- Next up in our freshman intro series is Jaden McDaniels, who will play a key role in replacing the vast production the Huskies lost from last year's NCAA tournament team.
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.
With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. Next up is the No. 7 overall recruit, Washington's Jaden McDaniels. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What He Means for Washington’s Recruiting Class
Washington native Jaden McDaniels was the final face to join Mike Hopkins’s incoming crew, picked the Huskies over Kentucky in May after a recruitment shrouded in public mystery. The top-ranked power forward in the class of 2019, McDaniels joins fellow five-star big man Isaiah Stewart (No. 2). Stewart, a center, publicly said he wanted to convince McDaniels to choose his home-state Huskies when he committed in January and eventually succeeded, although it may have taken a little longer than Washington wanted. The late spring pickup made Washington the nation's only school to land two top-10 recruits in 2019. Four-star shooting guard RaeQuan Battle (No. 78) and three-star point guard Marcus Tsohonis (No. 315) join the formidable freshman frontcourt duo in the four-man class. Washington also landed Kentucky transfer Quade Green and USC’s J’Raan Brooks, but the former won’t be eligible until midway through the season and the latter has to sit the entirety of 2019–20.
How He Fits
Washington will look pretty different from last year’s NCAA tournament team without four of Hopkins’s starters from last season—leading scorer Jaylen Nowell (and Pac-12 Player of the Year) left early for the draft and the team's defensive anchor, Mattise Thybulle, plus forward Noah Dickerson and point guard David Crisp, all graduated. Reserve big man Dominic Green is also out of eligibility. This year’s Huskies will be considerably less experienced, but adding Stewart, McDaniels and Green helps replenish the lost star power on both ends of the floor. Battle and Tsohonis can help in the backcourt until Green is eligible—the former five-star recruit will likely slot in right as conference contests begin—while McDaniels and Stewart should form a scary tandem up front. Stewart can immediately step into Dickerson’s vacated center spot and help to anchor Hopkins’s Syracuse-inspired 2–3 zone while McDaniels will slide in alongside him. Returning big men Nahziah Carter and Hamier Wright (a starter from last season) will both still be around for their junior seasons to help fill out the rotation, as is Washington’s 2018 recruiting class headliner, Jamal Bey.
McDaniels should see starters minutes from the jump and he brings a big upside to Seattle. At 6'9", the Federal Way, Wash. native moves the ball like a wing. He handles the ball especially well for a big man, has a natural scoring touch and is an underrated passer. His physical stature is similar to Kevin Durant and his wiry 200-pound frame certainly needs some filling out, but McDaniels still plays with a good level of toughness despite his size. When his jump shot and floaters from midrange are falling, he can create real matchup issues for defenses. He’s continually improving as a perimeter shooter, which makes him even more versatile.
An athletic forward with a unique skillset, the McDonald’s All-American can score both in the paint and off the jumper. He’s comfortable attacking the glass but needs to gain strength to really be able to impose his will in the paint. He also needs to add a greater level of consistency on offense to maximize his impact, but his defensive instincts are undeniable—from rebounding ability to a nature feel for putting the right pressure on opponents—which fits well at Washington. He’s got physical gifts, a developing skill package and plenty of potential for Hopkins to harness. McDaniels and Stewart give the Huskies an extremely talented frontcourt that should, with Wright likely landing the last starting slot, be able to stack up with anyone in the Pac-12.
Importance to Washington's Success/Team Outlook
Washington needs all of its incoming talent to step up if it wants to swing another conference title or seriously contend in the NCAA tournament and that starts with its two top-10 freshmen up front. The departure of so many starters—and scorers—leaves a large load for Washington’s underclassmen to carry this season, but the incoming class should fill most of Washington’s voids well. Hopkins has to find his new starting five—especially while Quade Green waits to become eligible until the end of the fall semester–and has to replace a ton of production. McDaniels brings size, scoring potential and plenty of upside to the crew, especially when considered the damage he can do when paired with Stewart in the paint. Despite the decent amount of transition, expectations remain fairly high for the Huskies, who should be in play for an NCAA tournament bid and stay in the middle of the Pac-12 mix. A conference crown, however, and remaining in the top-25 (Washington was 20th in SI.com's summer Top 25) amid the anticipated adjustments and backcourt uncertainty could be tough, especially early on.