As a sports fan, there may be no better time of year than the fall. The MLB playoff race is in full force, football is on at least four days a week, the NHL season has just begun, and my favorite season – basketball – is just around the corner.
With the Washington Huskies football team back in the national spotlight, the men’s basketball team hasn’t received much attention since starting camp last week. After losing three starters from last year’s team, the 2013-14 Huskies will look to a large group of newcomers to help make up for loss production. The Huskies haven’t made the NCAA tournament in two seasons, and this new group of players, along with a mixture of veterans, will look to end the snide in 2014. You can say the Huskies are quite a mystery this season, no one knows what we will get out of this team. While many of the players on the team are experienced, not many have been asked to play key contributing role, so the Huskies will be the mystery of the already unproven Pac-12.
UW will look to replace center Aziz N’Diaye with a pair of transfers, Giles Dierickx and Perris Blackwell. Both sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, and both have a chance to take a hold of the starting center spot left by N’Diaye. Dierickx moved to the United States as a high school junior and played one season at Florida International under NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. Appearing in 29 games as a true freshman, he averaged 2.6 points and 2.2 rebounds a game. The seven-footer’s stats were not impressive, but obviously Lorenzo Romar sees a lot of upside in Dierickx and knows he can at least be a force at the defensive end. The Huskies will continue to run their high post offense so Dierickx could be asked to do a lot offensively, as well as be an enforcer on the defensive end.
Joining Dierickx in the frontcourt will be 6’9 senior Perris Blackwell, a transfer from the University of San Francisco. Blackwell earned WCC all conference honorable mention as a junior as USF, averaging 10.2 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. He fits the traditional power forward mold, but could easily find himself starting next to Shawn Kemp Jr. in Romar’s offense. Between Blackwell and Dierickx, along with the rest of the returning big men, the Huskies should find no struggle in post scoring and defensive prowess in 2013-14.
One of the biggest questions heading into this season is who will be able to score on the wing alongside C.J. Wilcox. UW has added two newcomers who could find themselves thrown into the spotlight right away. Freshman Darin Johnson from Sacramento, Calif., is no stranger to scoring and may find himself thrown into the spotlight early on in his UW career. Johnson is 6’5 and could easily play either the two or three spot for the Huskies. Johnson led his high school team to Northern California championship as senior, losing to Aaron Gordon’s team in the championship, but put up games of 24 and 42 points along the way. Johnson was ranked as the 85th overall player in his class by scout and the 25th ranked shooting guard by ESPN. He is a slashing wing with explosive athleticism and can shoot from long range. Romar has already compared Johnson’s game to Terrence Ross, so Husky fans could be in for a treat.
Joining Johnson on the wing will be 6’4 junior Mike Anderson. Anderson transferred to the UW after playing his last season at Moberly Area Community College in Missouri. Last season at Moberly, Anderson averaged 17.2 points and 10 rebounds a game while shooting 52 percent from the field, 41 percent from three, and 83 percent from the free throw line. Anderson was named NJCAA All-Region first team last year at Moberly. Romar has described as a multi-dimensional guard who is long and does a lot of things well. Due to his experience and versatility, I like Anderson to take over the starting spot alongside Wilcox to begin the season.
The Huskies were also able to add quality players at the guard position. The biggest name of the class, Nigel Williams-Goss, could easily find the ball in his hands to begin the season. A McDonald’s All-American from Findlay Prep, Williams-Goss is no stranger to controlling teams and running the show. Fans are disappointed that are last highly rated point guard, Abdul Gaddy, never turned into a star, but I am confident Williams-Goss will not fall down the same path. Williams-Goss finished as the 19th overall recruit according to ESPN, was a three year starter at Findley Prep and already has an impressive resume.
Joining Williams-Goss is fellow freshman Jahmel Taylor. Taylor averaged 22 points, six rebounds, and five assists as a senior at Pacific Hills High School in Los Angeles. He was his high school divisions player of the year and his team to a division championship. Besides being a proven winner, Taylor is a hard-nosed guard who can impact the game in ways that might not be seen on the stat sheet. Taylor may have some trouble earning minutes but his toughness and grit could help him see the court early on.
The Huskies have plenty of newcomers and mysteries heading into the 2013-14 season but will hope to break their two year tournament snide. I am a beliver that the Huskies will take big steps forward this year and return to where they belong, contending for Pac-12 titles and playing in the NCAA tourney.