Washington basketball’s rising sophomore sharpshooter is going to be a critical part of next year’s hopes of contending
It would seem that Washington basketball’s RaeQuan Battle and the spotlight have a complicated relationship.
As a four-star recruit at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, its presence was inevitable. Born on the Tulalip reservation, Battle was the first from the Tulalip Tribe to receive a Division I basketball scholarship. But in his first year playing for Mike Hopkins in Seattle, his impact was far from immediate. It wasn’t until necessity made him a starter that Battle’s spurts of brilliance became apparent to UW fans.
In Jaden McDaniel’s absence, Battle started for the first time against Oregon State and converted on three of five three-point attempts for 11 points – all in the first half – to go with three steals. Before that game, he had just eight points total for the season on 3-for-12 shooting.
“It hurt, hearing ‘stay ready, stay ready’ and not playing,” Battle said after the game. “But I just have to trust my coaches and trust my teammates to get me there. I trusted them, my time came. I play this game every day, so it’s just natural.”
After that night, the scouting report on Battle became much denser. It was fairly clear that he was likely the Huskies’ most consistent shooter and among the most athletic players on the floor at any given time, regardless of whether he’d start again or not. The NBA-range threes and soaring dunks continued for the rest of the year, but Battle never moved into a role beyond the second unit.
But if everything goes to plan next year, that could change. Shooting is the most pressing need that Battle addresses for next year’s Huskies team, and it’s the gist of his upside. But there’s much more that we could see coming from him next year if he’s given more freedom.
Regardless, that OSU game is an intriguing encapsulation of the primary aspects of Battle’s upside — shooting, active, athletic defense, and savvy playmaking — especially in unsettled situations and on broken plays. Catch-and-shoots from the corner are his bread and butter.
Here’s a couple from that game:
This play only happens because Battle hits the floor for a loose ball to prolong the possession. After the offense regains the ball, he immediately gets out to the wing, expecting (and consequently getting) an opportunity for a 3 in the unsettled situation.
Here, he cocks back to shoot a 3 from the same spot as before, right as an OSU defender leaps to contest it. Expecting a foul, he holds back from shooting and pump fakes. But the defender is reluctant to fully smother the shot and potentially foul, so Battle takes advantage of the space he is given, going ahead and draining it anyways on the second pump. This play gives us some evidence of his unflappability as a shooter and the quality of his mechanics to be able to recover and repeat the shooting motion smoothly in such a rapid period.
Speaking of mechanics, here are warm-up shots from Battle, Hameir Wright and Naz Carter — all of whom will be returning next year. The athleticism and shooting between the three of them could be potent if they’re efficient enough to find synergy.
Even in other instances where he doesn’t get the ball, Battle is rarely caught watching on offense. He’s always on the hunt for better spacing for a catch-and-shoot scenario — something we saw most often when Isaiah Stewart was doubled in the paint. By virtue of Stewart’s inherent ability (and reluctance to give up touches at times), the extra pass didn’t find him as often as it would in most other situations, but that will definitely change next year given the Huskies’ lack of consistent frontcourt depth.
The tape from that game also hints at areas where he can make a leap next year. After that first-half outburst, Battle went 6½ minutes without attempting a shot. But that can plausibly be attributed to an awareness of how many shots he had taken in the first half paired with the fact that the Beavers’ defense was playing him much closer beyond the arc. Teeing off on multiple treys from NBA range in the first half and converting at a 60% clip will cause that, but confidence needs to be an emphasis for next year when those shots will be his.
When Battle isn’t hitting shots immediately out the gate, he struggles with pulling the trigger again. His best performances shooting-wise were the games like OSU where he started off hot and kept rolling, but he also had seven games this past season shooting 0% from 3. All of them were on one or two shot attempts in each game, where he stopped shooting for fear of missing again.
With more reps, Battle will have to be comfortable with taking and missing good shots and trusting himself. He’ll also need to be more aggressive using his acceleration and bounce on drives to the basket, like he was in high school with the big men likely taking fewer shots and taking up the paint less often than Stewart did.
Over the rest of the season, Battle went on to score in double digits four more times — even though he only played an average of 11.3 minutes per outing. Every time he was on the floor, he was able to produce on both ends without eating up too many shots that might go to other players by nature of his extreme efficiency. During conference play, Battle actually had more win shares per 40 minutes (.114) than every other Husky except for Stewart (.177).
Battle only averaged 4.9 points per game last season, but he’s probably the most likely candidate on the team to crack double-digits next year.
At 6’5”, Battle isn’t small for a 3, but his size isn’t necessarily his most advantageous factor. But in the 2 slot, he is much more threatening, a potent driver that has to be respected from beyond the arc. He can fill the role of an off-ball shooter or an aggressive rim attacker with the ability to dish cleanly.
In transition, his decision making is top-notch as well.
Look at this Thybulle-esque swat from Wright that Battle parlays into a dunk on the other end. From the top of the 2-3 zone, he’s able to get out quickly on the fast break and finish the bucket explosively.
Next year, there’s no Stewart and no McDaniels, and Quade Green’s availability is not a certainty. The Huskies’ roster is incredibly thin as of right now, specifically in terms of big men. Battle will most likely start, and if there was any time for him to take a leap in production, it’d be when there’s a concordant leap in his minutes and responsibilities.
It’s been stated before on this website and others that next year’s UW team will be considerably more perimeter-oriented, and Battle is a crucial part of that coming to fruition. If the Huskies surprise everyone next year, it’ll be him doing a lot of the surprising.