If you missed part one of the player-by-player previews you can find it right here as we started with the guards yesterday. Now we move on to the wings.
SF 6’6 Jamal Bey (5th year)
2021-22 Stats (per game): 9.4 pts, 4.1 reb, 0.6 ast, 1.3 stl, 33.6% FG, 31.5% 3pt, 72.4% FT
As a senior at Bishop Gorman, Bey exploded to win Gatorade State Player of the Year in Nevada and secured a 4-star ranking as a result. He came in as a true freshman on UW’s veteran laden tournament team but increasingly earned playing time as the season passed. With increased expectations the next year he faltered and his confidence cratered shooting 25.4% from 3-point range.
Things turned around as a junior with Bey leading the conference in 3-pt shooting at 50.7% in a remarkable improvement although his play style still lacked the assertiveness many hoped he would develop. A regression was natural as a senior but Bey went back to shooting 28% from deep in Pac-12 play and finished with the worst offensive efficiency mark of his career before deciding to come back for one last season due to the extra year of COVID eligibility.
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise after nearly leading the country in 3-pt shooting as a junior that Bey is viewed primarily as...a shooter. The problem is of course that his shooting ability seems to come and go depending on his confidence at the time. There aren’t stats to back this up but I maintain that I could predict with statistically significant accuracy whether a Jamal Bey shot was going to go in by looking at how much time he had to think. Bey’s accuracy on shots that were somewhat frantic was better than when he had several seconds to think about what was going to happen.
Even with those issues Bey still functioned as a spot up shooter on 30% of his possessions and finished slightly above average in the 59th percentile per Synergy Sports on those looks. Bey was sorely needed to stretch the floor last season but Terrell Brown Jr. was able to penetrate and make plays regardless of the spacing. We’ll see if Noah Williams can work similar miracles this year but more likely Bey once again hitting 38%+ of his deep looks will be a key to making this a functional offense.
On the defensive end it’s clear that Bey with his history in Hopkins’ system should be a valuable resource for the rest of the roster getting organized. His numbers didn’t take a step forward last year though on that end of the floor and Bey struggled with closing off the bounce pass to the corner for open looks.
Bey appears to be best suited when he can use his length at the top of the zone but primarily played in the corner with 2 of Brown/Davis/Fuller occupying the top. We’ll see how Hopkins approaches using Bey this season with both Brown and Davis gone.
Expectations for 2022-23
Overall Washington was nearly 12 points per 100 possessions better last year when Bey was off the floor versus when he was on it. That includes nearly equal marks on each end of the floor. There’s no question that Bey played more minutes than his actual performance warranted. At the same time he should’ve been one of the veteran leaders of the team and was coming off an astounding shooting season. It was hard to say someone else was guaranteed to do better with those minutes.
It’s again difficult to say that Bey could be completely phased out of the rotation if he continues to struggle. Hopkins will certainly give Jamal every chance to show he can finally be that 13-15 point scorer that Husky fans have envisioned. I’m skeptical that player is in there at this point although some positive regression should make his numbers look a little better at least in his shooting percentages.
2022-23 Projected Stats: 9.3 pts, 4.1 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.3 stl, 36.9% FG, 35.4% 3pt, 71.4% FT
SF 6’7 Cole Bajema (4th year)
2021-22 Stats (per game): 5.4 pts, 1.9 reb, 0.5 ast, 0.4 stl, 33.5% FG, 33.7% 3pt, 73.9% FT
After obscurity growing up near the Canadian border Bajema had one standout weekend on the AAU circuit that suddenly put him on the map. UW thought they had a great shot since his sister is a Husky Volleyball legend but Bajema grew up a die-hard Michigan fan and committed there once offered a scholarship. Unfortunately coach John Beilein left for the NBA before Bajema arrived on campus and he was all but pushed out by Juwan Howard and so transferred back to Washington.
Bajema’s reputation was as a lights out shooter and a late surge and a limited sample size had him make 39% of his 3’s during his first season at Washington. As a junior Bajema’s playing time increased and he was impossibly streaky shooting 58% from 3 in a pair of games at the Mountain schools and 28% from deep the rest of the year. He has yet to start a game as a Husky but played nearly half of the team’s minutes last year and was one of the first few off the bench most of the time.
Bey is known as a spot-up shooter but Bajema is even more extreme in that regard. He’ll occasionally put up a pump fake and drive to the basket but struggles with contact and it seems like his finger roll attempts always just roll out. The stats back that up as Bajema was just 2/19 on runners last season and converted just 45% of layups which was in the 36th percentile nationally.
