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Season Preview: Player Profiles Part I

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We’re getting you ready for the start of the UW basketball season by going in-depth on the roster starting with the guards

NCAA Basketball: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the start of our preseason player profile series as we get ready for the start of Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball. In order to get you ready for the season we’re going in-depth on every player on the Washington roster a handful at a time. We’ll start with a few of the Dawgs expecting to be doing a lot of dribbling this season: Quade Green, Nate Pryor, and Marcus Tsohonis.

Quade Green, Guard, Jr., 6’0, 170 lbs

2019-20 Stats: 15 games, 11.6 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.6 rpg, 51.4% FG, 44.7% 3pt, 83.7% FT

Background

Green was originally the #26 overall recruit in the class of 2017 and snuck in as the last 5-star in the 247 sports composite rankings. He committed to Kentucky over Syracuse and was known as both a knockdown shooter and a really great passer although without the kind of elite athleticism or length that could make him a high NBA draft pick.

In his first season in Lexington he started alongside fellow freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who broke out into a lottery pick. Green shot nearly 38% on 3-pointers that first season while averaging 9.3 pts and 2.7 ast per game. It seemed like he would become “the guy” in year 2 at Kentucky but incoming 5-star freshmen Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, and Tyler Herro all stole some of Green’s playing time which led to him forcing things and ultimately deciding to transfer 9 games into the year. After a short search he came to Washington due to his familiarity with Hopkins who recruited him when at Syracuse.

It was a close call but Green ultimately received a waiver to play immediately rather than sit out the first two months of the season and secured the starting point guard spot. After a bit of a slow start, Green caught fire towards the end of the non-conference schedule with double digit points in his last 8 games including 3 of more than 20. However, just before Washington’s 3rd conference contest the team announced that Green was academically ineligible for the rest of the season.

Analysis

It’s pretty easy to deduce that Green being ruled ineligible was the inflection point in Washington’s incredibly disappointing 2019-20 season. You have to factor in strength of schedule but it’s pretty hard to ignore a team that started 11-4 finishing 4-13 after that point. It’s a little more complicated than that but Green’s absence was clearly the most obvious factor for the substantial regression.

When Green was on the court against non-Q4 opponents the Huskies outscored their opponents by 11.1 points per 100 possessions. Meanwhile, they were outscored when anyone else was out there as the point guard.

As a shooter, Green has been exactly as advertised. He hit almost 45% of his 3-point attempts and it didn’t really matter what the situation was. Guarded? 95th percentile shooter. Unguarded? 98th percentile shooter. Off the dribble? 89th percentile shooter. Spot up? 100th percentile shooter. That kind of shooting talent gives the entire offense an escape valve as every time the ball leaves Green’s hands it’s still a quality shot attempt no matter what else is going on around him.

Synergy Sports

But shooting isn’t Green’s only offensive skill. He’s a pretty darn good passer as well. Quade didn’t end up qualifying in KenPom’s assist rate leaderboard based on his total playing time but Green’s 36.1 mark would’ve been the highest in the Pac-12. His turnover totals may still be a tad higher than you’d like but a 2.3:1 A/TO ratio is definitely good enough to have success. Green was also the only Husky able to reliably throw a proper entry pass to Isaiah Stewart which caused major problems after he went out. The Huskies are steering away from such a post-heavy lineup this year but it’s nice to know they have Green for that when it’s what’s called for in a given situation.

On the defensive side of the ball it’s probably most accurate to say that Green doesn’t hurt the Huskies much. He’s not as long as Hop would ideally like to have at the top of the Husky zone but you can afford to have one player at 6’0 as long as they’re sound in their assignments. Green’s 2.0% steal percentage mark was 5th on the team and higher than either of Washington’s one and done freshmen. His rebounding totals were very low but that’s not something that really has to be his forte for the team to succeed.

2020-21 Expectations

If the Huskies want to get back to the NCAA tournament then there’s no doubt that Quade Green is going to have to carry them there. His mere presence has an invisible gravitational pull on defenders and will create opportunities for the rest of the team that weren’t there in the 2nd half of last season. Green averaged just over 30 minutes per game last year when he was in the lineup and I expect to see similar totals this year despite some new competition at the point guard spot.

Green may not end up being the team’s leading scorer but he will be right up there while leading the team in assists and providing great shooting splits.

Projected 2020-21 per game stats: 14.2 points, 5.0 assists, 49.2% FG, 41.7% 3pt, 80.0% FT

Nate Pryor, Guard, Jr., 6’4, 175 lbs

Background

Technically, Nate Pryor was one of the first recruits of the Mike Hopkins era in Washington. Back in April of 2017 Pryor committed to Washington after stepping back from a Seattle U pledge once Cameron Dollar was let go as head coach (and subsequently wound up as an assistant at UW). Pryor averaged at least 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists per game in his last two seasons at West Seattle in high school but was still unrated as a recruit by the major services.

It became clear though as the summer went on and Hop didn’t mention Pryor when talking about the new recruits that something was wrong. Unfortunately, academic issues led to Pryor not qualifying at UW and instead, after a year of prep work he headed to NWAC powerhouse North Idaho College. Pryor spent two seasons there but listed himself as a UW recruit the entire time. It looked like his dream of becoming a Husky might have died in March after he finally publicly decommitted but then Elijah Hardy transferred and Pryor jumped at the chance to move back to Seattle once a spot opened up for him.

Analysis

It’s obviously much more difficult to assess Pryor as a player when he hasn’t played a D1 game yet. Let’s first look at his stats when at North Idaho. He averaged 16.8 points and 4.1 assists per game as a sophomore for a team that only lost a single game. Pryor really struggled from deep as a freshman and made just 23.5% of his 3-point attempts. However, things picked up as a sophomore and he canned 35.5% of those shots. If Pryor is able to maintain that 35% then he’ll be able to provide adequate spacing while on the floor but I think it’s fair to say that his game his more about driving to the hoop then nailing a jumper.

