In the first two editions of our player-by-player Men’s Basketball preview we looked at every guard on the Husky roster. Today we continue on with the four players on the roster who could reasonably be labeled as 3/4 forwards including a pair that should start and a pair that will struggle to find minutes.
SF 6’8 Moses Wood (6th year), Transfer from Portland
2022-23 Stats (per game): 15.3 pts, 6.3 reb, 1.8 ast, 0.5 stl, 52.2% 2pt, 40.3% 3pt, 83.9% FT
Wood was a solid recruit coming out of high school as the 258th rated player in the 247 Sports Composite when he committed to Tulane. He had a good start to his career coming off the bench to score nearly 5 points per game on 37% 3-point shooting. That allowed him to receive an offer from hometown UNLV so he chose to redshirt in order to transfer back. After a year off his numbers incrementally crept up as he started 8 games under T.J Otzelberger while slightly increasing his efficiency.
Wood transferred out after TJ left to take the Iowa State gig and ended up at Portland where he started every game and was one of the best shooters in the country with 45.5% 3-pt shooting and 83.2% FT shooting in WCC play. That helped his scoring average bump up to 14 points per game. Last season his 3-point shooting was still elite at over 40% but he took a few more shots to set career highs in points and rebounds.
There’s no question that one word defines Wood’s playing style: Shooter. At 6’8 Wood has taken about 60% of his shots from 3-point range so he is definitely most comfortable playing on the perimeter. Nearly half of his shots last year came either on catch and shoot opportunities or curling off screens. The Huskies have had a handful of guys capable of reliably making a stand still 3-pointer in recent years but no one who can shoot on the move the way that Wood can.
We’ll start though with those catch and shoot looks. Wood made 45% of his jumpers last year when he didn’t need to dribble which is good for the 92nd percentile nationally. His totals drop when he faces a close out but he still shot 37.5% on contested shots in part because he has the size at 6’8 to not have to worry about a lot of defenders actually blocking his shot.
Wood is capable of doing more than that offensively. His numbers were in the WCC the last two years but he still shot 40% when curling off a screen. When Wood drives to the basket he made over 50% on runners and floaters although he doesn’t usually pull up in that range very often. With Wood’s size he can usually finish at the basket and made 53% of his shots in the paint last season. He only dunked it 4 times so he isn’t a high flying finisher by any means but can dunk it if he needs to do so.
The Pilots played in the PKI last year which included a very difficult 3-game stretch of North Carolina, Villanova, and Michigan State (although we later learned UNC and Nova would have down years). Plus they played Gonzaga twice as part of the WCC schedule. In those 5 games Wood averaged 16+ points per game on 45% 3-point shooting so it’s not as if Wood has just feasted against substandard competition to put up his numbers.
The questions with Wood are on the defensive end of the floor. Last year he ranked in just the 10th percentile nationally in opposing points per possession on defense. That’s obviously not good. But it’s also true that Portland played Wood as a small ball 5 for much of last season. Per KenPom he played 68% of the team’s minutes at center at the end of the year. Unless things go terribly wrong, we shouldn’t be seeing much of Wood at that spot defensively this year.
The year before that Wood also had to play a lot of the 4 and the 5 but managed to rank in the 85th percentile defensively. It seems safe to say the jury is still out on what Wood can do on that end given his usage and the variability from year to year. He is an adequate shot blocker for his size and a solid rebounder but doesn’t get many steals.
Expectations for 2023-24
I fully expect that Wood is going to start and play heavy minutes for this Husky team. His shooting should be a huge upgrade over recent nominal shooters with size like Hameir Wright and Cole Bajema. We’ll see if having more proven passers naturally creates more motion than past UW offenses which will allow Wood to thrive if a defense forgets about him.
Mike Hopkins should be keeping at least one of Wood and Keion Brooks (who we’ll get to next) on the floor at all times to provide a scoring option from the forward spot. That should allow Wood to lead the team in 3-point attempts and also likely lead in percentage. I think the roster is a little too deep to project Wood to end up close to the 15 points per game he averaged at Portland. But it wouldn’t shock me at all if he is a little bit of the Robin to Brooks’ Batman the way that Emmitt Matthews was for Terrell Brown Jr. a few years ago and earn honorable mention all-conference..
2023-24 Projected Stats: 10.7 pts, 4.0 reb, 1.0 ast, 0.7 stl, 52.6% 2pt, 38.0% 3pt, 81.1% FT
PF 6’7 Keion Brooks Jr. (5th year)
2022-23 Stats (per game): 17.7 pts, 6.7 reb, 1.4 ast, 1.2 blk, 48.4% 2pt, 28.6% 3pt, 79.4% FT
Brooks teamed up with former Husky Isaiah Stewart to form one of the most intimidating high school front lines in the country at La Lumiere. While Stewart headed to Seattle, Brooks (a 5-star himself) took the more traditional 5-star road to Lexington, Kentucky. Unfortunately for Brooks he didn’t prove himself to be a one and done talent starting just 6 games while averaging 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds per contest under Calipari.
As a sophomore Brooks still came off the bench but upped his scoring to surpass 10 points per game on what ended up being the worst Kentucky team in decades. Brooks moved into the starting lineup as a junior but the breakout season many expected never really came. His per game averages only increased incrementally and by the end of the year his playing time had started to decrease in favor of Jacob Toppin.
With all that in mind Brooks tested the draft but was pretty clearly not going to be selected and so entered the portal instead. Washington had a dire need for scoring and he joined on relatively late to round out UW’s lineup given his ties to Stewart and Hopkins. Brooks finally made his big statistical leap by averaging a 17 and 6 and making 2nd team all-conference.
