After a hot start, Washington basketball has lost two in-state prospects to blue blood schools, can Mike Hopkins and staff recover?
2021 was a huge opportunity for Washington basketball’s staff to lock down a generational in-state class, and potentially have a shot at a deep run in March Madness. Just like football’s 2021 class, the staff secured a big-time in-state prospect in four-star Jackson Grant to start the class off. Now, in the past week, five-star Paolo Banchero committed to Duke, and four-star Nolan Hickman committed to Kentucky.
While Hickman’s commitment might not be the biggest surprise, after transferring from Eastside Catholic (Wash.) to Wasatch Academy (Utah), losing Banchero really hurts. Arguably the best high school basketball player in the history of the state of Washington, and third-ranked player in the country, Banchero is also a Husky legacy. His father, Mario, played football on Montlake, and his mother, Rhonda, is a Husky Hall of Famer who was at one time the women’s basketball team’s all-time leading scorer.
The focus of this class is now Shane Nowell. While he should be considered a layup, thanks to his brother Jaylen starring with the Huskies for two years, we can never be too sure. Both Shane and Jaylen are very similar players, and Shane could end up being a key piece for the Dawgs on the perimeter and in the mid-range game.
While this probably won’t end up being the elite class that Hopkins and staff imagined at the very beginning, nothing is ever over until the prospects sign. The chances don’t seem high of flipping either Hickman or Banchero at this point, but the world of recruiting is always changing, and anything can happen.
Keep in mind that no matter what, the staff is leaving one spot open for five-star defensive end J.T. Tuimoloau. The undersized power-forward is a legitimate D1 basketball prospect, and could probably play a role on the basketball team similar to Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. Hopkins understands the importance of securing the five-star football player, and has done his part by extending him a basketball offer.
Only time will tell what’s next for the class, but after not bringing in any new recruits (excluding transfers) during the 2020 recruiting cycle, it’s important that the staff make a splash on the court and in the recruiting world.