Class Evaluation: Hopkins's Recruiting Efforts Pay Off for Washington in 2019

Washington's No. 10 recruiting class is highlighted by a pair of five-star big men, both of whom will face high expectations and plenty of responsibility early.
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In continuing our annual summer theme of getting you acquainted with the next crop of young, skilled players that will arrive to college basketball, we're taking a closer look at the Top 10 incoming recruiting classes (per the 247Sports composite) in the country. These schools range from the usual faces (Duke, Kentucky) to fresh ones (Memphis, Washington, Georgia), but they all have one big thing in common: there's plenty of major talent arriving. Five-stars get the headline, but a truly great recruiting class often has depth as well—players who can be program-changers over three or four years, not just one or two. Without further ado, let's kick things off with the No. 10 class: the Washington Huskies.

The Breakdown

Five-Stars: Isaiah Stewart (No. 3), Jaden McDaniels (No. 8)

Four-Stars: RaeQuan Battle (No. 77)

Three-Stars: Marcus Tsohonis (No. 311)

Other New Additions: Point guard Quade Green (from Kentucky) and power forward J’Raan Brooks (from USC).

How the Class Was Built

Fall 2018: Three-star guard Marcus Tsohonis was the first commit in the Huskies 2019 class, signing his letter of intent in September over offers from Arizona State, USC and Washington State. Washington-native RaeQuan Battle, a shooting guard, joined Tsohonis in November, becoming the first four-star player to choose the Huskies in the class.

Winter 2018-19: Five-star center Isaiah Stewart made a big splash when he joined the class in January, becoming the highest-profile recruit in Mike Hopkins’s tenure. Stewart publicly said he wanted to help convince Jaden McDaniels to come to Washington as well.

Spring 2019: Hopkins finally got his commitment from McDaniels after a recruitment shrouded in public mystery ended in May, and the late spring pickup made Washington the nation's only school to land two top-10 recruits in 2019. The in-state McDaniels chose the Huskies over Kentucky and also considered San Diego State (where his brother Jalen played) and Texas. McDaniels, the top-ranked power forward in the class, was the last Washington commit of the crew.

How It Stacks Up to 2018 and Recent History

Washington hadn’t had a five-star recruit since future No. 1 NBA draft pick Markelle Fultz spent his one-and-done season in Seattle in 2016-17. Getting a pair of them in Stewart and McDaniels, a home-grown five-star forward, was huge for Hopkins’s recruiting efforts. The head coach landed a top-10 class in just his second season at the helm thanks to their commitments.

Since 2010, the Huskies have had eight top-50 classes, but 2019 marks just their second top-10 class in the same span—the only other came in 2015 when Dejounte Murray, Marquese Chriss, Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson and Malik Dime headlined a No. 7-ranked, eight-commit class that would shape the Huskies' next four years. Not even the 2016 class headlined by Fultz cracked the top ranks. This year’s four-man crew might not have made the cut had Stewart and McDaniels’s signings not come in 2019, but, once they did, they jumped way ahead of 2018’s No. 41 ranked five-man class. With just one four-star in last year's crew, four three-stars rounded out the rest of the recruits. No other transfer additions came to Seattle either, bringing fewer players with high-level potential to the team than 2019 promises.

Class Expectations

One of three Pac-12 teams among the top 10, Washington’s incoming freshmen have will have some tough competition in their class in the conference. While the two headliners of this year’s youngsters are expected to be one-and-done additions to the team, both Battle and Tsohonis should be around for the entirety of their eligibility, or close to it, providing good building blocks for the program. The backcourt duo could become exactly the type of glue guy guards Hopkins needs to continue to improve in seasons to come. Landing two five-star talents is indicative of a general upward trajectory and puts the Huskies in position to angle toward the top of the Pac-12 again in the fall.

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. Four of Hopkins’s starters from last season are gone—leading scorer Jaylen Nowell left early for the draft and the team's defensive anchor, Thybulle, plus forward Noah Dickerson and guard David Crisp all graduated. The incoming class should slot into several of these voids from the start. Battle and Tsohonis can help in the backcourt while McDaniels and Stewart should form a scary tandem up front. Immediate impact is especially expected from the two five-star big men, but all four will likely see the floor in Year 1 as Hopkins finds his new starting five—especially while Quade Green waits to become eligible until the end of the fall semester.

Mike Hopkins has a lot of production to replace if the Huskies are to defend their Pac-12 regular-season title.

Mike Hopkins has a lot of production to replace if the Huskies are to defend their Pac-12 regular-season title.

Team Expectations for 2019–20

Washington will look pretty different from last year’s NCAA tournament team, and will be considerably less experienced, but adding Stewart, McDaniels and Green helps replenish the lost star power. Things will be tricky for the Huskies during their non-conference slate until Green is eligible, and even then some growing pains could come as the former five-star recruit likely slots in right as conference contests begin. The departure of so many starters—and scorers—leaves a large load for Washington’s underclassmen to carry this season, not to mention pressure. Stewart can immediately slide into Noah Dickerson’s vacated center spot and help to anchor Hopkins’s 2–3 zone and McDaniels, who handles the ball exceptionally well for a 6’10” forward, can score both in the paint and off the jumper. Having Stewart on the boards as a potential highly-productive big should add a valuable dimension, but there is still a ton of production to be replaced. If McDaniels taps into his considerable potential, he should be able to help on the scoring front.

Despite the transition, expectations remain fairly high for the Huskies, who should be in play for an NCAA tournament bid and in the middle of the Pac-12 mix. A conference crown, however, and remaining in the top-25 (Washington was 20th in's summer Top 25) amid the anticipated adjustments and backcourt uncertainty could be tough.

The Future

Without any 2020 commits on board yet, the success of this year’s top recruits could sway the remaining five undecided five-star prospects Washington has offered. Combo guard Cade Cunningham (No. 2 in 247Sports’ rankings), who recently put UW in his top five, and true point Daishen Nix (No. 15) are some of the Huskies’ most sought-after prospects for next cycle, with four-star shooting guard Noah Taitz also remaining prominently on Washington’s radar. Continuing to land top prospects, particularly in the backcourt, would help the Huskies tremendously as Hopkins needs good floor generals to facilitate his fast-paced offense.