Washington’s season is over but there are still a number of unknowns about next year’s roster. It’s easiest when sorting through it to first talk about the things we know for certain. Starting backcourt duo Terrell Brown Jr. and Daejon Davis are out of eligibility and will not be returning to play college basketball next season. After giving out a scholarship to former walk-on Reagan Lundeen at the start of the season the Huskies had all 13 of their scholarships occupied. Washington currently has 3 verbal commitments. They have 2 players out of eligibility. Something has to give there.
In addition to Brown and Davis there are also a number of Huskies who have been in college for 4 full seasons and could simply graduate and move on with their lives either to start a new career, play basketball professionally, or grad transfer and play basketball at another school. Jamal Bey and Emmitt Matthews Jr. have one more season of eligibility remaining while Nate Roberts, Riley Sorn, and Reagan Lundeen all redshirted at some point and have 2 seasons of eligibility left.
I think the safest bet is that Lundeen is not planning on staying for additional seasons. Typically when a senior walk-on who is not part of the rotation gets put on scholarship just before the year starts it’s because they know that player isn’t coming back and it would otherwise go to waste with no other downside.
That would open up enough room for all of the incoming freshmen on its own. However this is modern college basketball so it’s unlikely to just assume that no one else is going to transfer. The only 3 players who it would truly surprise me if they transferred out are Cole Bajema, Emmitt Matthews Jr., and P.J Fuller. All 3 of them already have used up their free transfer and did so to come back closer to home. Even with that, Matthews is a senior based on years in college and could easily decide to just graduate and move on with an overseas pro career.
Depending on who else transfers the needs for next year’s Husky team could shift dramatically. Bringing in a point guard capable of starting alongside PJ Fuller seems like the one clear priority. It’s possible that true freshmen Koren Johnson and Keyon Menifield enter college ready for prime-time but that’s not usually the case for players outside the top-100 of the recruiting rankings so it would make sense to have an insurance plan with both Brown and Davis graduating. Nate Roberts and Jamal Bey seem the most likely additional transfers and obviously their departure would open up space for another big or wing respectively.
During the Mike Hopkins era there has been a pretty clear type for who he has brought in from the transfer portal: players from the Seattle area. Quade Green is the only transfer that wasn’t from Washington to join the team and came because he had been recruited by Hopkins when Hop was still at Syracuse. At this point anyone Hop recruited at Syracuse has long since entered college. Otherwise, he has relied on local players wanting to come back home.
I took a look across the college basketball landscape to find some candidates who might fit the bill depending upon what else happens with the Washington roster in the coming days and weeks. These are the 8 local players that didn’t end up with the Huskies out of high school who would seemingly make the most sense if they entered the portal (and 1 is currently in the portal). A reminder before continuing on that I have no inside information that any of these players wants to transfer let alone that they want to come to Washington. But if you happen to scroll across your Twitter feed and see that any of them has indeed entered the portal in the coming days or weeks then be on high alert that they might be an option for the Dawgs.
6’10 Mitchell Saxen, Saint Mary’s: 3.3 pts, 2.2 reb, 0.5 blk, 54.4% FG, 54.5% FT
If Nate Roberts ends up transferring out of the program, the Huskies could stand to use some extra depth on the interior. Saxen hails from Ingraham High in Seattle and has seen only backup minutes through 2 seasons for the Gaels. Saint Mary’s earned a #5 seed in the NCAA tournament and managed an upset of Gonzaga a few weeks ago. Saxen played 16 minutes in that game as the backup center and finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocks working against All-American Drew Timme and likely #1 overall pick Chet Holmgren.
Saxen’s offensive rebounding numbers (granted in limited playing time) are absolutely off the charts and he’s a better shot blocker than Roberts has been. The offensive skillset is still very limited but the potential is evident. If you take Saxen’s numbers and prorate it out to a 23 minutes per game average (what Nate Roberts played this year) it would be: 10.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks.