It’s clear that Bajema is at his best on offense when he doesn’t have to worry about anything but catching the ball and shooting it behind the arc. Last year Bajema shot 35% on catch and shoot attempts which is a little lower than you’d like but still respectable. Especially compared to his 21% mark on dribble jumpers. Somewhat bizarrely though Bajema shot 8% better on contested looks versus uncontested ones. Most likely this is a sample size issue though since Bajema was 1/11 on guarded catch and shoot tries as a sophomore and made 56% on wide open looks that year.
There’s not much else to Bajema’s offensive game since he averaged 0.5 assists per game and his three most common play types (spot up, transition, and off screen) made up nearly 80% of his total possessions. Bajema is a shooter and his worth on offense will be dictated by how well he shoots and whether defenses respect him enough to commit resources to staying close.
You could envision a world in which Bajema becomes a plus defender with his length in the Husky zone but we haven’t really seen it yet. His lack of bulk has hurt particularly in defensive rebounding where he has been routinely below average for a player of his height. His block rate was last on the team despite being taller than 4 other rotation players and his steal rate just barely edged out Emmitt Matthews Jr. for that distinction. It’s not a surprise that the Dawgs were about 7 points per 100 possessions worse on defense when Bajema played (although 5 points per 100 possessions better on offense).
Expectations for 2022-23
This is a somewhat make or break year for Bajema similar to last year for Bey. He’s now in his 4th season of college and if he’s going to show above average shooting for an extended period of time on high volume then it has to be this year. It wouldn’t end up surprising me if Bajema shot anywhere between 32% and 42% this season. Given the lack of shooting on this roster, Hop is certainly praying it ends up on the high end. The talent is there.
Given the rest of the roster I can’t see many times when Bajema is playing the 4 in a small ball lineup like he did at moments last year. More likely Bajema will come off the bench in place of Bey as one of the first substitutions and I expect will once again play about 50% of the team’s minutes mostly at the 3 with occasional moments at the 2 or the 4 depending upon matchup considerations.
2022-23 Projected Stats: 6.5 pts, 1.9 reb, 0.6 ast, 0.6 stl, 37.1% FG, 36.4% 3pt, 74.0% FT
Cole Bajema had 30 points and 11 boards today against Seattle Legends Isaiah Thomas and Jamal Crawford. Bajema with 8 threes today, 5 in the first quarter!! @colebajema22 @thecrawsover pic.twitter.com/qC6cK0Gvul— UW Hoops World (@world_uw) August 22, 2022
PF 6’7 Keion Brooks Jr. (4th year), Transfer from Kentucky
2021-22 Stats (per game): 10.8 pts, 4.4 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.7 stl, 49.1% FG, 23.3% 3pt, 78.3% FT
In high school at La Lumiere in Indiana, Brooks was the Robin to former Dawg Isaiah Stewart’s Batman and graduated as a top-25 overall recruit. He went to Kentucky and came off the bench as a true freshman playing a combo forward role averaging 4.5 points per game. Kentucky bottomed out in 2020-21 and Brooks became the first forward off the bench after missing the first half of the year due to injury. His numbers leapt up to 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.
Last season Brooks finally moved into the starting lineup at power forward playing alongside national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe in the frontcourt. Unsurprisingly his rebound opportunities went down playing next to the best rebounder in the sport but otherwise his numbers stayed almost the same except for a little better 2-pt efficiency. As the year went on Kentucky increased Jacob Toppin’s minutes at Brooks’ expense and he opted to enter the portal after the season and transfer to Washington.
Based on comments from Brooks it sounds like he views himself as a true small forward but his game to this point looks a lot more like a power forward. Over 3 seasons at Kentucky Brooks only attempted 77 total 3-pointers and shot just 23.4% on those attempts. There are reasons to think he could get those numbers up but we’re not talking about someone that will suddenly become an above average shooter from deep.
While his range might not extend all the way to the arc, Brooks is a capable midrange shooter. Last year he finished in the 72nd percentile shooting 42.4% on midrange jumpers. Against zone defenses Brooks is more than capable of knocking down an 18-footer if left alone without having to dribble. He made 43% of his catch and shoot opportunities last year and the majority of those came in the midrange rather than behind the 3-point line. That dragged his overall efficiency in those situations down to the 29th percentile despite a good shooting percentage.
The plurality of Brooks’ points were scored in transition for Kentucky where he has the size/athleticism combination to dunk with authority. Watching Brooks play you wish that he had just a slightly better handle to effectively finish in situations where he’s asked to drive in traffic. He finished below the 20th percentile nationally when cutting to the basket or when serving as the roll man in a pick and roll. One nice part of Brooks’ game at least is a very low turnover rate considering his shot profile. It’s always better to get a shot up and have a chance at the rebound than to just give it away.
