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Hopkins Needs Young Big Man to Step Up in Rebuild

Huskies host Wyoming on Thursday night, sorely lacking points inside.

Three early glimpses of the restoration project that is the University of Washington men's basketball team have shown much better harmony from a handful of players who grew up together and seem committed to each other.

Similarly, from one 5-21 season to now, the downside for this team once more is it scares absolutely no one from 3-point range (26.4 percent).

Consequently, this means opponents will pack things in and urge these low-accuracy Huskies to shoot at will from the outer reaches, which leaves sorely challenged coach Mike Hopkins with few options to keep things moving on a positive note and him employed for future seasons to come. 

Above all, Hopkins has a McDonald's All-American in 6-foot-10, 205-pound Jackson Grant, a big man with considerable promise who needs to be ready to contribute in a meaningful way as soon as possible.

Thursday night's game against Wyoming (2-0), the toughest team on the early portion of the Husky schedule, would be a good place to start. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. and the outing will be shown on Pac-12 Networks. 

The UW's starting post player is Nate Roberts, a more physically developed 6-foot-11, 265-pound junior from Washington, D.C., who plays only 18.9 minutes per game because he's often in foul trouble and limited offensively. He's good for short-term usage.

While Roberts has significantly stepped up his rebounding, averaging 10 per game so far, he doesn't create any shots for himself. Almost none. He scores only on put-backs and loose balls. You won't win with one player on the floor incapable of putting the ball in the basket with any regularity.

This is where Grant enters the picture. 

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Hopkins can't afford to bring the former Olympia High School standout along slowly. The coach desperately needs points from someone inside and on a regular basis, or this becomes a sub-.500 team once more. He needs to regularly get shots out of this first-year player. 

Grant, lean and green, has had his nose bloodied and fired up an airball from 3-point range during his brief college basketball indoctrination. Yes, he looks a little wide-eyed at times. Yet he's already pushing Roberts for minutes with 17.3 per game, dunked a couple of times, moves well and is the kind of player in development that Gonzaga likes to trot out in primetime.

So get him ready and use him. Expect 20 minutes and 10 points from him to begin. Think of a young Jack Sikma shaking off his awkwardness with the Sonics and finding a comfort zone on the fly and not looking back.

Grant has made three appearances and he has five more before the UW faces, in order, Arizona, UCLA and Gonzaga. 

If he's not more heavily involved with this UW team by then, Hopkins' Huskies likely will flounder deep in the Pac-12 second division. Wyoming, notable for being an overly aggressive team in shooting the 3-pointer, would be a good spot to get Grant more involved. 

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