Starting Gaels center Matthias Tass is a senior but still has one year of eligibility remaining for Saint Mary’s. He’s the star of the team leading them in points, rebounds, and blocks. If Tass decides to come back for a 5th season then Saxen may see his path to immediate playing time blocked and a portal entry becomes realistic. Should Saxen enter then expect UW to be quick to give him a call.
6’9 Collin Welp, UC Irvine: 13.8 pts, 6.6 reb, 0.3 blk, 42.4% FG, 22.4% 3pt, 86.5% FT
The former Seattle Prep star would be a grad transfer in his 6th year if he chooses to come back to college next season. He redshirted his 1st year in college and has the option of a 5th on the court because of the pandemic. He has averaged at least 13 points and 6 rebounds each of the past 3 seasons and at this point is pretty much a finished product. Welp plays power forward rather than center and is not exactly a shot blocking threat. And while he’s a career 35% 3-pt shooter he shot just 14% from deep in conference play this year so his ability to stretch the floor is at least a little in question.
Welp is likely a bit of an awkward fit in a Mike Hopkins defense. But he is a very good defensive rebounder who also finished in the 68th percentile on offense posting up which has been a non-existent part of the UW offense since Isaiah Stewart left for the NBA. Hopkins covered up for Noah Dickerson’s defensive weaknesses and Welp is probably best viewed as a poor man’s Dickerson who would at the very least be a useful piece even if he isn’t quite plug and play.
6’11 Nic Lynch, Lehigh: 9.7 pts, 4.4 reb, 0.4 blk, 51.9% FG, 45.9% 3pt, 87.0% FT
Lynch also played center at Seattle Prep before starring at a mid-major level. Lehigh was not good this year but Lynch successfully transformed himself into a realistic stretch 5. He had attempted just 2 total 3-pointers in his first 3 seasons at Lehigh before suddenly making 28 of 59 this year while also shooting a career best on both 2’s and free throws. His 68% true shooting percentage was #1 in the Patriot League and he would’ve been well into the double digits scoring if he played more than 21 minutes per game or had a higher usage rate.
Similar to Welp, Lynch is not much of a shot blocker and he is even worse as a rebounder. That lack of defensive prowess though might be made up for by serving as a legitimate 3-point threat. Imagine if Hameir Wright had been able to shoot over 40% from deep? I had the write-up for Lynch done as a potential add but he entered the portal on Monday morning so he is in fact available. I don’t think Lynch would be a 30 minutes per game type guy but he could definitely be a part of the rotation and add some versatility to the lineup with his elite shooting at that size.
6’6 Jabe Mullins- Saint Mary’s: 3.0 pts, 1.1 reb, 40.7% FG, 36.8% 3pt, 72.7% FT
Mullins was rated as the #1 recruit in the state coming out of Mount Si in the class of 2020 when UW didn’t sign anyone. He was even ranked ahead of Tari Eason who is going to become a 1st round draft pick in June. As a true freshman he started 11 games but has seen his playing time diminish a little with the team improving and Mullins has been much more effective in a more limited role/with another year of experience. He has been a knockdown 3-pt shooter this year although notably on only 55 attempts.
The starting SG and SF for Saint Mary’s both have a year of eligibility remaining so it’s possible Mullins looks for more playing time now rather than potentially waiting until his senior year if they come back. I think Mullins could be a similar player to Cole Bajema and would give some insurance on the wing with additional shooting if Jamal Bey were to not return. The defense was not good but he’s got decent length and the lack of foot speed likely becomes less of an issue in a Mike Hopkins zone.
6’0 Khalil Shabazz, San Francisco: 14.0 pts, 2.2 ast, 1.8 stl, 39.1% FG, 35.0% 3pt, 84.5% FG
Shabazz starred at Rainier Beach but was lightly recruited out of high school and ended up at Central Washington. He was an instant star and transferred to San Francisco where he has averaged double digits all 3 years and helped get them to a #10 seed in the NCAA tournament this year. Sounds a little like Terrell Brown Jr., doesn’t it?
