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Preseason Player Profiles: Hameir Wright

Can we expect more offensive production from the versatile forward in year 3?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Washington Huskies vs Utah State Aggies Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hameir Wright; Junior; Albany, New York

6’9, 220 lbs. Class of 2017: 4 stars, #81 overall (247 Composite)

2018-19 Stats: 17.9 mins, 2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 27.1% FG, 24.1% 3pt, 70.8% FT

Italy Exhibition Stats: 19.8 mins, 4.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, 71.4% FG, 11.1% 3pt, 37.5% FT

When Hameir Wright committed to Washington in June of 2017 it largely came out of nowhere. We found out he was going to take an unofficial visit midweek and Coach Hopkins got a commitment before he headed back to Sea-Tac. At the time it was an important milestone. Wright was the first 4-star recruit that Hopkins was able to land entirely on his own (Jaylen Nowell was of course already committed when Hop signed). Hameir reclassified but was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of New York and a consensus top-100 recruit as a lanky wing who could do a little bit of everything. Through two seasons though we’ve seen that Wright may have one of the biggest gaps between his offense and defense of any Husky in a long time. Let’s delve further.

Offensive Game

If I were completely insensitive I would leave this section blank and move on. Despite that being the characterization of most Husky fans, it’s not true. The facts are less damning but still extremely troubling. In 2017 Dominic Green was the worst offensive player in the Pac-12 as a sophomore. He rebounded to have two above average seasons to close out his career. Husky fans will have to hope that Wright has a similar trajectory as he took over the mantle from Green of the most offensive offensive player in the conference.

Wright didn’t meet playing time requirements to appear on the KenPom leaderboard but he finished with an Offensive Efficiency Rating of 76.9 which was well behind the last place in the conference mark of 85.1 by Stanford’s Bryce Wills. He also finished in the 6th percentile nationally among all D-1 players in offensive points per possession. But despite all that, it’s not as if there aren’t signs of hope.

Wright’s lanky frame allows him to get to the rim in just a few steps and if a player were ever to overcommit to a pump fake then he would have the ability to drive past most players guarding a 6’9 forward. The problem is getting someone to bite on that pump fake.

Coach Hopkins has said repeatedly that Hameir Wright makes baskets in practice and that it’s more mental than physical when it comes to his 3-point shooting. There are signs that maybe Wright turned the corner after shooting 27% from deep as a freshman and starting out 3/27 in his sophomore year. Beginning with the 3rd game of conference play Wright shot 35.4% from beyond the arc on 31 attempts. He also was a good free throw shooter last year which suggests he’s capable of hitting a higher percentage over the long term.

If Wright can shoot anything over 33% for the season it will go a long way towards improving the spacing since I expect him to see some minutes as the nominal small forward occasionally on this roster.

And being able to knock down shots during the second half of last year is essentially Wright’s only redeeming quality on offense right now. Wright finished at worse than the 10th percentile nationally in all possession types that weren’t as a spot up shooter.

He’s more confident in his dribble than he should be which can lead to turnovers including maddeningly when he’s part of the group being asked to beat a full court press. Wright took a lot of risks on his passes during the Italy trip and some resulted in delightful assists while others ended up as shake your head turnovers. Wright has the vision to see higher level plays but his body and skillset just aren’t able to take advantage of it.

Defensive Game

That previous section sounded like I was bashing Wright (and I kinda was) but this is where Wright steps up and totally redeems himself. Despite his offensive limitations it has to be said that Wright has emerged as a defensive stud.

With only Sam Timmins and Noah Dickerson available as fellow big men on the roster last year we saw a lot of minutes of Hameir Wright at center. At 6’9 with a 7’2 wingspan Wright has the length necessary to fill in admirably at that spot but his skinny frame led him to sometimes struggle to compete for defensive rebounds. That should be less of an issue this season as the Huskies are suddenly flush with options at center and Wright will have the freedom to roam the corner spot and make plays with his giant arms on the perimeter.

Against a scraggly crew of undersized opponents in Italy, Wright wreaked havoc accumulating 2.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game in what essentially averaged out to one half of playing time. There were sections where Wright looked like Matisse Thybulle out there with his ability to disrupt passing lanes. Literally no one in the history of college basketball has ever been Thybulle from last year but I expect minutes played to be the only reason Wright doesn’t end up on a Pac-12 All-Defensive team next season.

Last year Wright had a 9.0% block percentage and a 1.8% steal percentage mostly playing center. For context that was 3rd in the conference and 30th respectively. With a different role this season I would expect the blocks to come down and the steals to go up but no matter where the stats end up you can be sure opposing guards will not be happy to see Wright standing in front of them in the zone.

Expectations for 2019-20

The way the Husky zone is employed means there are essentially only 3 positions instead of 5 on defense. With Stewart, BPJ, Timmins, and Roberts also available as options at the center spot it means that Wright will mostly be used as one of the forwards guarding the corner of the zone.

There’s still plenty of competition for those 3/4 spots. Stewart, Roberts, McDaniels, Carter, and Bey could all be involved there as well. In Italy, Wright started essentially at the PF spot. The question for Hopkins will come down to whether he chooses to go extra big and leave Wright in the starting lineup with Jaden McDaniels now eligible (bumping Jamal Bey) or if Wright ends up being the 6th man. I could understand the logic either way but regardless I would expect Hameir to end up playing more of a 6th man role. Towards the end of close games whenever possible I expect Wright to be subbed in on defense and subbed out on offense. That inconsistency means Wright will be on the court plenty but closer to half of the game than the 34 that the rest of the starters will play.

Per Game Projections: 18 mins, 3.7 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 35.2% FG, 32.3% 3pt, 60% FT