The Washington Huskies Men’s Basketball Team enters the 2019-2020 season with a lot of hype and expectations following last year.
Recently, the Huskies were picked to finish third in the Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll, as there are a lot of new faces in the mix this year.
After making it back to the NCAA Tournament and advancing to the round of 32 last season, the sky is the limit for the Huskies this season.
Over the summer, the Huskies traveled to Italy for a four-game tour where they went undefeated, winning each game by a 44-point average.
We take a look at the forward position; which players will make an impact and which ones departed after last year’s successful season.
RAEQUAN BATTLE (Freshman, 6 foot 5 inches, 185 pounds)
J’RAAN BROOKS (Sophomore, 6 foot 9 inches, 220 pounds)
REAGAN LUNDEEN (Sophomore, 6 foot 6 inches, 230 pounds)
JADEN MCDANIELS (Freshman, 6 foot 9 inches, 200 pounds)
NATE ROBERTS (Redshirt Freshman, 6 foot 10 inches, 245 pounds)
ISAIAH STEWART (Freshman, 6 foot 9 inches, 250 pounds)
SAM TIMMINS (Senior, 6 foot 11 inches, 265 pounds)
HAMEIR WRIGHT (Junior, 6 foot 9 inches, 220 pounds)
The forward position group for the Huskies will have to deal with the departure of two senior leaders who helped reshape the program for Washington head coach Mike Hopkins. Losing Noah Dickerson and Dominic Green were two guys who brought important elements to the Husky offense last season. Dickerson provided a huge interior threat for the Huskies with his ability to operate in the paint. Having a scoring threat who can play with his back to the basket put stress on opposing defenses by making them stretch the floor. When Dickerson was scoring inside and demanding double teams, it opened up the driving lanes for the guards and the “weak-side” spot-up three-point shooting threat. The player who will be responsible for filling the void for Dickerson is true freshman Isaiah Stewart. He is a physical scoring threat who can play with his back to the basket and also play facing the hoop. He brings a certain attitude and toughness to the position and the Huskies will be dominant once again in the paint. Stewart is a program changing type of talent, as he was a “five-star” recruit coming out of high school. He chose Washington over schools like Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State and Syracuse. During their Italian Tour this past summer, Stewart averaged a “double-double” with 19.5 ppg and 11 ppg which was an impressive start to his Husky career.
Shooting wise, the Huskies lost their top “sharpshooter” and “marksman” in Dominic Green. Last season and throughout his Husky career, Green provided that much needed three-point scoring threat from the outside, which made opposing defenses have to defend the entire floor. While Green was a streaky shooter with stretches of going hot and cold, just the mere presence of him added a crucial dimension to Hopkins offense. It opened things up in the paint when he was knocking down “three’s’ from the perimeter. This season, the Huskies will need to replace the dynamic of Green’s shooting threat and finding that guy will have to come quickly. Many players at this level can shoot, but what Hopkins needs is a “pure shooter” that can come in the game and just drain it. Prior players like Ryan Appleby, CJ Wilcox and Scott Suggs all come to mind here.
A major talent that has Husky fans super excited for the season is the addition of true freshman Jaden McDaniels. The local star from nearby Federal Way High School is a another “five-star” recruit who chose Washington over schools like Kentucky, Texas, UCLA and San Diego State. At 6’9″, McDaniels is a silky-smooth shooting forward who can flat out score the basketball. Many have said that his game is modeled after NBA star Kevin Durant with his similar body frame and his ability to get any shot that he wants on the floor. Having an ultra-talented swingman will be a nice addition for Hopkins and his coaching staff. McDaniels fits the mold of a #1 option type of a player and the Huskies will look to get him the ball consistently.
Every team needs role players and not everyone can score the basketball. There are just not enough touches to go around. Two experienced role players that return this season for this position group are Sam Timmins and Hameir Wright. While both of these players are not known for their offensive skills, their presence is certainly vital on the defensive end of the floor. Being a senior now, this will be Timmins’ third season in Coach Hopkins system. He has figured out how to be productive with blocking shots on the bottom of the 2-3 zone defense and also rebound. Taking up space and being a “rim protector” is Timmins’ best attributes. On offense, Timmins is a clean up the “garbage” type of player, who can score with “put-backs” or dunking off the pick and roll. Wright is a tall athletic player who brings that defensive mindset for Hopkins. He is extremely active on the glass and really active with rebounding on the defensive end of the floor. Another thing that get’s overlooked is his ability to pass the basketball, especially on the interior. Wright’s shooting has improved each year and he can knock down a jumper from the outside if you leave him open long enough. These two players should provide some important experience and leadership to this position group.
Last season, Nate Roberts redshirted which allowed him to get stronger in the weight room and learn Coach Hopkins system. This season, Roberts adds an intriguing dimension to the offense. Roberts looks like a “stretch-4” type of player who likes to play facing the basket while driving around guys. He has a huge wingspan, which will help him be productive in Hopkins 2-3 zone scheme, the way he likes to play it. Roberts should provide some rebounding help for the Huskies down low. Getting up to game speed will decide how much playing time he will earn throughout the season.
Two newcomers that the coaching staff are high on are RaeQuan Battle and J’Raan Brooks. Battle has the ability to score the basketball in multiple different ways. He can get up and down the floor in transition and is the type of player who fits well into Hopkins up-tempo style. As a former “four-star” recruit from local Marysville-Pilchuck High School, Battle will be playing as a forward with the skills of a guard. His future is bright, and he will be pushing for playing time this season. Brooks is a former standout from local Garfield High School who transferred to the Huskies after spending his freshman season of college at USC. Brooks is another intriguing player for Hopkins and his coaching staff as he can spot-up and shoot midrange jumpers, while knocking down some three-pointers as well. Defensively, he will be able to help out on the boards and be quick enough to play at the bottom of the 2-3 zone. Keeping in-state talent at Washington is always a priority for Hopkins, no matter what road it takes for them to get to Montlake.
The one thing that really stands out with this group is its size and length. There are some massively big dudes, with some tremendously long wingspans. It’s quite apparent the type of athlete that Hopkins and his coaches are targeting. They need tall and rangy players to properly fit the type of aggressive 2-3 zone he likes to play. This group will be able to wear down their opponents throughout the game with their size, which is a nice attribute to have.
Overall, this position group is the most talented on the roster. It has a good blend of experienced role players, dynamic “star power” newcomers and some intriguing prospects to watch for. While losing two talented senior leaders from last year’s group, the Huskies have reloaded this position group and done it in a big way. Everyone around Montlake needs to enjoy the services of Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels while they can because these guys are definitely on the “one-and-done” trajectory. Various NBA mock drafts previously have included both of these guys in their projections, even as high as the top pick prospects. Making the most of the talent Hopkins has this season starts with this group, as they have the talent to make a deep run in the tournament. Two “five-star” talents in the same position group doesn’t happen very often. Look for this position group to headline the team this season and carry much of the production load for the team. The future is extremely bright this season for this unit!
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