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UW Basketball Recruiting Update: Huskies Strike Out On Cunningham

The 5-star heading elsewhere leaves the 2020 class in a lurch

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

5-star guard Cade Cunningham announced this afternoon that he has committed to Oklahoma State. The Huskies received his last official visit a few weeks ago and were one of his final 5 schools.

On the one hand this is an incredibly unsurprising development. Cade’s olden brother was hired as an assistant coach this year and the wink wink agreement is that he, like every other family member of a 5-star recruit ever hired as an assistant, would be able to deliver a commitment from his brother in exchange for a job. Every prospect as talented as Cade who has had a father or brother as an assistant coach at a power conference school has ended up at that school.

But it really seemed like Cunningham might be different. He went through the process giving off the air that he legitimately wanted to go elsewhere. The momentum swung towards Kentucky after his visit there and the Huskies couldn’t get him to their side when he visited the following week. Apparently after thinking it all over he decided to go with the obvious choice. Cade has stated he wanted to build a recruiting class around himself and that wasn’t going to happen at Washington where he was seemingly the last remaining target.

So let’s get into that. Where does Washington go from here in the class of 2020?

There are only 2 more players left in the class of 2020 that have a reported offer from the Huskies: 5-star Californian SGs Josh Christopher and Jalen Green. Neither player has Washington on their list and will 100% end up elsewhere. There’s really no obvious candidate for the Huskies to reach out to right now either.

Tari Eason would seemingly be the guy as the highest rated player in the state of Washington. He was a high school teammate of current Husky Jaden McDaniels and is the #123 player in the 247 composite right now. However, the reason for Eason not getting a look is likely more about the state of the roster right now than his talent.

Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels are almost certain to leave for the NBA draft. Sam Timmins is the only senior on the roster. It’s not crazy to think that Nahziah Carter leaves early as well if he has a big year but let’s assume for a moment that he stays. This would be next year’s roster even with a goose egg in the 2020 class.

Guards: Quade Green, Elijah Hardy, Marcus Tsohonis

Wings: Nahziah Carter, Jamal Bey, RaeQuan Battle

Bigs: Hameir Wright, Nate Roberts, Bryan Penn-Johnson, J’Raan Brooks

That is a flexible, balanced, and well rounded team although it would be missing the star power of this season’s roster. Unless you bring in a 5-star talent, like Cunningham, they probably aren’t going to leapfrog anyone for playing time. From that standpoint it makes sense.

The other reason it makes sense is of course the class of 2021. The state of Washington is absolutely loaded to a degree rarely seen. 7 of the top 160 players in the 247 sports composite are from Washington and 6 remain uncommitted. There’s reason to think that the Huskies have a legitimate chance with all of those players although positional balance would suggest they don’t go after all of them.

With Carter and Wright graduating plus 3 open spots carrying over it would give the Huskies a chance to sign 5 players in a blockbuster 2021 class. Let’s say Washington ends up with a class like #3 overall PF Paolo Banchero, #33 overall Peyton Watson, #53 overall PF Jackson Grant, #72 overall PG Nolan Hickman, and #131 overall SG Shane Nowell. That has the kind of elite freshman talent and multi-year depth to contend for a title in 2021 and sustain the program for years to come.

That’s the best case scenario however. What happens if Nahziah Carter turns pro after this season? What happens if say Elijah Hardy or Bryan Penn-Johnson don’t end up playing the number of minutes they feel they deserve this season and decide to transfer? Now you’ve got 9 or maybe 8 players on the roster for next season. The Huskies aren’t like Oregon. They can’t just bring in grad transfers to fill all of those open spots. And what if you suffer an injury on top of it?

Simply put: this is a serious gamble. If you could guarantee that there are no unexpected departures from the roster then I would argue that saving your powder for the uber-talented 2021 class is a very good decision once you struck out with the truly elite talent. Hopkins is okay with going with a shorter rotation and doesn’t want to settle and have a guy taking up a scholarship that doesn’t have the upside of being a starter on a Final Four contender. But just about everything has to go perfectly for this to work out and it leaves Hop no margin for error in executing the rest of the plan.

When it comes to assembling the dream 2021 class the Huskies are off to a good start with big man Jackson Grant. The 6’9 4-star from Olympia traveled up I-5 to take in the UW-Utah game after taking an official visit to Stanford the week before. Wisconsin appears to be the third major challenger for Grant’s commitment at the moment. But Grant has stated he grew up a fan of the Huskies and Washington definitely has to be considered the favorite at the moment.

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