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Nate Roberts Turning Pro

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The Husky big man announced his intentions to sign with an agent and declare for the draft.

NCAA Basketball: Oregon State at Washington Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Husky fans have been waiting for an indication of how much turnover will be coming for the Washington basketball program this offseason. The first major news item came out today as Nate Roberts announced he will sign with an agent and declare for the NBA Draft.

The 6’11 Roberts had 2 more years of eligibility remaining but will graduate with his degree and look to make a professional career. Roberts averaged career highs across the board as the starting center for Washington with 5.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game. He finished out the regular season with the best back-to-back games of his career with 18 points and 16 rebounds against Oregon followed by 13 points and 16 rebounds against Oregon State. Over the final 10 games of his career he averaged 7.4 points and 9.6 rebounds. That led to some hope he would return for another season and build off that performance but Roberts will instead move on.

There is no possibility that Roberts will get drafted but with his size and rebounding ability he will look to make an overseas career or latch on with the G League. He finished 24th nationally in offensive rebounding rate so there’s no question he can get that done at another level. Offensively though Roberts was never able to pose much of a threat. He shot just 21/31 on dunk attempts and 57% overall on shots in the paint. On post-up attempts Roberts averaged an atrocious 0.59 points per 100 possessions demonstrating the lack of touch and footwork. For someone who often draws physical comparisons to Dwight Howard that just isn’t good enough to become a featured player.

Roberts joins the graduated Terrell Brown Jr. and Daejon Davis as starters from this year’s team that will need to be replaced. Bench player Dominiq Penn announced last week that he was entering the transfer portal. Scholarship players Riley Sorn and Jamal Bey, like Roberts, have also finished 4 years at Washington but have eligibility remaining and could opt to turn pro or transfer in addition to coming back.

The departure of Roberts guarantees that there will be at least one opening (and likely a few more) via the transfer portal or a late addition via the 2022 recruiting class from someone who decommitted due to a coaching change. If nothing else were to change with the Husky roster before next season it would likely mean Langston Wilson would be the starting center with Riley Sorn and Jackson Grant in reserve. Mike Hopkins will almost certainly seek out a player with stating experience at that spot to try to plug the hole rather than rely solely on that group however.

Right now the best big man in the transfer portal is Utah Valley center and British Columbia native Fardaws Aimaq but UW would be fighting every program in the country for his services. The only center in the portal with ties to Seattle at the moment is Lehigh transfer Nic Lynch who is a subpar rebounding stretch 5 and would be a rotation piece rather than a clear starter were he to come aboard.

If Washington does go into next season without adding a center via the transfer portal then it will mean hoping for giant leaps from Langston Wilson and Jackson Grant. Wilson is an athletic freak who is new to the game and had flashes such as when he scored 11 points in 9 minutes against UCLA late in the year. If he learns how to control his physicality and become less foul prone (an insane 9.0 fouls per 40 minutes in Pac-12 play) then there is reason to think he could be a very good player. Grant was a 4-star recruit entering this year touted as a shooting big who finished 1/11 outside the paint and looked to be overthinking it. He also according to Hop lost a large amount of weight due to COVID midseason which led to him falling out of the rotation. If he is able to get back into shape with a full offseason in the zone we could see him take a big step forward.

While Nate Roberts never quite put everything together it was clear that he became a team leader and was always spoken highly of by Hopkins for his actions off the court. Despite the clear minuses (his hands) he also had some dominant strengths that were fun to watch when he was at his peak. Here’s to wishing Nate the best of luck in his future endeavors both within the basketball world and without. Thank you Nate!