If the Husky football season has you down in the dumps, then it might be time to turn your attention toward the upcoming basketball season starting this week. This will be one of the most hyped UW basketball teams in recent years, as they bring top recruits to Seattle.
Last season, the Huskies made their first NCAA tournament appearance in eight years, including a first round win over Utah State. The run ended there as they were defeated by top ranked North Carolina in the second round, The season however brought a lot of momentum to a program on the rise, and this year’s team will look to build off of their success.
However, the departure of five key players — due to either graduating from UW, or the NBA drafting them — will make this a bit of a tougher task. Four of their top five point scorers will have to be replaced, including NBA draftees Jaylen Nowell and Matisse Thybulle. But even with the departures, the Huskies have high expectations going into the season.
These expectations are so high due to two of the biggest recruits choosing Washington. The first of the two to commit was Isaiah Stewart. Stewart is a 6’9” center from Rochester, New York who committed to the Huskies back in January. His height will make the Huskies’ zone defense impossible to penetrate and also is a weapon on the offensive end.
“The atmosphere is definitely crazy here. The Dawg Pack, I love them. They are crazy and great. I can’t wait to play in front of all of them and the fans and give it my all,” Stewart said while addressing the media in the past month.
Joining Stewart is local product Jaden McDaniels from Federal Way High School. McDaniels has already drawn comparisons to NBA star Kevin Durant with his size and ability to be a pure scorer from the small forward position.
“I like the comparison to KD, I mean it’s Kevin Durant. Nobody would not want to be called KD. He does everything, I try to model my game after him and do everything he does. Score, play defense, and just be an all-around player,” McDaniels said when asked about being compared to Durant.
Stewart and McDaniels will be joined by breakout candidates Naz Carter and transfer point guard from Kentucky, Quade Green. They will have a mix of youth and experience that will hopefully compliment each other and have the same success as last year.
UW will face a handful of challenges to open the season starting with playing in the annual Armed Forces Classic, versus top ranked Baylor, on November 8. This will give fans a good sense of what this team will look like the rest of the year.
Another date to circle is December 8, when national powerhouse Gonzaga makes a trip to Seattle. The Huskies have not beaten Gonzaga in two decades, including a heartbreaker last year in Spokane — where UW tied the game with ten seconds left — only to lose on a buzzer beater during the next possession. This year, the Huskies will hope to return the favor, and show that they can be the best team in Washington.
“As a coach, you get a test of your competition and it just brings an incredible energy through the building. One of the things, I know how I’ve been built my whole life,” head coach Mike Hopkins said, addressing what the difference is with the team between now and a year ago. “We go out and execute, we play for something greater than ourselves. We’re a family, and we share the ball. Very simple. Hopefully that goes into our season and our culture keeps getting better.”