Right about now the basketball recruiting world is supposed to be completely ablaze. First of all it’s the middle of transfer season and that wheel has continued to turn as anticipated. We’re also supposed to be on the verge of AAU season. The Nike EYBL which is generally considered to be the most competitive select tournament series was due to kick off less than 10 days from now. Due to COVID-19 none of those events will take place.
This will make it dramatically harder for coaches to evaluate players and for those recruits to get noticed. Current Husky RaeQuan Battle was a relative unknown up at Marysville-Pilchuck before a fantastic single weekend catapulted him up to 4-star top-100 status. Cole Bajema out of Lynden, WA had a similar experience that saw him add several offers before reeling in his dream opportunity to play for Michigan.
Those kids from the class of 2021 aren’t going to get that chance this season. Current high school juniors will hopefully have their senior high school seasons to show off and get the college offers they deserve but for players outside of major metro areas the level of competition will continue to be a concern. If a player shows out on the AAU circuit there’s a much better baseline for how meaningful those numbers actually are.
If coaches at Kentucky and Michigan and Oklahoma don’t get to see the late bloomers it will lead to one of a couple things happening. Either those players will continue to be undiscovered and either settle early for lower level offers who will get a steal or commit early to local programs who know more about them. Or they will hold off on committing until the following spring in the hopes that a fantastic high school season puts them on the national radar. Either way it makes it less likely that programs recruiting nationally will be able to find the hidden gems.
Washington Class of 2021
All of that context brings us to the Washington Huskies and the class of 2021 which it’s not hyperbole to say might define the shape of Mike Hopkins’ tenure in Seattle. The in-state options in 2021 are among the best the state has ever seen. It’s certainly the best local class since the class of 2017 if you choose to include the Porter brothers. That year featured 5 top-110 recruits all of whom would go on to either get drafted in the NBA or become contributors for major programs.
The class of 2021 currently has 6 players in the top-150 in the 247 sports composite from the state of Washington including 4 in the top-75. Those rankings will continue to shift over the next year but likely not as much as normal given that recruiting analysts won’t get to watch recruits perform and grow on the shoe circuits.
Before we go through the list of targets in part 2 let’s lay have a state of the union address for Washington’s roster for the 2021-2022 season to know where additions will be needed. A few caveats. I am assuming that Jaden McDaniels officially declares for the NBA draft before his junior season. I feel pretty safe saying that. I’m also starting with the idea that Erik Stevenson does not get a waiver to play right away since that would be the case if the 2020 season started tomorrow.
2021 Roster Breakdown
Lead Guard (3): Quade Green Sr., Nate Pryor Sr., Marcus Tsohonis Jr.
Wing (3): Jamal Bey Sr., Erik Stevenson Jr., RaeQuan Battle Jr.
Bigs (3): Nate Roberts Jr., Bryan Penn-Johnson Jr., J’Raan Brooks Jr.
There are several ways that picture could change. It wouldn’t be surprising if Quade Green leaves before 2021 either because he does not regain his eligibility or turns pro following next season. It’s still probably for the best to assume that Nate Pryor isn’t part of the picture until he has officially enrolled and started classes. It’s also possible that Riley Sorn is put on scholarship.
Still, it seems like the Huskies are most likely to have 4 spots available for the class of 2021. By skipping the 2020 class it will make for an extremely top heavy roster with 3 seniors, 6 juniors, and 0 sophomores. I don’t foresee all 6 of those players remaining through the course of their senior season but anyone potentially coming in with that class has to know they’ll have plenty of competition from upperclassmen at least until their junior season.
Quade Green is the only player on that list of 9 who I would refer to as a true point guard as opposed to a combo guard and so it is an absolute necessity that the Huskies secure at least one player at that position who can at least contribute in 2021 and be ready to start in 2022.
The junior trio of bigs Washington projects to have on the roster all have shown potential. But they also have combined to score 94 total points so far in their college careers. It’s necessary to bring someone in who has the chance to immediately compete at that spot just in case none truly pans out. Maybe one of them develops into an upper level Pac-12 starter this season and that’s probably more likely than not but there needs to be a contingency plan.
Finally, this group of wings appears to be a little smaller than Hopkins would generally prefer. Both Marcus Tsohonis and Erik Stevenson might be able to play off the ball but are much closer to 6’3 than 6’6 so if it’s possible to add in another longer wing in the 6’6 to 6’7 mold it would fit Hop’s defensive preferences a little better.
With those 4 scholarship spots it’s clear that the Huskies need at least one guard, wing, and big and that last spot is likely a wild card. Which direction Washington goes with scholarship #4 depends on the available distribution of talent and whether that roster breakdown changes in the year and a half between now and the start of that season.
We already know that one of those spots for a big is filled with the commitment of Jackson Grant out of Olympia about 6 months ago. Grant profiles as a direct replacement for Hameir Wright with his lanky frame but a better ability to hit shots from the perimeter and is a great start to the class.
We’ll go through all of the options available for the rest of the spots in part two later this week including the grand prize of the class in 5-star Paolo Banchero.
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