Does Washington Basketball Coach Hopkins have an encore?

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images /
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images /

The Washington Basketball team displayed surprising success during Coach Hopkins’ debut. Now facing higher expectations, can he deliver an equally surprising encore?

Washington Basketball head coach Mike Hopkins certainly makes a good first impression, doesn’t he? Upon the news of his hiring, the Washington Huskies basketball team’s projected roster dwindled in numbers. That’s not the surprising part, as virtually any coaching hire in NCAA basketball will find player commitments retracted.

The first sign of something special happening appeared when Husky forward Noah Dickerson remained with the program. From that point, Hopkins reassembled a roster on the fly in time to compete in the Pac-12. The most optimistic projections? .500, and even that seemed rather lofty.

All the while, Hopkins focused Washington Basketball players on team.  A curiously effective by simple exercise of binding players together to work and play as one. The result? The Huskies advanced to round two of the NIT, with a 10-8 conference record and a 21-13 overall record. After that surprising success, fans paused to wonder if former commitments may have scrambled prematurely.

Now the stage is set for a new season. With a new wave of incoming players, including long sought center Bryan Penn Johnson. The team is taller, and a majority of the roster is returning to a familiar scheme. Is that enough?

Ultimate, the real success is already underway.  Coach Hopkins is not just rhetoric, or stage presence. His vision, unifying coaches, players and fans into one “team” is very real. Consider the latest, an act of unexpected kindness and inclusion. Coach Hopkins converted his Pac-12 Coach of the Year Bonus into a way of saying thank you to the fans.

So the encore is already happening. At a time when polarization and exclusion appears to be vogue, Coach Hopkins offers unity and inclusion. That’s a nice trend.

Room to grow

On the basketball court, there is still upside. the 2017-2018 season was an incredible success. But despite 21 wins, and 10 wins in the conference, there is still work to do. The Huskies remained winless against Utah, Stanford, Oregon, and Oregon State despite facing them twice.  In all cases, the Huskies struggled to find the range at the perimeter, and were simply outnumbered in the paint.

This season, the Washington Basketball team will boast the addition of 6-foot-11.5 forward Nate Roberts and 7-foot-0 center Bryan Penn Johnson. Adding both to the roster with 6-foot-11 Sam Timmins and 6-foot-8 forward Noah Dickerson adds significant presence to the teams post game. Now, the team can compete with Pac-12 teams with strong front courts.

Next: Grading the 2017-18 Washington Basketball team

Should the team manage to split games with four team, their Pac-12 record projects to land at 13-5. Even that change launches the team to second place in the Pac-12 conference. From there, the team and fans could hold hopes high for an NCAA tournament invitation.

Is an NCAA appearance likely? Perhaps not. But the team has plenty of reasons to believe that an invitation is now within reach. After all, this is not a team pulled by one lead player. This is a group of players who each contribute to the eventual outcome. That is the most important lesson Coach Hopkins has instilled into his players. Each individual can make a positive impact to the outcome. Stay tuned this basketball season.  Washington may have a say in the National Championship.