Pryor also has solid ball handling skills but isn’t quite a wizard with the ball in his hands. At North Idaho he finished with a respectable 2.1 assist to turnover ratio and falls more into the scoring point guard category than he does a combo guard.

I’ll be honest. There’s not really film of Pryor playing defense so I’m not quite sure what to expect. He averaged 1.9 steals per game at North Idaho and there’s no reason to think given his measurables he can’t be a solid perimeter defender. He’s listed on the roster at 6’4 which gives him some additional length over an option like Quade Green and should be fine for the zone once he picks it up.

Expectations for 2020-21

As mentioned in the above Quade Green section, Washington point guards were outscored with Green off the court which makes sense consider UW’s abysmal record in games he missed. Elijah Hardy was a very good defender but he was one of if not the worst offensive players in the Pac-12 a year ago.

With that in mind, the bar for Pryor is fairly low in 2020-21. The Huskies just need their backup point guard to be competent: avoid bonehead turnovers and shoot a decent percentage. It’s not unreasonable to think Pryor can do that. His competition will be much better in the Pac-12 so you can’t just assume he’s able to be an all-league type performer. But the question is: is the jump so large that he can’t be anything better than a benchwarmer?

Hop likes to go with an 8-man rotation and I’m expecting Pryor to ultimately gets edged out barring an injury to one of the other guards until we get to see what he looks on the court and potentially reassess.

Projected 2020-21 per game stats: 1.0 points, 0.4 assists, 50.0% FG, 40.0% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Marcus Tsohonis, Guard, So., 6’3, 190 lbs

2019-20 Stats: 19 games, 7.3 ppg, 2.2 apg, 2.1 rpg, 42.4% FG, 41.2% 3pt, 65.4% FT

Background

Tsohonis was by far the least heralded of a really really good Washington recruiting class entering last season. With 3 players in the top-100 of the rankings above him it’s not exactly surprising. But Tsohonis was a standout performer on his Seattle Rotary AAU team playing alongside more highly rated players and was ultimately a 3-star recruit and the 315th best player in the country per the 247 sports composite.

It looked like Tsohonis was going to redshirt and preserve a year of eligibility but he was pressed into service when Green became ineligible. There were clear ups and downs for the freshman guard perhaps none so evident than when he torched Oregon in the 1st half to give the Dawgs a giant lead but missed the front end of multiple 1-and-1’s down the stretch as the Huskies blew it. Still, there’s plenty to build on entering year 2.

Analysis

Perhaps the biggest surprise from Tsohonis’ freshman campaign was how well he shot the ball from the perimeter. Coming out of high school that was considered one of the weaknesses of his game and while he still has a bit of a funky motion, the shots tend to go in the hoop. Tsohonis actually finished the year 1st in the Pac-12 in conference play in 3-pt% at 42.1%. He also was in the 96th percentile nationally on jump shots off the dribble and in the 71st percentile on catch and shoot attempts.

That all bodes very well if it’s real despite relatively low sample sizes. With Quade Green on the roster it’s unlikely Tsohonis gets a ton of time as the only ball handler on the floor so his ability to space the floor when the ball is kicked out or hit a jumper coming off a screen are extremely valuable.

Synergy Sports

From the chart above you can see that perhaps the biggest hole in Tsohonis’ game is finishing around the rim. Tsohonis finished with just 22 points on 30 combined isolation and transition possessions a year ago which is far below average. If Tsohonis is primarily playing off the ball then those deficiencies aren’t nearly as noticeable but they may give Hopkins more pause playing Marcus as “the guy” when Quade is on the bench. He’s also in love with the midrange floater and shooting 40% in that range probably isn’t good enough to justify continuing to take those rather than try getting all the way to the rim and potentially get fouled.

There are also some concerns about Tsohonis’ passing. He really struggled at times to get the ball down low to Isaiah Stewart which is saying something given Stewart’s hands. Once again it’s probably unreasonable to grade Tsohonis too harshly given the circumstances under which he took over but there’s clear room for improvement. His assist rate was 22% in conference play which is basically right in between what you want from your starting point guard versus your secondary ball handler.

On the defensive side of the ball Tsohonis shows clear upside but there’s a lot of evidence to suggest he needs work here. It’s worth noting whenever comparing Tsohonis’ splits that he essentially only played against conference opponents so any on/off court differences have to take that into account. That said, opponents scored 1.04 points per 100 possessions while Tsohonis was in the game. He’s the only player on the team for which that total was even above 1.0 ppp.

Tsohonis led the team in steals during their preseason scrimmage trip to Italy last summer but was unable to show the same penchant for takeaways in college. The more time that Tsohonis spends in the Washington zone, the more comfortable I think he’ll be and that the steals and playing within the team concept will come. I’m just not certain if it will happen this year or if we have to wait one more season before he’s much less of a defensive liability.

Expectations for 2020-21

Tsohonis finished his freshman year with an offensive rating of 101.5 where 100 is average and in the 52nd percentile in overall offensive points per possession. That seems about right. He was just about an average offensive player last year. Which is good! He was a true freshman that became the starting point guard of a team with NCAA aspirations with basically no notice. As long as he continues to get better then things are looking up for Tsohonis’ status as a 4-year major contributor.

I’d expect to see Tsohonis usage splitting time between serving as the backup point guard when Green is on the bench and playing alongside Green as a backup shooting guard. That should prevent much of a dropoff in overall minutes per game and give Tsohonis a chance to put up similar numbers to his time last year.

Projected 2020-21 per game stats: 7.5 points, 1.7 assists, 43.3% FG, 38.9% 3pt, 66.0% FT

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