SEATTLE — RaeQuan Battle’s high school basketball career at Marysville Pilchuck could very well have been defined by his 3-point shooting efficacy and his rim-rocking dunks, but it wasn’t. Rather, it was a trait that transcends on-court attributes.
It’s his loyalty, something that’s kept Battle on the right path as he dedicated himself to being an elite basketball player and an ambassador for the Tulalip Indian Reservation.
It also kept him at Marysville Pilchuck for four years, even when many elite high school hoopers flock to places where the grass is greener. He eventually led the Tomahawks to a program-best fourth place at the state tournament in his senior season.
The next chapter in Battle’s career is another one of loyalty. Staying close to home at the University of Washington, a school his large and tight-knit family adores, exemplifies Battle’s modus operandi.
“We were building a team (at Marysville Pilchuck) and we had to progress to get better,” Battle said at the Huskies’ men’s basketball media day at Alaska Airlines Arena on Tuesday. “UW kind of has a history of building its team. They’ve had their struggles for awhile and they made it to March Madness last year. In high school we struggled the first couple of years and then made it to the (state) tournament my last year.
“I’m glad I stayed and it humbled me. I could have had the opportunity to go to Seattle schools or go to a couple prep schools, but you know, I stayed home. I love my community, I love the reservation and I love the Marysville community in general.”
Now, Battle adds Montlake to his list. Talking to an array of reporters in full uniform, with the school’s purple threads with “Washington” splayed across the chest, is undoubtedly a dream come true for the incoming freshman. That feeling will only be more amplified once the Huskies begin their 2019-2020 campaign on Oct. 31 with a home exhibition against Western Washington University.
Aside from his family’s connection to the Pacific Northwest and UW, Battle left some bread crumbs that he might be inclined to stay home and play for the Huskies pretty early on in his life. The first, which he was eager to point out, was his family’s first dog, which was a Siberian Husky named “Buddy” who passed away when Battle was in seventh grade.
A year later, Battle attended his first UW home game. Forever implanted in his mind was the “Dawg Pack,” the UW student section, and the environment at UW home games at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. He drew heavily from those experiences when narrowing down a college and ended his commitment fairly early, in May 2018, when he committed to UW.
That commitment has already led to a first in Battle’s life: The Huskies traveled to Italy for a four-game exhibition tour in Rome, Pistoia and Siena in August. Division-I college programs are permitted to take one such trip every four years, per NCAA guidelines.
“It was different,” Battle said. “I didn’t get my passport until about two weeks until we even left and when we first showed up, we went to an area that was kind of run down, and it gave me some perspective on how they grew up and how we grew up around here, like the gyms they play in and how different the calls are.”
And the food?
“I’m going to be honest, some of it was pretty good, some of it wasn’t,” Battle said. “But I mean we all have our different tastes.”
On the court, Battle played in all four games, averaging 5.8 points.
Battle was the first commit of the Huskies’ 11th-ranked 2019 recruiting class — according to 247 sports and headlined by five-star prospects Jaden McDaniels and Isaiah Stewart — to pledge his allegiance to the purple and gold.
“It was a great surprise to see two of the greatest players in the nation in this class come play with me,” Battle said.
As for Battle’s immediate role with the Huskies? No one knows for sure, but Battle has been lauded for his 3-point shooting abilities already.
Battle has no idea what he wants to major in, but he knows it won’t have to do with mathematics. After all, he’s already got the only equation he needs down, one that would make basketball analytics junkies swoon.
“All I know is that it’s more than two,” Battle said of 3-point shooting. “That’s why I value it a little bit more than the 2-pointer.”
It’s that skill that might get Battle on the floor right away as a freshman, especially after the Huskies graduated five of their six leading scorers from last year. Only Nahziah Carter, who didn’t start a game last year for the Huskies, returns having scored 5.0-or-more points per game last season.
With a bevy of talented newcomers, Washington head coach Mike Hopkins isn’t sure how all the pieces will fit together yet. But one thing is certain: He sure does like them.
“I think we have a lot unknowns,” Hopkins said, “but I think the energy is there, the mindset is there, the type of kid is there and we just can’t wait to get on the court so we can start learning about ourselves.”