Shabazz wouldn’t be able to come in and replace Terrell Brown Jr. but he might be the best shot of the potential options. He’s much more of a shooting guard than a distributor but Shabazz is a passable scorer from everywhere on the court and is very good at avoiding turnovers. He ranked at least 120th nationally in steal rate all 3 seasons at USF and could cause havoc on defense even if he’s a little undersized for the zone.
Next year would be his 6th in college but he has another year of eligibility and San Francisco will be losing his fellow star guard Jamaree Bouyea and head coach Todd Golden’s name is being thrown around for a lot of openings. If Golden leaves it wouldn’t be the craziest scenario for Shabazz to decide to come back home for his last year rather than stick around with a new coach.
6’2 Cameron Tyson, Seattle: 14.7 pts, 5.3 reb, 0.9 ast, 39.2% FG, 37.5% 3pt, 85.1% FT
The Bothell native would be at his 4th school in 4 years if he entered the transfer portal so this is probably a longshot. Especially since he is already in Seattle now and starring for the Redhawks who had their best season in a long time. If Washington did bring him in though it would be to do one thing: shoot the ball. So far in his career (Idaho to Houston to Seattle) Tyson has attempted 74% of his shots from beyond the arc so he’s very much a sniper. And for good reason since he is a career 38.7% shooter from deep which is something UW could definitely use.
Tyson would not be a primary ball handler but he stretches the floor without turning the ball over and also gives you a lights out free throw shooter to pass the ball to trying to preserve a lead in the closing minutes. The defense is suspect but unlikely to be a complete liability. He would absolutely be a rotation player even if he doesn’t start and would take some pressure off the young guards to be ready right away.
6’6 Shane Nowell, Arizona: 0.8 pts, 0.8 reb, 0.3 ast, 35.3% FG, 20.0% 3pt, 100% FT
Acquiring an intra-conference transfer from Arizona certainly worked well for Washington last time although this would be very different from the Terrell Brown Jr. situation. Nowell has a shot to win a national title with the Wildcats but he has only gotten into the game in garbage time. He also committed to Sean Miller and Jason Terry and neither of those coaches are there anymore. This could be a Cole Bajema situation where the new coaching staff decides he doesn’t quite fit what they are looking for and so encourage him to move on (that’s a complete hypothetical, he could also be viewed by Lloyd as an integral part of the future there).
Washington never seemed to push for Nowell coming out of high school despite his brother starring here and it’s not as if Nowell had the chance to show anything on the court to change their minds. But if Jamal Bey were to leave, Nowell has almost an identical body type.
6’2 Nolan Hickman, Gonzaga: 5.4 pts, 1.6 reb, 1.4 ast, 44.9% FG, 32.4% 3pt, 66.7% FT
Nowell’s high school teammate at Eastside Catholic initially committed to Kentucky out of high school but wanted to come closer to home and ended up at Gonzaga. Could he want to get even closer to home next year in Seattle? Hickman played at least 10 minutes and scored at least 2 points in each of Gonzaga’s first 24 games. In their last 5 he has failed to score a point and was under that 10 minute mark twice. Both of Gonzaga’s starting guards are seniors but have 1 more year of eligibility remaining due to the pandemic. If they both choose to come back, Hickman may want a better opportunity to show off his skills. More likely of course is they graduate and Hickman ascends to a starting role next year.
There’s no question that Hickman has the talent as a high 4-star just a year ago to potentially start for UW next year with the departure of Brown and Davis. He would almost certainly have the ball in his hands more than he did at Gonzaga so it’s tough to say how much those stats would translate especially given it would be like going from day to night with the Zags’ offensive scheme to Hop’s. The block/steal numbers are encouraging for a 6’2 guard though and he could have a lot of success at the top of the zone.