It’s foolish to draw specific conclusions about the path of the team’s season, or the prospects of individual players, based on an exhibition game against a Division II opponent. So, instead, I’m going to highlight some guys who stood out, and you can go ahead and draw conclusions at your own peril.
The 6’9″ 275-pound transfer, playing in his first game as a Husky after sitting out last year per NCAA rules, scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Feeding him the ball in the low post seemed to be a huge priority, and he made it easy for his teammates by using his size to clear space for the inlet. Once he got the ball, he collected himself and went up hard through contact to finish fundamental shots, often off the backboard. He also looked comfortable handling the ball in the high post, a key element of Romar’s offense, and despite his lack of foot speed he out-hustled Central players down the floor for easy points on the break. He also hit the vast majority of his free throws despite shooting 55% from the line during his time at the University of San Francisco. Blackwell’s height and length are a little on the small side compared to a lot of the Pac-12 fives he will face in conference play, so it will be interesting to see if he is able to get his shots up when dealing with more defensive length.
The kid pretty much played as advertised. He scored a solid 16 points from a variety of places on the floor while primarily focusing on getting looks for his teammates. His three assists were matched with three turnovers, so his running of the offense wasn’t without hiccups, but even when Central started going on a run towards the end of the first half, he kept his composure and played well.
Jarreau showed some flashes last season, and his combination of length and surprising shooting and ball-handling skill has been plain to see, but overall he was far too raw to beat out guys like Desmond Simmons and Shawn Kemp for serious minutes. A year later and Jarreau is a little bigger and the coaches seem confident that his game has taken a step forward. Romar naming him a starter in place of Kemp supports that notion. The 6’10″ forward scored 17 points, nabbed nine rebounds, and dished five assists to go along with multiple steals and blocks. That performance certainly gives Romar’s decision some credence, but Jarreau will need to play at this level against bigger, stronger Division I opponents before his starting spot and his role on this team are anywhere close to solidified.
Those were the three players that impressed me the most, but others played well. Wilcox shot 7 of 14, but missed three free throws in a row at one point. Mike Anderson looked every bit the glue guy he’s been described as, playing tough defense and getting boards. He also knocked down a nice three late in the contest. Gilles Dierickx surprised with the quality of his play, but didn’t contribute in the same volume as Jarreau or Blackwell. Labeled a finesse player, he looked plenty physical to me blocking out his man and blocking shots. He also tossed a few nice assists early on.
Freshmen Darin Johnson and Jahmel Taylor both played, but both looked a little tentative, which is fully understandable. Hikeem Stewart defended with intensity in limited minutes. Shawn Kemp didn’t find much of a rhythm in his limited minutes, but his play wasn’t necessarily bad.
It was announced after the game that Desmond Simmons will have knee surgery and return sometime around mid-December.