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UW Basketball Recruiting Update: Moving (Power) Forward

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What does the addition of J’Raan Brooks and a loaded in-state Class of 2021 mean for UW’s recruiting at the power forward position?

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It has been relatively quiet in terms of offers and commitments since the last update but the transfer of J’Raan Brooks has a cascading effect across the 2020 and 2021 recruiting cycles that I wanted to touch upon.

Brooks was listed at 6’9 by USC last season but most people felt he was in the 6’7-6’8 range coming out of high school. Even if he is 6’9 though he doesn’t have the 7’4 wingspan of Isaiah Stewart or the accompanying level of athleticism to make him a center in the Washington zone.

There aren’t really any differences between the 3 and the 4 position in the Husky defense. One’s on the right side and one’s on the left but the principles are the same. And Coach Hopkins would prefer if the same is true on offense and that both be able to play on the perimeter.

It’s so hard in today’s game to succeed when you have two big men that can only score within 5 feet of the rim. In his first season Hop tried to start the Noah Dickerson-Sam Timmins pairing at the beginning of each half but the defensive benefits weren’t worth the offensive struggles. Against power conference opponents that year the Dickerson/Timmins pairing was -35 in 200 minutes while Noah was -7 or better when paired with any other player. This season Hameir Wright took over as the primary center next to Noah in part because of his (at least theoretical) ability to stretch the floor and create space.

Brooks comes close to fitting the blueprint of what the Huskies want in a forward with the current roster construction. He is a good rebounder that can also step out and hit a 3-pointer or midrange jumper on offense. That’s important when you look at the current long-term center troika of Bryan Penn-Johnson, Nate Roberts, and Riley Sorn. Roberts was a small forward that grew into a center but none of them should be considered a true stretch 5. Which finally leads us into the recruiting portion of this...

In the 2020-21 season the Huskies are currently slotted to have 4 players who could reasonably play the forward spot in the zone. That includes Jamal Bey and Nahziah Carter who have both seen time everywhere but center so far in their UW careers. My guess based on their body types and how Hop has spoken about them is that Carter would ideally play in the corner spot and Bey would ideally be deployed out front.

Bey mostly playing out front in the Matisse Thybulle role gives Hop 3 guys for those 2 spots (Carter, Wright, and Brooks). And Wright and Carter will both be seniors. That would suggest it might be a good idea to add depth at the forward spot in the 2020 class with the expectation that a starting role becomes available in 2021. Only one slight problem. The 2021 class is almost certainly the most loaded power forward class in Washington state high school basketball history.

The biggest possible fish is Paolo Banchero who was named MVP of the NBA Top-100 camp and is a consensus top-5 player in the 2021 class while garnering some buzz for that top spot after his recent performances. Banchero is priority 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in this class. He’s a transcendent in-state legacy talent. If you’re Hop you can’t afford to miss on Banchero both for on the court impact as well as the recruiting black eye of letting him slip through your grasp with every built-in advantage.

However, there’s also Olympia’s Jackson Grant who has moved up to #90 in the 247 Sports composite and who recently took an unofficial visit to Washington. He also visited Stanford and has a ton of time before a commitment is forthcoming but the Huskies have to feel they’re in a good spot. And that’s before getting to Battle Ground’s Kaden Perry who Prep Hoops Washington has ranked above Grant and who hasn’t broken out nationally but oozes potential.

That’s 3 really good in-state PFs and I can’t see any way that the Huskies don’t try to end up with at least 2 of them. Banchero is a one-and-done but Grant or Perry almost certainly stick around for a few years. It’d be helpful if one of Grant or Perry grow another inch or two and can serve as 4/5 hybrids similar to Hameir Wright to spread out the wealth.

