Beach's Bits: Romar's Recruiting Bonanza

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar has won his share of touted recruiting battles. His 2005 recruiting class included Jon Brockman, Martell Webster and Justin Dentmon, and the much-hyped 2006 duo of Spencer Hawes and Quincy Pondexter was the highest ranked class of his tenure at Montlake.

The 2008 group, however, was the most productive: It included Mathew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday, Darnell Gant and Venoy Overton, and it ultimately yielded four Husky starters.

But the one Romar just signed for 2015 surpasses them all - and just in time for his birthday. What a birthday present! And hopefully he woke up Thursday not having to pinch himself, because Wednesday was definitely not a dream.

In reality, it’s the class fans have been waiting for. The most purely talented and athletic class Lorenzo Romar has ever recruited. A class that ranks sixth-best in the country. It’s a large class, and the new players - Dejounte Murray, Marquese Chriss, Malik Dime, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle, and Devenir Duruisseau – are a mouthful. But boy are they a special group. It’s a class that embraces the best, most exciting aspects of Romar’s system: Shot-makers and shot-blockers, shooters and defenders, and lots and lots of athleticism and size. This is the class that could propel Washington deep into the NCAA Tournament – further than they’ve ever gone. It’s not a class of NBA one-and-dones either. The coaching staff hit the recruiting sweet spot with these guys, wisely learning from past mistakes and avoiding the 5-star head/heart-ache, gathering a group of players that should be together for at least a couple of years before the NBA comes calling.

And there’s lots of local flavor too; a trait the roster has sorely missed recently. Fans can downplay the absence of hometown guys all they want, but there’s no doubt the program has suffered from a lack of talent coming out of the 206, 425, 253, and 360. Besides being easier to recruit, local players put fans in the seats and provide an emotional connection to one of the country’s most passionate basketball communities.

When home-town heroes Dejounte Murray, David Crisp, and Matisse Thybulle step onto the floor at Hec Ed for their first games, they can expect a rousing ovation from fans who have closely followed their decorated prep careers.

The balanced class includes three front court players and three guards:

Dejounte Murray: A versatile 6-foot-5 combo guard from Seattle’s Rainier Beach High School, Murray’s talents are no secret to Husky fans. He’s long, lean, and quick, and there’s very little he can’t do on the floor. Offensively, he’s slippery and a first class ball handler who uses a lightning quick crossover to create separation from defenders. He’s got a pretty stroke and shoots a high percentage three point shot. He’s also an excellent, unselfish playmaker and precision passer. He’s an outstanding rebounder for a guard, once nabbing 30 last year for the Vikings in a single game! - though he needs to hit the weights. He possesses the necessary physical traits to be excellent defender in UW’s system eventually. Murray stood tall among the pros and starred in Jamal Crawford’s summer Pro-Am, wowing crowds with his fantastic blend of raw athleticism, skill and basketball IQ, and he’s hunting for a 3A state championship three-peat before his time at Rainier Beach is complete. He’ll compete for a starting spot in the backcourt immediately at UW and should be one of the team’s top scorers.

Marquese Chriss: The Huskies jumpstarted their 2015 recruiting class with the early, surprise commitment of Chriss - one of the country’s most electrifying forward prospects. At 6-foot-8 he’s long and freakishly bouncy for a player his size. He covers ground quickly and is a dynamic finisher in transition who should thrive in Romar’s up-tempo system. He’s also comfortable with the ball in his hands, and can step outside and knock down the occasional jumper. As a defender he’s long and relatively quick and is an excellent, instinctive shot-blocker. As is the case with all the incoming bigs, it’s too early to project what role Chriss will play for the Dawgs next season, though there’s little doubt he’ll be a big factor in the rotation.

David Crisp: Crisp is another local pledge who spent a year at Rainier Beach after transferring from Clover Park High School in Tacoma. At six feet tall, Crisp plays with energy and swagger; he gets up and down the floor in a hurry. Similar to Justin Dentmon, he’s not a natural point guard despite his size, but he can get red hot – especially from outside - and can score in bunches. He’s been a solid ball ball handler and a fearless penetrator in high school. He is regarded as one of the better three point shooters in the country. As a defender, Crisp’s quickness and aggressive demeanor make make him a disruptive pest. Well built, yet young for his grade, Crisp is spending this season honing his skills at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire before heading to Montlake next summer. Crisp comes well equipped to compete for playing time as a freshman, depending on how quickly he adapts to the system.

Matisse Thybulle: Few players nationally did more to boost their recruiting stock in 2014 than Matisse Thybulle. The 6-foot-6 wing from Eastside Catholic has immense upside, showed off great length and pogo stick legs during the summer AAU circuit, as well as rapidly maturing offensive skills and lockdown defensive potential. His long reach and fantastic bounce marked him as a promising rebounder as well. A high riser, Thybulle’s play often draws favorable comparisons to former Dawg Justin Holiday, now with the Golden State Warriors - as well as Romar’s very first recruit to Montlake, Bobby Jones. Like Holiday, it’s Matisse’s defensive capabilities that will make him a factor in the rotation early in his career, but there’s plenty of untapped offensive potential there too - even if it takes a season or two to show it.

Malik Dime: High level front court players aren’t easy to find, especially late in the recruiting cycle. The Huskies filled what was arguably their biggest need by securing a commitment from Dime. Dime is a menacing, 6-foot-10 rim defender and shot blocker from Senegal - by way of Iowa - with good defensive instincts and excellent athleticism. Like Chriss, Dime is a bit raw with his back to the basket, but he’s bouncy and plays well above the rim, flushing two-handed put backs with ease - as well as running the floor as fast as any big in the land. Transferring from the junior college ranks where he played with current Husky Quevyn Winters, Dime is physically mature and should quickly adapt to his role at Washington. He is expected to immediately compete for a major role in the rotation with three years to complete two years of eligibility.

Devenir Duruisseau: The Huskies hit on a recruiting double whammy, securing the commitments of Dime and Duruisseau within hours of each other. His under-the-radar recruitment still netted him offers from several Pac-12 programs before the Huskies eventually won out. In fact, Duruisseau and Romar are related, which didn’t hurt the Huskies’ odds. Duruisseau is a stout, 6-foot-9, 240 pound post player with soft hands and nice touch around the hoop drawing comparisons to recently departed senior Perris Blackwell. Though not a high-riser like Dime and Chriss, he possesses solid athleticism and advanced offensive skills. Though it may take a season or two for Duruisseau to adapt to the Pac-12, his upside is high - particularly on offense.

In 2015 the six signees will join a quality, veteran cast already at UW that should boast considerable firepower, especially on the wing. Kudos to the Husky coaching staff for securing such a talented cast of athletic players that fit the program like a glove and will form the backbone for the program moving forward. A hearty welcome to the six new members of Husky Nation and their families.

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