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Emmitt Matthews Jr. Transfers Back to West Virginia

Washington is officially losing 4 starters from last year’s team

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 03 Washington at Cal Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There had been some initial optimism that the Huskies might be able to convince forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. to withdraw from the transfer portal after he entered unexpectedly earlier this week. That was quickly dashed this afternoon as Matthews announced that he is transferring back to West Virginia where he played for the first 3 years of his college career.

It ends up being a one-year hiatus for Matthews at Washington where he averaged career bests of 11.7 points and 4.7 rebounds on 33.6% 3pt shooting last year. The Tacoma native was one of 4 local players to transfer back home to Washington last spring and was a fan favorite with his energy and versatility. Expectations were that Matthews would be the leader of the team in his 5th and final college season after a season which I thought merited honorable mention all-conference recognition. Instead he abruptly entered the portal without warning and is returning back to the Mountaineers where weirdly enough he will unite with former Husky Erik Stevenson who is making WVU his 4th school in 4 years.

The announcement that Matthews would be leaving came less than 90 minutes after Utah Valley transfer Fardaws Aimaq announced he was committing to Texas Tech over the Huskies. Washington looked to be in strong position for Aimaq who grew up just a few hours away on the other side of the border in British Columbia but the Red Raiders were able to seal the deal on his official visit there which concluded yesterday. Aimaq averaged 18.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game last year and was one of the truly elite big men available in the portal.

Now Washington is faced with having to replace 4 starters from a team that overachieved to finish in the top half of the conference standings a year ago. Incoming transfers Noah Williams and Franck Kepnang are both players with upside who will start and have reasonable chances at breakout seasons. It’s reasonable to say that Williams could replace Daejon Davis by giving you a little more on offense and maybe a little less on defense while hopefully being available more frequently. Kepnang is a different kind of center than Nate Roberts but it wouldn’t surprise me if he could be at least a replacement. That still leaves a very giant hole from UW’s top 2 scorers (Terrell Brown Jr and Emmitt Matthews Jr) leaving that at the moment would have to be replaced by internal improvement or a trio of freshmen ranked between 115 and 200 in the composite rankings.

There is still talent left in the transfer portal. Washington seemingly had the plan of adding Williams, Kepnang, and Aimaq while keeping the rest of their core intact. On Monday morning it looked like it had a good shot of succeeding and that would be a team with a realistic chance at an NCAA tournament berth. But now Aimaq is gone and so is Matthews. Those scholarships are still up for grabs and the Huskies will have to scramble to pivot to any contingency plans they may have had. But Washington hasn’t appeared on the list of schools in consideration that other players in the portal have put out. The Dawgs are going to have to start from scratch to find players capable of playing at an all-conference level and likely need to find 2 of them to have any chance at real contention.

Each of the last 2 seasons it was defensible to argue that Mike Hopkins should be let go as the head coach at Washington. Last offseason it seemed clear that Jen Cohen made a deal to give Hop 2 more years to turn things around after completely rebuilding the roster. Now Washington moves forward at the moment with 0 players who averaged at least 11 points per game last year and the 2 highest scorers (Jamal Bey and Noah Williams) both coming off seasons where they regressed to the mean after crazy hot shooting streaks the year prior.

Can this coaching staff find other pieces capable of making next year anything but a lame duck slump to the finish of their tenure? We’ll find out.