When Brooks does get the ball near the basket he’s above average at finishing. He’s at his best getting lobs in transition or put back slams but last season Brooks made 65% of his shots at the rim which ranked in the 81st percentile nationally. Those looks still need to be set up though on passes as just 5% of Brooks’ possessions came on post-up moves and he made just 6 baskets in those 19 tries.
On the defensive end there’s reason to think that Brooks still has untapped upside. His defensive rebounding rate as a sophomore was elite for a power forward and dropped last season. We’ll find out how much of that was due to Tshiebwe’s presence. New UW center Franck Kepnang historically has struggled as a rebounder so Brooks will be needed to pick up some of the slack in that regard.
The career shot blocking numbers are solid for a 6’7 forward but have a chance to improve as the primary weakside shot blocker in UW’s defense. Given his minutes load there’s a good chance Brooks can eclipse 1.0 blocks per game and come close to 1.0 steals as well.
Expectations for 2022-23
It’s easy enough to look at what Emmitt Matthews Jr did in his single year with Washington and project Brooks to fill that role. Matthews is a better outside shooter than Brooks though and was able to play substantial time as a small ball center. Brooks is best suited as a power forward on this roster and there are clear concerns about spacing if he plays substantial minutes at the small forward spot.
There was speculation about Brooks heading to the NBA rather than returning to college and so expectations are clearly high. If Brooks lives up to his potential and plays within himself then he has the chance to be a potential all-conference performer. If he views this as an extended NBA audition and tries to force an outside game that isn’t developed then he could struggle. Washington will need someone to step up and feel comfortable with the ball in close games and while Brooks can’t break down defenses off the dribble, he’ll be fine taking the shot.
2022-23 Projected Stats: 14.5 pts, 6.1 reb, 1.3 ast, 1.0 stl, 50.0% FG, 30.0% 3pt, 70.8% FT
SF 6’8 Samuel Ariyibi (2nd Year)
Husky fans will be forgiven if they had never heard of Ariyibi the day he committed to Washington. Sam hails from Nigeria and the NBA Africa Academy and had never visited Washington before Coach Hopkins offered him and his 6’11 wingspan a scholarship.
Ariyibi only played 11 minutes across 4 games for the Huskies before an injury ended his true freshman season prematurely. Even without the injury it was unlikely he was going to be a piece of the rotation later in the year although he might have still seen some minutes. There were moments where his raw skills flashed but also a moment when Terrell Brown Jr. was openly exasperated following an open court turnover.
Expectations for 2022-23
There’s a chance we could see more of Ariyibi this season but that’s more because he hardly played last year than that I expect him to breakout. If fully healthy again then Sam provides an athletic wing option to come off the bench when in need of a shot of energy on defense. Beyond that we’ll need to see how his offensive game appears to have progressed before thinking he’s going to make a major move. I’m certainly not rooting against it but the odds are that Ariyibi needs at least one more year before competing for serious playing time.
UPDATE: It sounds like Hop mentioned at Media Days on Wednesday that Ariyibi has had further injury setbacks. It’s a tough break for his development and he’s likely out for the season.
2022-23 Projected Stats: Not in the Rotation
PF Tyler Linhardt- 6’7, King’s HS, Seattle, WA
Linhardt got the recruiting class going by committing to the Huskies during April of his junior year. At the time he was the #2 recruit in the state of Washington and he kept up that moniker despite deciding to transfer to a prep school in Ohio for his senior season. That caused some concern that Tyler might decommit once he got away from the PNW for a bit but he has kept up a low social media profile and made it to campus this summer to start his Husky career.
Expectations for 2022-23
If there’s one player that I think will have the hardest time seeing the court this season it’s Linhardt. The 3/4 spots are loaded with potential options especially since a few of the guys who will appear in the “Bigs” issue of the preview are capable of playing the 4 spot. As it stands I don’t see Linhardt being able to crack the rotation.
Looking to the future though Linhardt is a bit of a tweener in the old school college game which might be an asset for UW in the near future. The question for Tyler has been defensive footspeed which is less of an issue playing in the corner of the UW zone. On offense he has the ability to stretch the floor and is big enough to also bang a little down low when necessary. That kind of versatility gives him the chance to play either forward spot and play smaller of bigger depending on the situation. In an ideal situation he becomes a poor man’s Tres Tinkle. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops but that may be more relevant in 2023-24.
2022-23 Projected Stats: Not in the Rotation