In the modern game we’re seeing less of players in the mold of Keion Brooks Jr. who put the power back in power forward. Brooks is capable of hitting a jump shot but is at his best when he is touching the ball a little closer to the basket. Perhaps Brooks’ biggest talent though revolves around mindset rather than physical skillset. Brooks is not afraid to be the one with the ball late in the shot clock or in the end of games. That certainly doesn’t help his efficiency but every team needs someone willing to step up in critical situations.
Efficiency has been the name of the game this offseason for Brooks. He increased his points per game by 7 when coming to Washington but did it by taking more than 5 additional attempts. That’s not the most efficient ratio. Brooks took nearly 30% of Washington’s shots while on the floor during Pac-12 play last year which was 2nd in the conference. Having the ball so much also led to a lot of turnovers and he had at least 4 giveaways in each of the Huskies’ final four contests.
Even though Brooks is capable of playing bully ball, he still took most of his shots outside of the paint. He shot 39% on uncontested catch and shoot jumpers so there is an ability there to knock down an outside shot. But he was also prone to launching as a last option and shot 30% when contested and 32% off the dribble. Every time Brooks takes a three-pointer when he’s not wide open is a win for the defense.
It also was a win for the defense when Brooks settled for a midrange jumper which he did quite a lot. About 60% of Brooks’ 2-point shots came outside the paint and he made just under 40% of those shots which isn’t good enough to warrant that high of a volume. Brooks shot between 32% and 39% last year on post-ups, isolation plays, or as a pick and roll ball handler and they made up almost 30% of his total shots. He was much more efficient as the roll man or cutting to the basket.
The good news is that the addition of Sahvir Wheeler, who he already has chemistry with as a former Kentucky teammate, plus Paul Mulcahy means there are now 2 players with power conference experience getting guys like Brooks the ball in advantageous spots. Brooks was 31/38 on dunk attempts last year and I’d take the over on dunks this season with Wheeler joining the squad dishing it off to him after collapsing the defense.
Brooks was solid on the defensive end last year and was at his best when serving as the weakside shot blocker in the corner of the Husky zone. He put up worse numbers playing man-to-man but it also was the less common part of the Husky defense last year which makes it hard to judge. His block rate of 3.6% trailed only the center duo of Meah and Kepnang. His steal rate meanwhile was only higher than Meah and Jackson Grant.
Expectations for 2023-24
Coach Hopkins got choked up at Pac-12 Media Day talking about Brooks and the loyalty he showed opting to come back to Washington for his final year of eligibility. There’s no question at this point that he is the leader of the team and will be expected to play that way on the court.
In an ideal world we’d see Brooks’ stats get slightly worse just because there is more scoring talent on the roster to whom to distribute the ball. Hopkins has preached that Brooks knows he needs to cut down on the turnovers and be better with his shot selection this year. I’m going to project it to happen for now with nearly identical numbers on fewer shots. If the Huskies are to get where they need to go to keep Hopkins around then Brooks will have to be an absolute slam dunk 1st team all-conference player (as in top-five, not the dumb top-ten they do in actuality).
2023-24 Projected Stats: 17.1 pts, 6.1 reb, 1.1 ast, 1.0 blk, 48.7% 2pt, 32.6% 3pt, 77.8% FT
SF 6’8 Samuel Ariyibi (3rd year)
It was a complete surprise when Ariyibi committed to Washington back in the spring of 2021 out of the NBA Africa Academy. The bouncy forward out of Lagos, Nigeria was touted as a potential difference maker on the defensive end while still needing to hone his offensive game.
Things haven’t quite worked out for Ariyibi so far at Washington. As a freshman he played only 10 minutes across 4 games before suffering an injury and being lost for the season. Then last year he was hurt before the season even started and missed it in its entirety. Now coming into his junior year he’ll hope to finally be healthy.
Expectations for 2023-24
There were one or two flashes for Ariyibi during his few minutes on the court as a freshman but at this point he’s still very much an unknown. Missing so much time due to injury certainly doesn’t help matters and it’s unclear if that has sapped any of his skill that he had from the get go. I would love for Ariyibi to be a breakout contributor for the Huskies but given the depth of the roster it’s hard to imagine that Ariyibi sees much if any of the court. There’s a chance he’ll be part of the unit that comes in at the end of blowouts given his redshirt has already been used up but I can’t see a realistic path to playing time for him this year.
2023-24 Projected Stats: Not in the Rotation
SF 6’8 Christian King (1st year)
King was an under the radar prospect coming out of Seattle Prep as the Huskies were his only reported power conference offer. The son of former Seattle SuperSonics 1st round draft pick Rich King, Christian is known as having elite shooting ability and some guard skills in a taller 6’8 frame. He was unrated in the 247 Sports Composite but graded out as the 6th best prospect for the class of 2023 in the state of Washington by 247’s own rankings.
Expectations for 2023-24
In past years there would’ve been a chance for a 6’8 shooter to break through into the Husky lineup given how badly they need the skill. Unfortunately, this is the year that Moses Wood is entering the program. Wood is a look at exactly who Washington hopes that King will develop into in time and it’s great that King gets to learn from him for a year. I just don’t see a path though for King to break into the rotation this early unless he is a 40%+ knockdown shooter from day one plus better defensively than I’d expect. That’s a tough ask and the hope will be that King can redshirt this season and contribute next year once the roster almost completely turns over.
2023-24 Projected Stats: Not in the Rotation