Beach’s Bits: Big Day for UW Hoops

In an off-season full of twists and turns, the Washington Huskies had perhaps their wildest day yet Thursday, with not one but two, major announcements that have Huskies fans abuzz.

The first piece of news to hit the airwaves Thursday morning was that hometown legend Will Conroy was joining the Husky staff as its newest assistant, filling the vacancy left by TJ Otzelberger, who moved back to Iowa State in early April.

“I am so excited to return to the University of Washington men’s basketball program,” Conroy was quoted in the school’s official release. “There is no other place that I would rather be to help student-athletes develop as both players and people on and off the court. I am fired up to be a part of putting Husky basketball back on the national scene especially with local players and the level of talent we have coming in.”

After originally entering the program as a walk on in 2001 and emerging as the all-time assist leader four years later, Conroy spent the next seven years playing professionally in the NBA, NBADL and overseas.

“We are thrilled to have Will Conroy join our basketball staff,” said Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. “As we talk about re-establishing our culture, he is a former player that really embodied that culture. He has always wanted to coach and has a tremendous passion for the game along with great ties to the Seattle community.”

For starters, Conroy isn't a prototypical assistant. He doesn't come with a resume of previous coaching stops, a database of blue chip prospects in tow, or deep connections to AAU programs across the country. Rather, he's a Seattle kid and a pillar of the local basketball community who put Washington on the map when he was a player over a decade ago.

Let’s be honest; Conroy is a coach-in-training. Washington will be the place where he learns his craft and finds out if he’s cut out for the major D1 coaching lifestyle. It’s obviously not for everyone, but he already has shown great leadership skills that have helped him on and off the court.

“At this point of my life, I’m into helping our young guys around the community get better," Conroy said after the announcement was made. "That’s very important to me."

But this hire shouldn’t be looked at as nepotism, although it will be hard to escape the obvious connections. But that’s the whole point. There are very real implications that stem from Conroy’s long-standing association with the Huskies. From an impact perspective, Conroy - perhaps as much as anyone - understands Romar's vision for the program. As Romar said, Will embodies the facets of UW's system that make it unique and exciting. The pressure, the tempo, the defensive intensity, the swagger - all rolled into one muscular, endlessly energetic, frame.

Secondly, Washington's coaching staff boasts some of the most likable personalities you'll meet on the coaching circuit. Unfortunately, there's a perception that they might be a little too nice, particularly since Cameron Dollar left for the head coaching job at Seattle University. That's where Conroy comes in. He was a fiery competitor on the court during his days donning the purple and gold, and he knows what it feels like to have a pit bull like Dollar barking from the sidelines. Simply, the Huskies need a ‘bad cop’ element, which is where Conroy fits in.

Conroy's hiring also further cements the relationship between the basketball program and the community that feeds it. His ties to the area’s top recruiting prospects are formidable. He starred at Garfield after all, which happens to be the current home of Seattle's next star-in-the-making - Jaylen Nowell - now that Dejounte Murray is headed to the Huskies in the fall. And with long-time coaching vets Romar, veteran assistant Brad Jackson, and crack recruiter Raphael Chillious, to show him the ropes, the mentors are in place for Conroy to attack with a steep learning curve and ultimately thrive as a top up-and-coming assistants in the Pac-12 Conference.

Let’s not forget the emotional touchstone as a foundation; Conroy's hiring can't help but tug at the heartstrings of Husky fans. There's also a nostalgic element which Seattleites tend to embrace more than most large metro areas regarding their city’s sports heroes. Conroy is one such individual for many, and is at a point in life where he wants to really explore it and mine its potential. No one understands how special Seattle is and how transformative it can be for a young kid playing hoops better than Will Conroy. The best recruiters have a message and experience to sell, and Conroy will be no different in that regard.

A hearty welcome back into the fold to Coach Conroy. If you ask him, he'll probably tell you he never really left.

Not to be outdone in the news department, Washington also managed to solve their biggest remaining question mark for the upcoming season with the commitment of touted top-100 post prospect Noah Dickerson. Dickerson announced his intentions via his Twitter account Thursday night during his official visit to Montlake.

The coveted post player, who originally pledged to Georgetown, then Florida, gives Washington its sixth 4-star prospect rated in the Scout.com top 100 (guard David Crisp dropped to 101st in the final rankings but we're counting him anyway).

Dickerson is an agile, offensively-polished post player who is surprisingly quick despite his hefty 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame. He's scrappy and active in the paint, primarily a back-to-the basket player who can play both front court positions. He has excellent hands and shows a soft touch around the basket, yet possesses the strength to finish strong through contact which should help him contribute in the scoring column early in his career at UW.

He's a solid two-footed leaper with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, using his quickness, strength and big body to assert himself in the paint as a space-eating rebounder and defender. He's also regarded as a high IQ player with good passing skills to accompany an above average handle when he puts the ball on the floor.

It's not hard to figure out where he fits in next season, since there's a gaping hole in the starting front court. With Shawn Kemp graduated, Jernard Jarreau gone, and Auburn transfer Matthew Atewe likely set to sit via transfer rules, that should mean the center spot has Dickerson’s name written all over it. The Huskies needed a post player badly, and Dickerson fits the bill as an early contributor capable of providing 20 minutes a night or more of Pac-12 banging - something most freshmen bigs are typically ill-equipped to do.

For a team that could start as many as four freshmen, post scoring is a huge question mark. Dickerson's commitment provides clarity to this question and tilts the equation a bit more into balance. Rarely do freshmen post players contribute meaningfully in the Pac-12, but the bulky youngster has what it takes to buck that trend - at least on paper.

All the hyperbole aside, Washington needed Dickerson badly. When Billy Donovan left Florida for Oklahoma City and Dickerson re-opened his recruitment, he immediately became a big priority for UW. The Huskies had only two centers on the roster in Malik Dime and Devenir Duruisseau, and both were totally unproven. And the fact is, Dime is probably more of four that can play the five if needed. He wasn’t going to be a full-time solution in the middle, at least if UW was wanted to get the best out of him right away instead of simply filling holes with whatever was available.

The coaching staff can breathe a little easier now. Ask any coach and they'll tell you quality post players are the toughest to find, and getting a commitment from a player of Dickerson's caliber this late in the recruiting cycle is an absolute coup for Romar and his men.

Congratulation to Noah, the Dickerson family and the Husky coaching staff. Welcome to the Purple and Gold.




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