Husky Men’s Basketball Position Preview: Guards

The Washington Men’s Basketball team is headed into year two of the Mike Hopkins coaching era with high expectations.  One of the reasons for that is the talent and skill on the roster at the guard position.  Coach Hopkins has assembled depth in the backcourt that includes some experienced players coupled with some promising new talent.

THE PLAYERS

QUIN BARNARD (Junior, 6 feet 0 inches, 175 pounds)

JAMAL BEY (Freshman, 6 feet 6 inches, 205 pounds)

JASON CRANDALL (Junior, 6 feet 0 inches, 150 pounds)

DAVID CRISP (Senior, 6 feet 0 inches, 185 pounds)

JONAH GERON (Freshman, 6 feet 5 inches, 175 pounds)

ELIJAH HARDY (Freshman, 6 feet 2 inches, 175 pounds)

NOAH NEUBAUER (Freshman, 6 feet 2 inches, 175 pounds)

JAYLEN NOWELL (Sophomore, 6 feet 4 inches, 200 pounds)

TRAVIS RICE (Redshirt Sophomore, 6 feet 2 inches, 185 pounds)

MATISSE THYBULLE (Senior, 6 feet 5 inches, 205 pounds)

THE OUTLOOK

The Huskies return three players from their starting lineup a year ago and that experience will be invaluable to the success of the team this season.  Senior point guard David Crisp transitioned into his new role of point guard last year after previously being a shooting guard.  Crisp averaged 11.6 points and 3.1 assists per game last season.  He will be looked upon to run an efficient offense and keep turnovers at a minimum this season.  Coach Hopkins refers to Crisp as the “rock” of the team and certainly Crisp is his guy!  Senior guard Matisse Thybulle returns for his senior season and will be looked upon as the high energy force on defense.  Last season, Thybulle averaged 11.2 points a game and ended the season with a team high 101 steals.  The achievement was good enough for him to win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award last year.  Thybulle thrives in Hopkins aggressive 2-3 zone as he is a ball pressure and ball hawking defensive player, who has a knack for making the right play.  A major bright spot last season was the emergence of sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell.  Last season, Nowell was the go-to-guy most of the season and showed his promising future while being just a true freshman.  He averaged 16.0 points per game and led the entire team in scoring while finishing second in assists at 2.7 per game.  Nowell is ultra talented and can get just about any shot he wants on the court.  Last season it earned him a spot on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

What is exciting is the Huskies added a couple of promising and talented true freshmen to the roster this season.  Jamal Bey was named the 2017-2018 Gatorade State Player of the Year in Nevada and was rated an ESPN Top 100 player his senior season of high school.  He hails from Bishop Gorman High School and will be looked upon to help make an impact this season.  Bey has a nice shooting stroke and will be able to rebound the ball well.  At 6 feet 6 inches, he has the length and wingspan to excel as a defensive player in the type of zone defense that Hopkins likes to play.  Elijah Hardy is another skilled guard who will provide depth at the point guard position.  He played his high school ball at Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California.  As a senior he averaged 14.6 points and 6.0 assists per game.  What makes Hardy an asset to the Huskies is his ability to see the entire floor with excellent vision and ball handling skills.  He is outstanding in transition and pushing the ball up the floor and has the prototypical skills of a true point guard.

Rounding out the roster and depth chart throughout the season are players who will be looking to make their own impact.  Those players include junior Quin Barnard from O’Dea High School in Seattle Washington, junior Jason Crandall from Issaquah High School in Issaquah, Washington, freshman Jonah Geron from San Joaquin High School in San Joaquin, California, freshman Noah Neubauer from Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington and redshirt sophomore Travis Rice who played a year of college ball at Northern Arizona.  Rice is also the son of current assistant coach Dave Rice.

THE VERDICT

The Huskies are in tremendous shape with the return of their triad of starters from last season in Crisp, Thybulle and Nowell.  With Crisp, you have a point guard who has a year of experience under his belt not only under the Mike Hopkins system, but also as a true point guard.  Look for him to cut down on his turnovers and have a higher assist to turnover ratio.  Last season it seemed as if turnovers and decision-making plagued Crisp at crucial times during games but that should improve this season.

Matisse Thybulle will have an even better season this year if that’s even possible.  If anyone knows anything about Hopkins, then energy is what he is all about.  Thybulle is the battery life of the team.  His energy on the court, especially on defense infuses the team each game, and the rest of the team looks to him for leadership.  He will have an All-Pac-12 season defensively and vault himself into talks for the NBA Draft once the season is done.

Sophomore sensation Jaylen Nowell will raise his game to another level this season and add improvements to his game to make him a complete player.  Coach Hopkins already alluded to the fact that Nowell will handle the ball a lot more at the point guard position as well.  What makes Nowell dangerous is his midrange game he likes to operate in.  The art of the midrange game has become a lost art in basketball and Nowell seems to be able to flourish in it regularly.  One area of his game that needed to get more consistent was his outside shot.  Nowell can get to the rim anytime he wants  but consistently hitting the outside jumper to where it becomes automatic is the next progression in his game.  Look for Nowell to be a first team All-Pac-12 selection at the end of the season.

Newcomers Jamal Bey and Elijah Hardy will push for playing time this season but as Hopkins said yesterday, the true freshman usually don’t make an impact until January.  There is a learning curve and a maturation process that takes place for newcomers in learning the speed of the game at the collegiate level.  Bey will look to become the heir apparent to Thybulle one day and learning from him this season will be invaluable.  The Huskies had some attrition in the offseason at the guard position and having a true point guard on the roster in Elijah Hardy will certainly help the team and gives Hopkins options during every game.  You can never have enough point guards on the roster.

The guard position will play at an elite level this season and the future of this position is extremely bright, as Hopkins and staff have brought in guys who fit their system well.  It will be exciting to see the starters from last season take their game to an even higher level this season, while the newcomers acclimate to Hopkins and the game of college basketball.

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