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Washington Men’s Basketball Preview Part 1: Guards

We start our player-by-player breakdown of the 2022-23 Huskies with the ball handlers

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 26 Washington State at Washington Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Welcome to the start of our 2022-23 Washington Men’s Basketball season preview series. It may be the middle of football season but before you know it basketball will be here. Since it’s a bye week this is the perfect time to get a sense for how this upcoming season might turn out. And if you weren’t paying attention this past spring, this is a much different roster than the one that was on the court last March.

SG 6’4 PJ Fuller (4th year)

2021-22 Stats (per game): 7.4 pts, 1.9 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.1 stl, 39.7% FG, 32.4% 3pt, 72.3% FT


Fuller moved out of state for his last year of high school after starring locally in Seattle and ended up at TCU as a 4-star recruit. As a freshman he mostly came off the bench and struggled with his offensive efficiency shooting just 25% on 3’s with more turnovers than assists. The next season he was primarily in the starting lineup and got his 3-pt shooting up to 30% but again struggled with turnovers and saw his scoring plateau despite an extra 4 minutes per game.

After 2 lackluster years Fuller decided to transfer back home to Seattle and saw improvements with the Huskies. His offensive efficiency and steal rate both reached career highs but he still shot below 40% from the field. When Daejon Davis suffered an injury late in the season it got Fuller 7 starts alongside Terrell Brown Jr. but for the most part Fuller was the first guard off the bench and the 6th man when it came to playing time.

Playing Style

One of the things that has become very clear about PJ Fuller during his time in college is that he is most definitely not a point guard. For his career Fuller has 121 assists and 169 turnovers. If a team is asking him to be the full-time primary ball handler it’s likely to end in disaster.

By far Fuller’s 3 most common play types on offense last year were (per Synergy Sports): Spot Up, Transition, and Pick & Roll Ball Handler. As a shooter Fuller once again improved his 3-pt% up to 32.4% which puts him at almost passable for a shooting guard. If you just look at catch and shoot no dribble opportunities Fuller made 35%. Getting his overall percentage up to that number would really help out his overall efficiency. That would be much more doable if he stopped taking NBA 3’s that are several steps behind the line.

While we can quibble between 32% and 35%, the turnovers are what hurt the most and have been most evident on his other play types. Fuller coughed it up on 33% of his 45 P&R possessions last year. Without Terrell Brown Jr. doing the majority of that work this is an area where Fuller absolutely needs to get better for UW to succeed.

In transition, Fuller turned it over only 18% of the time but still ranked in just the 23rd percentile nationally in points per possession on those attempts. Finishing better around the rim and cutting down a little bit on the turnovers would go a long way towards making Fuller an average offensive player which would be better than most UW secondary guards in the Hop era.

On the defensive end Fuller seemed to take well to the UW zone. He doesn’t have a ridiculous wingspan a la Matisse Thybulle but his arms are long enough at 6’4 to make an impact at the top of the zone. There were certain games when Fuller was fully locked in where he was a menace on that end and PJ ended up 9th in the conference in steal rate.

For the season the Huskies were about 7 points per 100 possessions worse on defense when Fuller was in the game than when he wasn’t. Although it’s worth noting that Daejon Davis was consistently UW’s best perimeter defender and Fuller’s starts came when Davis was unavailable. It’s certainly possible that some of that was noise related to Davis’ absence rather than Fuller’s presence.

Expectations for 2022-23

We’ll hear about the rest of the guards in a second but I think the most likely job for Fuller is as the starting shooting guard who will probably be one of the first starters out then come back in to spell Noah Williams. The problem is going to be that when Noah is out of the game then one of two things will happen. Either Fuller becomes your primary ball handler or it’s one of the true freshmen. When it comes to predicting struggles for the offense this season, that’s the main reason.

We haven’t quite seen linear improvement from Fuller over the course of his career but most of his shooting numbers have steadily risen during his 3 years in college. If that happens again then he approaches an average shooter. The big next step though is can he create more assists while simultaneously cutting down on turnovers. It’s a big ask but without it then Fuller is likely destined for something like 25-28 minutes per game and will finish some games on the bench.

