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Season Report Card: Battle, Brooks, & Pryor

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We grade the players who fell out of the rotation as the season wore on

Washington v USC Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

You can check out the previous editions of our report card series at the links below:

Nate Roberts & Riley Sorn

Hameir Wright & Cole Bajema

Jamal Bey & Erik Stevenson

RaeQuan Battle- Sophomore, 6’5, 175 lbs

Max’s Per Game Predictions: 5.9 points, 1.3 rebounds, 40.8% FG, 36.2% 3pt, 72.0% FT

Actual Per Game Averages: 4.6 pts, 2.1 rbd, 0.4 ast, 25.6% FG, 20.4 3pt%, 76.9% FT

Prior Seasons

It looked like Battle would redshirt as a freshman when he played a combined 13 minutes in UW’s 13 non-conference games. But the team needed a shooting infusion after Quade Green went out and Battle ended up starting 3 games and had 4 games where he made at least 3 shots from behind the arc. However, Battle had the ultimate green light and it didn’t exactly serve him or the team well considering he finished the season making just over 1⁄4 of his 3-pt attempts.

Season Summary

It was clear that Mike Hopkins wanted to give RaeQuan Battle every opportunity to prove that he could be one of the primary options on this team. Battle played double digit minutes in each of the first 7 games and got one start against Colorado. Against Oregon it seemed that Battle might have finally tapped into his immense potential. He finished with 19 points on 7/11 shooting including 4 made 3-pointers as the Huskies came one possession away from pulling off the massive home upset.

That was it though for that version of Battle. The rest of the season combined RaeQuan shot 7/48 from 3-pt range and only had 2 total games where he had at least 1 assist compared to 7 with multiple turnovers. Another glimmer of hope appeared when Battle played 20 minutes in a win over Utah and ended up with 3 steals on the defensive end. Battle played in just 3 of Washington’s final 12 games though and almost exclusively in garbage time of games the Huskies were blown out.

2020-21 RaeQuan Battle Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

That’s...a lot of blue. Yikes.

Advanced Stats Breakdown

Obviously there were a myriad of problems but perhaps Battle’s biggest? He finished the season 1/22 on contested catch and shoot jumpers. That was literally the worst mark in the country for anyone with as many attempts. 1,224th out of 1,224. Things were better when left unguarded but only by comparison as 23.5% is pretty abysmal in its own right. If Battle is to have any chance at redeeming himself he absolutely has to learn to suppress any instinct to shoot the ball if he’s not actually open and instead either drive or just keep the ball moving along the perimeter.

Synergy’s defensive numbers for Battle at least suggest some hope on that end of the floor. When Battle was the primary defender in UW’s zone opponents shot just 27% overall. When Battle contested a catch and shoot jumper that number fell to 14% which was one of the better marks in the country. With Battle’s length and leaping ability he causes problems for opposing perimeter jump shooters. Unfortunately the technique isn’t there to stay with driving guards. Battle gave up a disastrous 1.46 points per possession playing man defense albeit in a very small sample size.

It’s tough to know exactly what to think with Battle’s on/off court numbers. If you’ve been paying attention to this series you know that the team really started to click (a relative term since they were clearly still bad) during the 2nd half of the Stanford game, the 9th of the season. Battle played 61% of his total minutes in the first 8 games. Obviously the team played better when he was off the court because they started scoring about 10 more points per game from that point on.

The question then is whether the team got better because Battle was sitting or did Battle only start sitting because guys like Bey and Stevenson started to get hot in an unrelated fashion. The answer is likely a bit of both. Washington’s offense for the season was -2.2 points per 100 possessions with Battle on the court and -8.1 pts per 100 poss on defense. Those totals were only better than (spoiler alert) the next person in this list.

Conclusion

Just like “fetch”, I really want RaeQuan Battle to happen. But through 2 seasons there’s hardly any evidence that things are going to change. Every time you watch Battle on the court his athleticism is so apparent and a stark contrast to so many Huskies on the roster. At some point though there has to be skill accompanying that athleticism and it’s just not there.

