SEATTLE — Mike Hopkins likes what he’s seen from his freshmen through 10 games. That said, the first-year Washington coach still wants to see more.
UW has found a leading scorer in Jaylen Nowell who can come through in late-game situations. Forwards Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright are gradually coming along. As for Michael Carter III, the Huskies are waiting for him to recover from a fractured hand.
Hopkins sat down with The News Tribune and shared his thoughts on the Huskies’ newcomers.
The former Seattle Garfield High star has done quite a bit in a short amount of time.
He’s given UW an established scorer, who can take over a game at any point. Nowell’s introduced himself by scoring 32 points in a 86-82 win over Belmont to open the season.
The 6-foot-4 shooting guard scored 25 in the second half and set the school record for most points in a debut by a freshman.
Nowell has shown a penchant for coming through in late-game situations. After his performance against Belmont, he responded by lifting UW late in an 89-94 win in late November.
“I think Jaylen is special,” Hopkins said. “There’s very few guys who’ve impacted, the way that he’s impacted in the country. I don’t know if there’s any other freshmen that are impacting the program as much as him.”
Nowell’s early returns have made him a noticeable figure in what was already a star-studded national freshman class filled with potential first-round draft picks.
His 17.1 points are ninth among all first-year NCAA players. Nowell’s 12.7 field goal attempts are the 12th most in his class. He’s also 27th in minutes at 31.7.
“He’s playing the back of the zone. He’s got that competitive fire and he’s gotta rebound a little bit better as we move forward,” Hopkins said. “I think he has the ability to make plays for others. He’s a born scorer but I think his ability to create can really help as we go forward.”
At 6-6 and 205 pounds, Carter gives the Huskies depth and a bit of size on the wing.
He’s averaging a little more than 15 minutes and his role has varied depending upon the game. Carter played a total of 30 minutes in UW’s first three games but received more time in a 103-79 loss to Virginia Tech on Nov. 17.
The Rochester, N.Y., native scored a career-high 12 points in 21 minutes against the Hokies.
“I think Naz is a guy who makes energy plays early,” Hopkins said. “I think his talent is just off the charts. I think he’s really gotten good defensively and on the offensive glass.”
Carter is averaging less than 20 minutes over the last four games as UW begins to figure out its bench before Pac-12 play starts.
He was one of two players to get more than 10 minutes against Nebraska-Omaha. Carter had the second-most minutes off the bench against Kansas with 13.
“He’s got an improved jump shot now. I think it’s a matter of when to shoot and when not to shoot,” Hopkins said. “In high school, every shot is a good shot but in college, that’s part of the growth. I think when he learns that … his future is off the charts.”
Wright’s 6-9 and 215-pound frame gives the Huskies much-needed size. He’s a stretch forward who gives UW a lot of options.
If Hopkins wants to go small, he can put Wright at power forward and shift Noah Dickerson to center. Or if the Huskies need length, Wright brings that too.
“I thought early in the year, to me, he looked nervous,” Hopkins said. “He didn’t feel comfortable and I sensed that. It’s the transformation and he got his opportunity against Kennesaw State.”
Wright scored a career-best 12 points and hit all 3 of his 3-pointers in 19 minutes in the win over Kennesaw State.
Since then, he’s averaging 23 minutes over his last three games and is becoming the first option off the bench. In the last four games, he’s averaging 7.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.
“It was like you saw a different guy. You saw what he could be,” Hopkins said. “I think he’s a difference maker as we move forward. He gives us that size on the front line with the ability to shoot it.”
MICHAEL CARTER III
Carter’s season has been on hold since fracturing left hand in November. He only logged 23 minutes but was starting to get a stronger feel for Hopkins’ expectations.
Hopkins said Carter can set the table and give the Huskies another facilitator. Plus, Carter can hit a number of shots all over the floor.
The 6-4 guard’s hand should be healed in the next two weeks. Hopkins said UW won’t rush Carter’s return until he’s fully ready.
“I think the greatest thing for him was being able to relieve the pressure and watch practice like a coach,” Hopkins said. “Sit next to the coaches and learn what we want in a game. He’s been doing a great job working and running.”