Team Grades Are In: Huskies Fail Chemistry
In his first two seasons as a head coach, Mike Hopkins took a bunch of underdogs at Washington, who were just like him, did productive things and was twice named Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
He next successfully recruited a pair of 5-star high school players who were considered potential NBA lottery picks, plus coaxed a Kentucky transfer to come join him in Seattle, and he was widely hailed as a basketball genius.
Fast forward to 20 games into season three, and it seems as if Hopkins is a clueless leader. After Thursday night's totally inept 67-66 loss to Utah, more fans are calling for him to be fired.
So what happened?
Hopkins hasn't been able to mold the elite talent with his holdovers. Even when the now academically ineligible Quade Green was on the floor, the Huskies (12-8 overall, 2-5 Pac-12) were never a cohesive unit. This team doesn't have any chemistry, then or now.
Need proof? This group currently sits in last place in the conference standings, tied with Oregon State.
There's a decided trick to bringing a bunch of all-star players together in a successful manner that the Mike Krzyzewskis, John Caliparis and Jim Boeheims have learned over time. Hopkins hasn't figured this out yet.
He's gone 1-for-3 with his imported, widely acclaimed players.
Isaiah Stewart has been a total godsend with his basketball gifts, maturity and exemplary citizenship. Hey, he pulled a 3.85 grade average in his first college quarter. He's an absolute boy scout. But this wunderkind freshman stands to be totally wasted in his one year at Washington as his lesser skilled teammates fail to realize what they have and utilize him. He should go to the NBA right away--where he'll at least get paid when others don't get him the ball.
Jaden McDaniels is a wild stallion out of control. He's cost the Huskies a bunch of games with his juvenile behavior on the floor, including the Utah game. He's piled up four needless technical fouls--twice hitting guys in the head, once shoving a player and once tossing a ball at a ref. Stupid stuff. Enough of this classless behavior. The freshman forward has incomparable skills that he doesn't know how to use yet. Hopkins should come down hard on McDaniels, but publicly he only defends him.
Green was supposed to be the glue, the guy to lead everyone to the basketball promised land, the player who everyone would follow. The sophomore playmaker let his team down in a big way, by failing to go to class or whatever he didn't do scholastically. He cost the Huskies a bunch of games. He should apologize to his teammates, and the fans, for that matter.
Going further down the lineup, Naz Carter led the team in scoring in two of the first three games, but he hasn't done it since. While the junior forward might be more of a role player, he may have had his feelings hurt by not having the team evolve around him. Either way, he needed to step up and instead he regressed.
Hameir Wright should be coming off the bench. He's a good soldier, but the junior has limited skills. He's probably pressed way too much trying to do things he can't do.
As for Hopkins, his coaching style has been all over the map this season. He put together a team in Italy last summer and didn't think for a minute of the consequences of pushing everyone aside later to make a big deal of Green the newcomer gaining his transfer eligibility earlier than expected. He could have made it competitive, at least for show.
Hopkins offers no consistent approach to using the younger players he needs to build around either, especially when Stewart and McDaniels are long gone to the pros next year.
Marcus Tsohonis supposedly solved the Green issue with his sterling play against Oregon, according to his coach, yet the freshman guard didn't start or stay on the floor for long stretches against the Utes. He was good when he was in.
Redshirt freshman forward Nate Roberts was hailed as the rebounder the team sorely needed by Hopkins, but his minutes have dried up again. He didn't even play against Utah.
Then there's Bryan Penn-Johnson. Hopkins enthusiastically calls the 7-footer someone who's going to be a great player some day. BPJ, as they refer to him, barely has seen the floor in two seasons. Hopkins needs to throw him a bone soon and keep him interested or watch him transfer out.
This is not a good 3-point shooting team at all, but the Huskies should be able to work around that by using their good big men more. Or they could let freshman RaeQuan Battle play to the point he feels comfortable shooting from around the perimeter.
Everybody presses these UW players in the backcourt now because Hopkins doesn't put enough ball handlers on the floor to combat it. Tsohonis, anyone?
This team, with all of its shiny new parts, was overrated from the beginning, with one local observer calling it the greatest Huskies team ever. Even Hopkins joined in the hyperbole, offering gushing reviews about different players and the group in general.
As for chemistry, teams either have it or they don't. These Huskies don't. And there's not much Hopkins, who spoke about cohesion in this early season video, can do about that.