2022-23 Projected Stats: 8.6 pts, 2.1 reb, 1.7 ast, 1.3 stl, 39.9% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 74.3% FT


PG 6’5 Noah Williams (4th year), Transfer from Washington State

2021-22 Stats (per game): 9.5 pts, 3.1 reb, 2.2 ast, 1.1 stl, 33.2% FG, 26.2% 3pt, 71.6% FT


Coming out of O’Dea HS Williams split lead guard duties in AAU ball with Marcus Tsohonis on a stacked Seattle Rotary team that also featured future Huskies RaeQuan Battle and Jaden McDaniels plus future #1 overall NBA Draft pick Paolo Banchero. Both Noah and Tsohonis had Husky offers but Washington took the commitment from Tsohonis. Williams ended up committing to Buffalo but after head coach Nate Oats left to take the Alabama job he instead signed with Washington State.

By about midseason of his freshman season Noah had worked his way into the starting lineup. In a narrow win over the Huskies in Seattle he had 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists and clearly enjoyed showing UW they made a mistake. However Williams still struggled to shoot the ball making just 4 of 27 three-point attempts. As a sophomore Noah exploded and earned honorable mention all-conference. When WSU’s starting point guard missed time Williams was unafraid to take over averaging 36 points on 27 shots per game in a sweep of the Bay Area road trip.

Before this past season Williams was falsely accused of assault after being stopped with a fake ID at a Pullman bar and grill. Williams was suspended from team activities as discipline for the incident despite eventually uncovered video evidence showing staff and police lied about what happened. Whether or not this affected Noah’s play, he clearly regressed as a junior. After getting relegated to the bench he scored fewer than 8 points in each of WSU’s final 6 games after only 3 such games the prior year. His shooting percentages dropped across the board and at the end of the year he became part of a Wazzu exodus while transferring back to hometown UW.

Playing Style

Part of the issue with analyzing Williams is that to some degree he has been 2 different players. If you simply reversed the order of the last two seasons it would look like Noah had been through a pretty much linear development. Instead we have to reckon with the reality of a so-so freshman year, fantastic sophomore year, and underwhelming junior one.

Regardless, adjusting to being a full-time primary ball handler will be a mostly new experience for Williams. About 27% of Williams’ possessions each of the last 2 seasons were either as a P&R Ball Handler or in Isolation. In contrast last year for UW Terrell Brown Jr. was at 47%. Noah doesn’t have to get his totals quite that high but given the personnel available on offense you can expect he’ll see more of each this upcoming season.

Probably the biggest reason for Noah’s offensive downturn was his spot-up shooting. As a sophomore he shot 39.5% on no dribble catch and shoot attempts. And if he instead pump faked and drove to the basket he shot 50%. Compare that to last year where he shot 24.6% and 14.3% respectively. We’ll see fewer catch and shoot attempts given the different role this year but if Noah can even hit the midpoint on each of those (32% on each) it takes him from disaster to merely below average.

A real concern is that Noah hasn’t shown much in the way of success running the pick and roll when he keeps the ball. He has yet to crack the 60th percentile nationally due to a less than ideal midrange shooting percentage. He had much more success this past year when not shooting the ball as he cut down on turnovers and dumping it to a rolling Gueye or Abogidi resulted in success. Hopefully having Brooks and Kepnang as outlets will continue the number of dunks when passing it off.

In 2020-21 when Noah played the most point guard he had a 21.5% assist rate and 19.8% turnover rate. For comparison, Daejon Davis last year was at 18.7% and 21.5% respectively. There’s reason to hope that having the keys turned over will increase Williams’ passing but his history suggests he’s still a score first point guard even when he gets the PG moniker.

There’s a lot more to like for Williams on the defensive end. Every season of his career Noah has finished in the top-15 in the Pac-12 in steal rate and as a sophomore he finished 5th. We don’t know Williams’ exact wingspan but he is definitely + a few inches over his height on a 6’5 frame. Last year UW had Davis finish 1st in the Pac-12, Brown 3rd, and Fuller 9th in steal rate. I would be shocked if Williams isn’t top-3 this year and I think he should be the favorite to lead the conference in steals playing in the UW zone.

Expectations for 2022-23

On the offensive end I don’t think Williams is going to suddenly become Terrell Brown Jr. But he will be the guy with the ball in his hands more than anyone else and will be the wildcard for the Husky offense. If Noah shoots 38% on 3’s like he did 2 years ago while distributing the ball a little more often then he’ll be a 1st team all-conference contender. If his shooting percentages don’t improve from last year then Washington will almost certainly have one of the worst offenses in the conference. No pressure though, Noah.

Washington’s defensive system should fit Williams perfectly and as long as he’s engaged on that end he has the ability to be dominant disrupting opposing passing lanes. The best chance for the Huskies to have a passable offense is plenty of pick-six type steals leading to easy dunks a la Matisse Thybulle and Williams has the chance to provide a couple of those per game.

