Hawes' Decision's Impact Felt Beyond Seattle

When he said "No thanks" to North Carolina and Stanford and "I'm coming" to Washington, Spencer Hawes opened the door for his having some significant impact on the 2006-07 Huskies. And that's putting it mildly. He's good enough to help propel the program on a Final Four run as a freshman.

He's not due to make his debut in a University of Washington uniform for more than 13 months.

 

And, in reality, he'll probably spend just a season as a Husky before opting to enter the 2007 NBA draft.

 

But there's no denying the impact that Spencer Hawes' college decision will have not only on Lorenzo Romar's Washington program and the Pacific 10 Conference but all of college basketball as well.

 

The 6-foot-11 senior at Seattle Prep confirmed Tuesday that he plans to sign a letter of intent with the Huskies during the NCAA's Nov. 9-16 early signing period, turning down runner-ups North Carolina and Stanford in the process.

 

Along with Greg Oden, the 7-footer at Lawrence North High in Indianapolis who announced for Ohio State in late June, Hawes is one of the two players from the national high school Class of 2006 who will immediately be dominating forces in college.

 

And he could have been the second player chosen in the 2006 NBA draft, had the league not revamped his draft eligibility rules last June and had he and Oden been so inclined to bypass college.

 

The impact he'll have on the 2006-07 Huskies will be immense and will be touched upon in a moment.

 

But consider what his presence would have done for the Tar Heels or the Cardinal:

 

At North Carolina, he would have combined with Tywon Lawson (the point guard from Oak Hill Academy who is a tight buddy of Hawes' and who was a prime reason why the Tar Heels were considered by some insiders to be the favorites to land Hawes until last weekend), Wayne Ellington, William Graves and anyone else Roy Williams and his staff might land to form the best freshman class in the country. Yes, even better than the expected Oden-led group at Ohio State.

 

At Stanford, he would joined Brook and Robin Lopez, the 7-foot twins at San Joaquin High in Fresno, Calif., to make up an all-freshman frontcourt for Coach Trent Johnson that would have been every bit as dominant as Michigan's trio of Chris Weber, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson was in helping the Wolverines advance to the 1992 NCAA title game against Duke.

 

His impact at Washington?

 

Well, as long as he's in a Husky uniform – and here's saying that will be for just one season – the team will be a solid threat to not only win the Pac 10 title but also to get to the Final Four.

 

He's that good.

 

Offensively, his variety of skills – posting up, driving, shooting, handling and passing – surpasses those of any big man who isn't already in the NBA. And his abilities as a rebounder and shot blocker, though not at the level of Oden, are vastly underappreciated by many.

 

And, as will be the case with Oden (who will be joined in the OSU class of newcomers by at least two other McDonald's All-Americas in Mike Conley and Daequan Cook), there is going to be plenty of talent surrounding Hawes.

 

Romar already had commitments from the best long-range shooter in the West (and maybe nationally, too) in 6-8 Phil Nelson (McNary High in McNary High in Keizer, Ore.), one of the most athletic wings anywhere in 6-7 Quincy Pondexter (San Joaquin Memorial in Fresno) and one of the two best point guard prospects in the California senior class in 6-3 Adrian Oliver (Modesto Christian).

 

And the Huskies already have the best freshman in the Pac 10 in 6-7 Jon Brockman, a power forward from Snohomish, Wash., and former Friends of Hoop teammate of Hawes.

 

He and Hawes will combine to make up the best set of post players in the conference and as good as any set in the country . . . well, for one season, at least.

 

BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY:

*According to reports in the Indianapolis Star, Oden and Conley may hold off signing letters of intent with Ohio State in November while waiting to see how hard the NCAA hits the Buckeyes for alleged violations during the Jim O'Brien era.

 

But both are expected to ultimately enroll in Columbus next fall.

 

Frankly, I often wonder why players – at least the elite ones – sign letters of intent, which bind them to the school, even if the coach they sign with is elsewhere when it comes time for them to enroll – instead of just scholarship agreements.

 

The national letter of intent should include stipulations that the player is freed from the agreement if, a) the coach at the time they signed with the school leaves that institution before the player enrolls, and, b) the institution is placed on probation and banned from post-season play for at least the first season that the player is due to enroll.

 

*North Carolina still has plenty of options for potential post recruits despite the loss of Hawes. Alex Stepheson (North Hollywood, Calif., Harvard-Westlake), Brandan Wright (Brentwood, Tenn., Academy), Deon Thompson (Torrance, Calif.), Darrell Arthur (Dallas South Oak Cliff) and Duke Crews (Hampton, Va., Bethel) are each considering the Tar Heels. Wright and Crews are scheduled to visit Chapel Hill the Oct. 14-16 weekend and I'd guess that Roy Williams & Co. wouldn't complain if both were to commit.

 

But Duke (the favorite?), Kentucky and Vanderbilt are still in the hunt for Wright, the third best post prospect in the Class of 2006 (following Oden and Hawes), with Georgetown, Xavier, Wake Forest and Tennessee also options of Crews, who is as relentless a rebounder as there is on the high school level.

 

*Even if they don't sign any more players in November than the ones that have already committed to them, Big East Conference members Connecticut and Louisville have already landed Top 10-caliber classes.

 

The Huskies have four seniors on their roster who are key contributors and are expected to lose three underclassmen (Rudy Gay, Josh Boone and Marcus Williams) to the NBA draft next June.

 

They've got commitments from five players, the most notable of those being forward Curtis Kelly (New York City Rice) and wings Ramar Smith (Detroit Martin Luther King) and Jerome Dyson (Andover, N.H., Proctor Academy).

 

Coach Jim Calhoun could sign as many as two more players and wouldn't be disappointed if they were Alex Stepheson and Lance Thomas (a 6-8 forward from Newark, N.J., St. Benedict Prep).

 

Louisville has four commitments in post Derrick Caracter (Elizabeth, N.J., St. Patrick), wing Earl Clark (Rahway, N.J., High) and guards Edgar Sosa (New York City Rice) and Jerry Smith (Wauwatosa, Wis., East). It will be the best class Rick Pitino has landed at Louisville, much better than the solid (but nationally overrated) freshman group he has now.

 

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com

 



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