Washington’s recruitment of New Zealand prospect Sam Timmins began around late February and developed quickly and quietly. A 6-foot-10, 250-pound center, Timmins was not on the radar of any popular recruiting websites, and his name was apparently not familiar in the United States to even the most avid college basketball followers.
So it was with a certain amount of surprise that the Huskies announced Wednesday morning that Timmins, a native of New Zealand’s South Island, had signed a national letter of intent to play for UW beginning in the 2016-17 season.
And it seems UW coach Lorenzo Romar believes the Huskies just signed a significant piece of their future.
In a news release from the school, Romar lauded Timmins as “a rare find. He is a true center who can score on the block and is extremely skilled. Sam will also bring additional physical toughness to our team. We can’t wait for him to get to Seattle.”
In a telephone interview with The News Tribune, Romar expanded on those comments, calling Timmins “a really good passer. He can score it on the block. He’s not extremely athletic, but yet he’s a good shot blocker because he has long arms. He’s a back to the basket (player) but he can also step out and make the midrange jumper. He’s a good rebounder, as well.”
High-schoolers in New Zealand graduate in November, meaning Timmins, age 17, won’t be able to enroll at UW in time for the 2015-16 season. He could enroll as early as January — and even if he does, Romar said, the possibility of Timmins playing this season is “totally out of the question” — though his current plan is to stay in New Zealand after graduation to compete for the national team. That puts him on track to enter UW as a true freshman for the 2016-17 season.
Details of Timmins’ basketball exploits in New Zealand are somewhat scarce, aside from those provided in UW’s news release. He is a member of the Canterbury Rams in the New Zealand National Basketball League (it’s a professional league, but he plays as an amateur), which he joined at age 15 as the youngest player in league history.
Timmins will also play high-school basketball this upcoming season at Middleton Grange. According to UW, he is trying to become the second player to win national championships with two high schools in New Zealand history. While playing at Otago Boys High School, Timmins won a Nationals Schools Championship and was named tournament MVP.
Romar was pointed toward Timmins by Canterbury Rams coach Mark Dickel, the former UNLV guard, whom Romar met through a mutual acquaintance. After watching game film — “not highlights, but actual game film,” Romar said, from Timmins’ time with the Rams and New Zealand’s under-19 national team — he told Timmins he was interested in bringing him to Washington.
A New Zealand news report indicated that Timmins also received interest from UCLA, California and Pittsburgh, but Timmins and his family apparently didn’t need much time to settle on Washington.
Timmins comes from an athletic background; his father, Brendon, played rugby in New Zealand for 10 years, and his grandmother, Sandra McGookin, is a six-time New Zealand javelin champion.
“They did their due diligence, did their homework, did their research, entertained other situations,” Romar said, “but they acted quickly and felt like this is the best situation for Sam.”
Romar hasn’t visited New Zealand — he was going to, he said, but Timmins made his decision so quickly that the trip wasn’t necessary — and Timmins hasn’t visited UW, though Romar said he’ll likely visit some time before he enrolls.
“Although I received offers from a number of high profile programs, the key influence on my decision to sign with the Huskies was the character and reputation of coach Romar,” Timmins said in a statement released by UW. “I was excited by his plans for the program, how he saw me fitting into those plans and his commitment to helping me to reach my potential as a player.
“My final decision then become a no-brainer when you throw in what a great academic school Washington is, the beauty of Seattle and the state of Washington, which has similarities to the South Island of New Zealand, and my dream of playing in the Pac-12 Conference.”
Timmins’ signing is the latest in a recent string of defections and additions to UW’s program, even if he won’t be here in 2015-16. On Monday, it became official that 6-foot-10 forward Jernard Jarreau will transfer elsewhere to play his fifth-year senior season. Earlier the same day, UW officially added Dominic Green, a 6-foot-6 freshman wing from Hazen High School. A week prior, Auburn transfer Matthew Atewe signed paperwork to join the Huskies. And on April 10, the school announced that leading scorer Nigel Williams-Goss, reserve guard Darin Johnson and reserve center Gilles Dierickx would transfer from the program.
As currently constructed, Washington’s 2015-16 roster includes 11 scholarship players, 10 of whom are eligible to play this season — three returners (Andrew Andrews, Quevyn Winters, Donaven Dorsey), six incoming freshmen (Green, Dejounte Murray, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, Marquese Chriss, Devenir Duruisseau), a junior-college transfer (Malik Dime) and a Division-1 transfer (Atewe, who will join the program but must sit out the upcoming season).
The Huskies have also received a non-binding oral commitment from 2016 point-guard prospect JaQuori McLaughlin, a four-star recruit (per Scout.com) from Peninsula High School. McLaughlin, along with any other players the Huskies might sign in the 2016 class, must wait until November to sign a letter of intent.