Now we can circle back around to the current recruiting class. Bishop Gorman’s Isaiah Cottrell was the primary recruiting target at the PF spot but he committed last week to West Virginia where his parents both went to school. At this point the only two big men that have a UW offer are Kendall Munson and Mitchell Saxen. Munson seems like he’s a forward in the Washington zone while Saxen is more of a shot blocking center. The Huskies could use the depth at forward that Munson would provide in 2020 but I’d expect the room to get crowded in a hurry the following season despite the graduation of Carter and Wright.

The big unknown is and will continue to be whether Riley Sorn ultimately ends up on scholarship after this season. If he decides to instead focus entirely on his academics then it opens up a slot for another big man and the Huskies absolutely take one of Munson/Saxen. If he takes up a center spot then there might not be enough roster flexibility to afford bringing one of them in with this class.

The 2020 Five Stars

The Huskies are still in the race for three 5-star prospects in the class of 2020. The most discussed name has been 6’6 MarJon Beauchamp (#23 overall) formerly of Seattle but now of Arizona. The move to a prep school out of state makes the recruitment of Beauchamp feel eerily similar to the one of P.J Fuller who of course ended up at TCU. Beauchamp, like the aforementioned Banchero, also performed very well at the NBA Top 100 camp as one of the camp’s leading scorers. He’ll be taking a visit to Arizona this weekend and given his new proximity to there and just reading the tea leaves I’d have to slot both them and Alabama ahead of the Huskies in his pecking order. Unfortunate given that he seems like a great fit as a guard/forward hybrid for the zone a la Naz Carter and Jamal Bey but things are rapidly trending the wrong direction.

6’5 Point guard Daishen Nix (#16 overall) continues to look like a tremendous fit for the Huskies. He’s regarded as perhaps the best passer in high school basketball and has elite size to throw out there at the top of the zone. Nix in a recent interview continued to mention Washington as one of the teams prioritizing him highly. It really seems like he may be #1 on Hop’s wish list for this class. Andthe 3 other recruits who in my opinion earned that distinction (Jaylen Nowell, Bryan Penn-Johnson, and Isaiah Stewart) all ended up at Washington. This is going to be a knock down drag out fight with the blue bloods but Hop got in on the ground floor and he’s shown he can’t be counted out in that scenario.

Finally, 6’6 Cade Cunningham (#3 overall) released his top-10 about an hour after my last recruiting update and shockingly included Washington on the list. I say shockingly because to that point no one knew he had a Husky offer as he doesn’t post them on social media like most recruits. Cunningham has vaulted up recruiting rankings in the last month and is now under heavy consideration to be the best prospect in the class of 2020. He’s been compared to Brandon Roy as a player who seems destined to put up 20/5/5 stat lines as a jumbo point guard with wing skills tacked on extra. He’s been perhaps the best player so far at the U19 USA Basketball trials under assistant coach...Mike Hopkins. Oklahoma State is viewed as the favorite right now (they were his first offer) with a whole slew of blue bloods waiting to pounce should they falter. Cunningham wants to cut down to a Top-5 sooner than later so if the Huskies can make the cut and he enjoys playing under Hop this summer with the national team then you can’t rule it out completely.

The 2020 List (in approximate order of likelihood to sign with Washington)

IN A GOOD SPOT

Daishen Nix, PG, 6’5, 205. 5 star, #16 overall.

Kendall Munson, PF, 6’8, 210. 3 star, #155 overall.

STILL A CHANCE

Noah Taitz, SG, 6’3, 175. 4 star, #107 overall.

Cade Cunningham, CG, 6’6, 215. 5 star, #3 overall.

MarJon Beauchamp, SF, 6’6, 175. 5 star, #23 overall.

LOSING THE NUMBERS GAME

Mitchell Saxen, C, 6’10, 210. 3 star, #148 overall

Lamont Butler, PG, 6’1, 175. 3 star, #208 overall.

THE BLUTARSKY (0.0%)

Joshua Christopher, SG, 6’4, 200. 5 star, #7 overall.

Jalen Green, SG, 6’5, 170. 5 star, #2 overall.

Evan Mobley, C, 6’11, 200. 5 star, #1 overall.

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