Final Season Grade: D-

Stanford v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

J’Raan Brooks- Junior, 6’9, 220 lbs

Max’s Per Game Predictions: 4.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 41.0% FG, 35.0% 3pt, 62.5% FT

Actual Per Game Averages: 3.1 pts, 1.6 rbd, 0.2 ast, 56.7% FG, 50.0 3pt%, 53.8% FT

Prior Seasons

It was an interesting college recruitment for Brooks coming out of nearby Garfield. The Huskies were rumored to be favorites before Lorenzo Romar was let go but Brooks never gave Hopkins much of a chance once he arrived. He instead committed to USC only to reverse course once they were involved in the FBI investigation. That led to a commitment to St. John’s on an official visit but Brooks again changed his mind back to his original choice of USC. That first season in L.A was filled with internal dysfunction for an extremely talented team and Brooks decided he wanted out and headed back to Seattle via transfer. He sat out all of last season due to transfer regulations as he was a year early from everyone getting their waivers approved.

Season Summary

Brooks never got all that much of a chance to show that he could be an impact player for the Huskies. He played 14+ minutes in every contest during the 4-game California road trip. Outside of that Brooks only played double digit minutes in the season opener and ended up with 12 DNPs.

It was clear that Brooks had some nice offensive skills and he generally made a positive impact on that end of the floor. J’Raan finished 2nd on the team in 3-pt% and 3rd on the team in 2-pt%. Unfortunately turnovers were a serious problem which meant he still finished with a below average offensive efficiency mark at 97.6.

The struggles for Brooks mainly came on the defensive end of the floor. His rebounding rates increased slightly over his single season at USC but his defensive rebounding rate was only barely higher than that of Hameir Wright. Meanwhile he made almost no impact affecting the ball. He finished the year with just 1 total block and 2 total steals in 136 combined minutes.

2020-21 J’Raan Brooks Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

Advanced Stats Breakdown

Given the shooting percentages it’s not a surprise that Brooks had some very impressive offensive points per possession numbers. He was UW’s only credible post-up threat averaging 0.94 ppp and was also a really good spot-up shooter at 1.44 ppp. Really the only play type where he struggled was in isolation where he scored 0 points in a super low sample size of 2 possessions.

Then there was the defensive end of the floor... Brooks finished in the 1st percentile nationally on defensive points per possession giving up 1.43 ppp on 21 possessions as the primary defender. Opponents scored 11 points on 6 possessions with Brooks defending around the basket and shot 46% on jump shots with Brooks as the closest man. Those are small sample sizes for sure but they don’t exactly inspire confidence that Brooks will be able to turn it around in short order.

The on/off court splits back it up. Brooks is somewhat susceptible to the effect that Battle experienced where he played more when the team was at its worst. But in Brooks’ case I think a large part of it is attributable to him. The team’s defense was an astounding -14.7 points per 100 possessions worse with Brooks on the court this past season which of course was not made up by the fact that the offense was +1.5 pts per 100 poss. In the 115 minutes where Brooks was on the court with another big man the team was somehow a full 15 pts per 100 poss worse than with one of Wright, Bajema, or Bey playing the power forward spot.

Conclusion

If Brooks could even become a slightly below average defender then his offensive skillset would have value. He’s capable of putting the ball in the basket from just about everywhere on the floor and he’s by far the most skilled of Washington’s big men. But if he’s going to be one of the worst defensive players in the country then he’s never going to get on the court for the Huskies. We’ve already seen one transfer from Brooks and it wouldn’t shock me to see him move down a level to get a better shot at playing time. Unless he takes a major leap I don’t anticipate Brooks being more than emergency depth if several starting bigs get into foul trouble.

