle to attend Garfield High School. However, he was eventually ineligible to play at Garfield and watched from the bench as they won a state title. After he failed to sign in the fall period the rumor was floated that he would reclassify to the class of 2019. Chang has been a fixture at UW games this season and seems like he wants to play this fall but if the April 11th signing period comes and goes without his signature it suggests he’ll wait a year.

Nate Roberts has also been floated as potentially having eligibility concerns. He can be considered a biased source but for what it’s worth he recently rebuked that idea on twitter and insisted that he’ll be on campus in the fall.

If I had to guess I would say that Roberts makes it while Chang is pushed back to 2019 and thus there is a 4 player recruiting class for 2018. Unless we see a defection or two who don’t appear on the list from the previous section I can’t see any other scholarship additions to the class who aren’t already committed.

The one potential non-scholarship addition to the class is Richland’s 7’4 center Riley Sorn. He’s reportedly choosing between Saint Mary’s and Washington but is potentially willing to walk on because UW has the academic program he wants. Sorn is incredibly raw but you can’t teach 7’4 and it would be amazing to be able to take a flyer on a guy with that physical profile. He averaged 16.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game this year.

First Glance at the 2019 Class

The 2019 class will be a big one for Washington. Hopkins will now have a full summer with the ability to sell the idea that the program is on the rise and that they can learn from a guy who won conference coach of the year in his first season as a head coach. He’s also had a full year around the local recruits now and won’t have to rely on his Northeast connections. Unless one of the rising seniors leaves for the draft in the next 2 months there will be at least 4 open spots in the 2019 class. Here are the 5 top priorities based on feasibility and offers that have already been handed out. As the Huskies get a better feel with each we’ll likely see additional offers go out and I’ll share that news as it comes out.

P.J Fuller, PG/SG, 6’5, 160. Garfield H.S, Seattle, Washington.

247Sports: 4 star, #37 overall; Rivals: 4 star, #58 overall; ESPN: 4 star, #45 overall

Other Offers: Arizona, USC, Florida State, Tennessee, Arizona State

Before the year, P.J Fuller had moved to California to attend Mater Dei High School and the odds of him sticking around in Seattle seemed slim. He ended up moving back in late November to attend Garfield and led them in scoring on the way to a 3A state championship. Similar to Tony Wroten, I get the sense that Fuller views himself as a one and done but the talent and athleticism are undeniable. His height and length at the top of the zone from the PG position would be tremendous. Romar’s absence from Arizona makes me less worried about them as a threat but USC and Arizona State plus any national program that gets involved could sway him.

Noah Williams, PG, 6’3, 175. O’Dea H.S, Seattle, Washington.

247Sports: 3 star, #237 overall; Rivals: NR; ESPN: 4 star

Other Offers: NONE

Williams has the size and length that you would like from a point guard in the zone although he isn’t nearly as electric as Fuller. Noah averaged 14.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.7 steals, and 0.9 blocks per game for O’Dea as a junior. He led the team in points, assists, and steals. He has ties to both major state schools. His sister Aminah almost averaged a double double in her senior year as a Husky while his father Guy averaged 19 points per game at Washington State before playing in the NBA (for Washington). We’ll see if he can have a breakout summer to start garnering more regional and/or national attention.

Jaden McDaniels, SF, 6’9, 175. Federal Way H.S, Federal Way, Washington.

247Sports: 4 star, #90 overall; Rivals: 4 star, #63 overall; ESPN: NR

Other Offers: Arizona, Oklahoma, San Diego State

There was a moment where it looked like McDaniels would play at Garfield this year but he transferred back to Federal Way and looked every bit like a star. The super lanky forward put up 21 points, 10 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 3.3 blocks per game this season leading Federal Way to a 2-point loss in the 4A state title game. He has a very similar body to Hameir Wright and the thought of an end game defensive lineup in 2019 of 6’6 Jamal Bey, 6’6 Naz Carter, 6’9 Wright, 6’9 McDaniels and 7’0 Bryan Penn-Johnson should be terrifying for opponents. His body is tailor made for the zone and he would wreak havoc. His older brother Jalen (who made the NCAA tourney with San Diego State) declared for the NBA draft after his RS-FR year although without hiring an agent. Given his trajectory there’s a good chance he’s turned pro before Jaden could join him as an Aztec. This is going to be a tough fight to keep him local.

Onyeka Okongwu, PF/C, 6’9, 235. Chino Hills H.S, Chino Hills, California.

247Sports: 4 star, #21 overall; Rivals: 5 star, #21 overall; ESPN: 5 star, #16 overall

Other Offers: UCLA, USC, Kansas, Arizona State

If Hopkins can pull in Okongwu then it’s a sign that the Huskies have officially arrived on the national radar. He cut down to his final 5 this fall and UW made the cut along with some serious programs. This seemed like a slam dunk for UCLA since he had previously played with the Ball brothers but they no longer hold a grip on the Bruins which opens things up. Okongwu is a physical specimen who averaged 28 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks per game leading Chino to a California state championship. He’s planning to announce and sign in the fall but we should know before then if the Huskies are still a player and can make the next round of cuts.

Khalif Battle, SG, 6’4, 180. Gill St. Bernard School, Metuchen, New Jersey.

247Sports: 4 star, #114 overall; Rivals: 4 star, #69 overall; ESPN: NR

Other Offers: Syracuse, Villanova, Miami, UConn, Seton Hall

Battle’s stock slid a little bit over the high school season but he’s still a very highly rated recruit. Khalif’s older brother Tyus led the nation in minutes played dragging Syracuse to a Sweet 16 berth. Hopkins led Tyus’s recruitment so he’s very familiar with the family. There’s heavy speculation that Tyus will declare for the NBA draft in the next few days so just like with Jaden McDaniels, there shouldn’t be a lure of playing with his brother in college. I had someone in the know tell me that he was leaning towards UW in the fall but haven’t heard an update in the last few months. If he comes to Montlake, Battle will probably be the last recruit from the Northeast that UW gets specifically due to Hop’s job recruiting him to Syracuse.

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