Percy Allen of the Seattle Times reported this afternoon that former Wichita State guard Erik Stevenson is transferring to play at the University of Washington. He will have two years of eligibility remaining. UW reportedly beat out Oregon, Gonzaga, Maryland, and San Diego State as the other finalists for his destination.
The 6’3 Stevenson narrowly finished 2nd with 11.1 in points per games a season ago for the Shockers on a team that went 23-8 and ended up 4th in the American Athletic Conference. 4 players from that WSU team decided to transfer after the season (including several key starters) hinting at a lot of internal turmoil happening behind the scenes.
It is still unclear whether Stevenson will be required to sit out the 2020-21 season or will be eligible to play immediately. Last year a large number of waiver requests were accepted and with the COVID-19 outbreak and all of the questions that have arisen around that you would think that someone transferring to their hometown school would have a higher likelihood of being approved.
Coming out of Timberline HS in Lacey, Stevenson was rated a 3-star recruit as the #231 player nationally and #4 in the state of Washington in the class of 2018 by the 247 Sports composite. Coach Hopkins was hired in March of his junior year and spent the first month or two trying to hold together his roster and a #1 rated recruiting class. In May Hopkins got around to offering Stevenson and the Huskies were in the running but he opted to commit early and pledged to Wichita State in June.
With 0 players committed in the 2020 recruiting class for the Huskies it seemed natural that they would look to the transfer market to add a piece or two while holding scholarships for a loaded in-state class of 2021. Right now Washington is full up on scholarships although the expectation is they will lose at least 2 players when Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels turn pro. An additional 2 openings could crop up if Nahziah Carter also declares for the draft and Quade Green can’t regain his academic eligibility.
Stevenson gives the Huskies the lead guard comfortable running an offense that they were missing for much of this past season once Quade Green went out. He is absolutely a shooting guard rather than a point or combo guard but Stevenson is comfortable with the ball in his hands. He took 26% of his team’s shots while on the floor last season. Jaylen Nowell took 25.9% of Washington’s shots in his sophomore season when he won Pac-12 player of the year.
Of course there’s no doubt Jaylen Nowell is a much better offensive player than Stevenson. Erik’s offensive rating was almost exactly average at 100.1 and he has been just a 29.1% shooter from 3-pt range on over 300 career attempts. Those numbers are somewhat misleading though. Stevenson shot 44.7% on unguarded catch and shoot jump shots last year per Synergy Sports compared to 29.2% on guarded shots. If he can play off the ball alongside a fellow shooter like Quade Green it should improve the quality of the looks he gets and boost his efficiency.
Where Stevenson excels though is on the defensive end. Wichita State finished 8th in defensive efficiency and Stevenson led the team with a 3.5% steal rate with 1.5 per game. For context, Jamal Bey was #1 on the team at an identical 3.5% this past year and a defensive lineup that has both at the top of the zone has a chance to wreak havoc with opposing ball handlers.
The advanced stats back up the raw steal totals as he graded out as an 87th percentile defender per Synergy Sports. The Shockers almost never played zone so we don’t have a lot of evidence of how he’ll fare in Washington’s system. But he graded out well against shooters (91st percentile) and off screens (76th percentile) which are the two most common play types to contend with at the front of the zone.
Right this second there are too many unknowns to be able to say with any certainty how this is going to impact the team over the next 2 years. Whether he’s eligible immediately and whether Carter and/or Green return all would change this team’s outlook greatly. But let’s just assume for a minute that all 3 come back and are able to play all season.
A starting lineup of Green, Stevenson, Carter, Wright, and Roberts would be a little undersized compared to this past year but would present a solid mix of complementary skills if Stevenson adjusts well to playing more off ball. A bench with Jamal Bey, Marcus Tsohonis, Elijah Hardy, RaeQuan Battle, J’Raan Brooks and Bryan Penn-Johnson would allow for some mixing and matching between offense and defense depending on what the opponent is doing.
It would be disappointing if Stevenson is required to sit out the upcoming season and redshirt but it would give the Huskies extra insurance in case the class of 2021 comes in and isn’t ready to produce immediately. There’s also the reality that we could see a corresponding transfer out at some point with Green, Stevenson, Hardy, Tsohonis, Bey, and Battle all likely competing for minutes at the 1/2 spots.
We’ll have more on the transfer and the shape of the roster over the coming days and week as news becomes available.