Impact Report: Matthew Atewe

If Washington's injury struggles have taught us anything over the last couple of seasons, it's that you can never have too much front court depth. Monday morning, the Washington Men’s Basketball coaching staff secured the commitment of a player expected to loom large in their future front court plans - Auburn transfer Matthew Atewe.

So what does Atewe’s commitment mean?: The ruggedly built 6-foot-9 Atewe, hails from Brampton, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. Before arriving at Auburn in 2013, he attended Father Henry Karr High and was a member of the Canadian Junior National Team. He also represented Canada in the 2012 Nike Global Challenge before finishing his high school career at Notre Dame Prep Academy in Massachusetts, where he nearly averaged a double-double as a senior.

Atewe is regarded as a high level, defensive-oriented prospect who plays with a chip on his shoulder. That’s something Washington really needs. When healthy, Atewe is regarded as a bit of a tough guy on the court, telling Dawgman.com's Kim Grinolds, “Everyone says on the court I play angry and mean. And I play hard.

“When healthy I can sprint the floor, block shots, rebound, score in the post a little bit.”

Tape from his prep career shows an excellent two-footed leaper effortlessly flushing two-handed dunks in traffic, with tremendous shot-blocking instincts and boasting a broad, muscular frame.

The Husky coaching staff has prioritized rim-defenders in their recruiting efforts recently, and Atewe certainly fits that mold. While not expected to be a significant scoring presence, the big Canadian will fill a vital need, allowing Washington's perimeter defenders to relentless pressure the ball while he locks down the paint.

What can Washington Hoops Expect From Atewe?: The timeline for Atewe’s arrival on the court is uncertain, for a couple of reasons.

He played through a stress fracture during his freshman season at Auburn, averaging 1.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and one block in 12 minutes a game. Ironically, he saved his best performance for eventual national runners-up Kentucky, racking up six points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 29 minutes against a front court that included Julius Randle and Willie Cauley-Stein.

Unfortunately, the injury took its toll and ultimately cost Atewe his sophomore season after he was rushed back to the court under new head coach Bruce Pearl, promptly re-injuring his leg in the team’s first exhibition game of the 2014-15 season.

Shortly after his official visit to Washington, Atewe told Grinolds that Washington’s physical therapy facilities was a big highlight of his trip. “It was crazy because coach (Lorenzo) Romar told me about a treadmill they have where your legs don’t feel your body weight,” Atewe said. “That’s what I need in terms of my rehab. I’m almost close to being cleared to do many things like run. So that intrigued me as well.”

So physically Washington has to carefully monitor Atewe so they don’t make the same mistake Pearl and Auburn did in terms of rushing him back.

Is there a chance Atewe can play in 2015?: The quick answer is yes, but it’s far from a done deal. Since leaving Auburn, Atewe has signaled that he will petition the NCAA for a waiver which would allow him to play the 2015-2016 season due to the substantial time he’s missed the first two years due to injury.

“People are telling me all I have to do is file a waver because I was hurt and I should be able to play immediately,” Atewe told Grinolds. “I have three years of eligibility left.”

It sounds good in theory, but the reality is that transfer waivers are very hard to come by and the chances Atewe plays in 2015 for the Huskies isn’t nearly as clear-cut as he makes it sounds. We’re sure Washington will at least explore the waiver option and give it a go - but like most things with the NCAA you hope for the best but wise to plan for the worst, which would be a year of eligibility lost due to transfer.

But - if the waiver is granted, Atewe would join a promising rotation that includes probable starter Jernard Jarreau and a host of newcomers; bouncy freshman Marquese Chriss, JUCO transfer Malik Dime and freshman Devenir Duruisseau. If not granted immediate eligibility, the rotation could look much the same in 2016-2017, assuming Jarreau is granted an additional year of eligibility after losing his sophomore season to an ACL tear - another situation where the Huskies should probably operate under the impression that won’t happen.

What is the Bottom Line on Washington getting Matthew Atewe?: The Huskies have found out the hard way the importance of front court depth, and Atewe appears to be just what the doctor ordered.

Washington found tremendous - albeit brief - success with Robert Upshaw locking down the paint, and will try to replicate that strategy with Atewe. The late 2015 addition brings the Huskies’ scholarship count to 11 heading into next season, so that means the coaching staff may be done yet.

There's a high likelihood of another roster addition to be announced in the coming weeks before the 2015-2016 roster is finalized.


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