2022-23 Projected Stats: 14.3 pts, 4.3 reb, 3.1 ast, 2.0 stl, 35.0% FG, 30.8% 3pt, 75.3% FT


CG 6’2 Koren Johnson- Garfield HS, Seattle, WA


It became evident several years earlier that Koren Johnson was the top prospect in the state of Washington for the class of 2022 coming out of Garfield . Given that the Huskies had a pair of grad transfers starting at the guard spots last year there was a clear need for help at the guard position in this class. For a while it looked like Washington had badly bungled the recruitment when Koren committed to San Diego State over the Huskies. However Will Conroy stayed in Johnson’s ear and a few weeks later he decommitted from the Aztecs and quickly switched his pledge to stay home at UW. Koren ended up as the #124 recruit in the 247 Sports Composite and a 4-star prospect.

Expectations for 2022-23

As you have probably garnered from the 2 previews above, there are really only 2 guards on the roster who have anything resembling a history of success. And both are coming off seasons where they finished with a well below average offensive efficiency rating. There is absolutely playing time available for a guard who is capable of distributing and shooting the ball. The question is of course, is Koren going to be that kind of guy in his freshman year?

Last season the Huskies only played 3 guards all season even when Daejon Davis missed time due to injury. The year before that we saw Quade Green, Marcus Tsohonis, and Erik Stevenson split almost all of the minutes at the 1 and 2 spots. If (knocks on wood) Noah Williams or PJ Fuller were to miss a large chunk of time this year then probably both of the freshmen end up playing. Last year never bringing Dominiq Penn off the bench was I think more a reflection of Penn not being ready for Pac-12 play. If either Koren or Keyon are ready then the playing time is there.

I’ll be honest that I haven’t gotten to see either freshman play live. Koren looks to have a more well-developed body for the college game so far and was the higher rated player by the scouting services. That means I give him the edge in the early battle for the 3rd guard spot. However he missed time this summer due to an injury and it could be health ends up the biggest reason he doesn’t crack the rotation. But my guesses for these 2 freshmen are probably the place I have the least confidence for projections on the roster.

2022-23 Projected Stats: 1.0 pts, 0.5 reb, 0.6 ast, 0.2 stl, 37.0% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 62.5% FT

CG 6’1 Keyon Menifield Jr.- Phoenix Prep, Phoenix, AZ


When Menifield committed to the Huskies it largely came out of nowhere. That wasn’t a new phenomenon for Keyon who was the leading scorer at Peach Jam last summer at 22.7 points per game despite garnering no national notoriety. The Huskies were scouting the opposing point guard when they noticed Menifield crossing over and blowing past everyone in his path and decided to offer him. He ultimately chose Washington over only one other power conference offer: Boston College. In his home state of Michigan he won a state title averaging an absurd 26 points, 9 assists, and 6 steals per game. Once rated in the 247 Sports Composite he became ranked as the 209th best player in the class of 2022.

Expectations for 2022-23

There are a few things that are clear about Menifield. The first is that he is very skinny. That’s not as big of an issue for a guard and especially one who will play exclusively at the top of the zone. But if one player on the roster will need to take a redshirt year to work on building a college body it’s going to be Keyon.

That said, there’s no question that he has a great crossover move and a fast enough first step to potentially get into the lane at will from day one. The question is whether he’ll be able to finish at the rim effectively when he gets there.

As noted in the section above I think it will be a battle between Koren and Keyon for who gets playing time as the 3rd guard off the bench and I’m giving the edge to Koren. But I’m the guy who projected Jaylen Nowell to score about 7 points per game as a true freshman. My conservatism usually means I don’t expect much from a true freshman unless they’re a truly premium recruit.

That’s backed up by the data. Over the past decade there have only been 2 freshman guards in the Pac-12 ranked between 175th and 225th overall who had truly productive seasons. In 2016-17 Devon Daniels averaged 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.7 assists for an NIT Utah squad before transferring to NC State. And in 2017-18 Darius McNeill averaged 11.3 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists for an 8-24 Cal team before eventually transferring to Troy.

The raw skills are there so if Keyon bursts out and wins a spot in the rotation from day one I wouldn’t be completely stunned. At the same time though it’s tough to picture him carving out more than 10 minutes per game this year in the best case scenario.

2022-23 Projected Stats: Not in the Rotation


Tomorrow we’ll be back with part 2 featuring the wings.