Washington received incredibly unfortunate news today as Tacoma native Emmitt Matthews Jr. entered the transfer portal per Verbal Commits. The Husky forward was UW’s 2nd leading scorer averaging 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game on 33.6% 3-pt shooting. That was his first (and now it appears only) season with Washington after transferring in following 3 years at West Virginia.
Matthews likely joins 4 confirmed scholarship players leaving the program this offseason along with Terrell Brown Jr. and Daejon Davis (eligibility expended), Nate Roberts (pro), and Dominq Penn (portal). Seniors and former walk-ons Riley Sorn and Reagan Lundeen are also potentially leaving the program although they have not announced that publicly. There are 4 new players that will be joining the program this year with incoming freshmen Tyler Linhardt, Keyon Menifield, and Koren Johnson plus Washington State transfer Noah Williams.
At the risk of getting overly dramatic, if Matthews doesn’t withdraw from the portal and return to UW it appears a possible death knell in the Mike Hopkins era at Washington. As of this morning there was something approaching a plan to having at worst a solid team next year. The Huskies have reportedly been in the thick of things for centers Fardaws Aimaq and Franck Kepnang who both visited over the last several weeks. Adding both around a core of Matthews, Noah Williams, Jamal Bey, Cole Bajema, and PJ Fuller would give the Huskies a smothering defense and potentially just enough shooting to have a passable offense. Now the chances of landing a whale like Aimaq seems far-fetched if the Huskies can’t even hang onto a local senior who had by far his best college season in this system last year.
I recently asked Husky fans what they would need to see next year for Hopkins to return and 77% said at least an NCAA tournament berth. Washington now is trying to replace 4 starters including their 2 leaders in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game off a team that overachieved to finish barely above 0.500 with a terrible non-conference slate. Making the NCAA tournament with that returning squad while adding 0 top-100 recruits and a single intra-conference transfer at the moment appears impossible.
Washington will certainly fight to get Matthews to return and will still add at least one additional piece via the portal. Right this second though Washington’s starting lineup would seem likely to be: Noah Williams, PJ Fuller, Cole Bajema, Jamal Bey, and Langston Wilson.
We’ll wait to see what Matthews ultimately cites as his reason to enter the portal and what exactly it says about the state of the Husky program. But the cautious optimism that some Husky fans (such as me) may have allowed themselves to feel while reading the portal tea leaves over the last month has disappeared in an instant this afternoon.
...— Langston J. Wilson (@Langston3491) April 25, 2022