Final Season Grade: D+

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 31 Washington State at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nate Pryor- Junior, 6’4, 175 lbs

Max’s Per Game Predictions: 1.0 points, 0.4 assists, 50.0% FG, 40.0% 3pt, 75.0% FT

Actual Per Game Averages: 4.1 pts, 1.3 rbd, 1.6 ast, 35.7% FG, 23.1 3pt%, 50.0% FT

Prior Seasons

Technically, Nate Pryor was one of the first recruits of the Mike Hopkins era in Washington. 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.

Season Summary

Early on it appeared that Pryor wasn’t really in the coaching staff’s plans for the rotation. He played just 16 combined minutes in Washington’s abysmal first 3 losses. Then Pryor broke out in a blowout win over Seattle with 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. That began a streak of 5 straight games where Pryor played at least 26 minutes and he scored at least 13 points 3 times during the span.

Unfortunately for Pryor he seemingly found himself in the doghouse as he played only 8 minutes during the 4-game California road trip and didn’t travel with the team for the 2 games in Southern California. Pryor played in 8 of the next 9 games but never for more than 18 minutes and scored only 10 combined points.

Pryor saw big strides in his 3-pt% between his freshman and sophomore years at North Idaho CC but his shot didn’t end up translating to the D1 level. Only 19% of Pryor’s shots were from beyond the arc while more than half of his attempts came in the paint.

During his early stretch of playing time it looked like Pryor had the chops to be a pure point guard with a 15 to 9 assist to turnover ratio. However in the final 9 games that he played in Pryor had just 8 assists and 8 turnovers.

On the defensive end Pryor showed flashes. He finished with the second highest steal percentage on the team at 2.2% which was just narrowly behind Erik Stevenson.

2020-21 Nate Pryor Shot Chart

Synergy Sports

Advanced Stats Breakdown

The points per possession marks for Pryor are predictably terrible on offense and surprisingly good on defense. Pryor only scored 4 baskets on 23 times running a pick and roll which is an abysmal rate for someone who wants to be a primary ball handler. Surprisingly considering his overall shooting numbers Pryor actually made 40% of his catch and shoot opportunities although several of those were midrange jumpers rather than 3-pt attempts.

On the defensive end Pryor actually ended up with the best points per possession numbers on the team when he was the primary defender. Opponents shot just 33% and turned it over on 11% of possessions when Pryor was the closest guy. And that’s even with opposing jump shooters making 40% of their contested makes which is much higher than average.

Now we get to the somewhat perplexing part. Pryor’s on/off court numbers are the best on the team and it’s not even close. Washington’s defense was an astounding +14 points per 100 possessions when Pryor played versus when he didn’t and the offense was +4.7 pts per 100 poss. Some of the caveats for Brooks and Battle don’t apply here since Pryor’s playing time actually diminished when the team as a whole was playing better.

Just to be sure I went ahead and compared Pryor’s numbers only in the games he played. That way it minimizes the effect of Pryor just happening to have not played during a blowout loss. The numbers actually tilt even more in Pryor’s favor. In the games that Pryor played in, the team was +31 points per 100 possessions better during the minutes Nate was on the court! Both the offense and defense got better by about +15.

Conclusion

I didn’t think that we’d see a whole lot of Nate Pryor this season and I was mostly right about that. Pryor looked like someone who had the ability to drive to the basket consistently against lesser competition but didn’t quite have the advantages necessary to do it at the power conference level.

I don’t really know what to make of the on/off court splits. 300 minutes isn’t an exorbitant sample size but it’s enough to be able to draw some conclusions. I would’ve liked to see him get more opportunities mostly to find out if the on/off court splits would stabilize over time or if he just legitimately did a ton of things the box score never captured. Moving forward it seems like Pryor could still be useful as a defensive-minded backup point guard option but even with the great +/- numbers I wouldn’t want Washington to be forced to rely on him for more than that unless his 3-pt shot picks up.

Final Season Grade: C+