Wolfinger signs with Washington

The Washington 2005 basketball recruiting class is starting to resemble an impressive fraternity prank. How many tall guys can you fit into a Volkswagen Rabbit? Well, Joe Wolfinger, a 7-footer from Portland (Ore.) Aloha by way of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Northfield, Massachusetts just decided to dive into the back seat, and not a moment too soon.

Wolfinger, according to NMH assistant coach John Carroll, signed a letter of intent and faxed it into the Washington basketball offices Wednesday morning, the last day of the early signing period for Division-I basketball. This brings the total of 2005 signees to a whopping seven. Included in this class are Seattle-area players Martell Webster and Jon Brockman, as well as two other players that also play in the New England Prep School Athletic Conference - Harvey Perry (Brewster) and Justin Dentmon (Winchendon). He'll play against Perry twice and Dentmon once.

So how did Wolfinger, a virtual prep unknown from the west coast, sign with the Huskies over offers from schools like 2004 NCAA runner-up Georgia Tech and Cincinnati? It's a bit of a mystery, but Carroll helped to shed some light on the situation.

"I saw the tape and he was really a perimeter player in the game I saw," Carroll said when he first found out about Wolfinger. "He hit a bunch of 3-pointers and ran the floor great. I was surprised that no one had recruited him. He seemed to be close to a high-major guy, I thought. But I could also see that he was a little thin and as a post player could get moved around. But he's added 30 pounds and his shot is the same, so now he's a 7-foot, 235-pound kid who can really shoot. I was surprised that he came to us with no one recruiting him."

Move forward to this past June, which came as more of an early Christmas for the NMH basketball team. "I saw that he was looking for a prep school, so I contacted his head coach," Carroll continued. "I found out we were the only ones talking to him. We got it done in about a week. It was great how it worked out, because we had reserved a spot for a big man and there he was . I couldn't believe it."

Since his move to the east coast, Wolfinger has blossomed. Comparisons to current Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki and former Indiana Pacer Rik Smits are the most common when analysts talk about Joe. "It's a fair comparison," Carroll said of the Wolfinger-Nowitzki/Smits analogy. "He can really score, he can really fill it. He loves to get up and down the court. He's more athletic than Rik. He's not quite as mature basketball-wise as Dirk, but I think that's fair. I can't set the standard too high, but he can really shoot and he's a very good trailer and he's very comfortable with the ball in his hands.

"He was obviously well-coached at Aloha. He had a strong skill set. And all we've done is tried to get him to compete consistently, and he's done that every single day. Out of 70 days, he's had one semi-off day - maybe a 30-minute lag. But other than that, he competes like it's his last game. We'll take that every time."

So we know about Joe's ability outside the paint, but does he have an inside compliment? "He can do both," Carroll said. "He's got a great jump hook. He's by far our leading rebounder every night, and we have 3 other 6-9 players on our team. One of those guys is very physical and he takes a beating and keeps coming back. He's a constant. As far as impact, we may have guys that will score more points, but as far as impact I think he's our biggest impact player."

Wolfinger has been open in expressing an interest to get back to the west coast, and that's where the Huskies jump in. But as Carroll notes, the location was just a small part of the overall puzzle for Joe. "There was a lot more to it," he said. "Everybody knows Lorenzo (Romar) and he's made a great impression with Joe. And also the teammates that he'll play with next year and the incoming guys - he met Jon Brockman and Jon made a great impression with Joe. And obviously the location was fantastic for him, but he really believes in the program as an up-and-coming program and he wants to be a part of that. He saw that Washington was ranked anywhere from 4 to 6 in the national recruiting rankings and he wanted to get them up to 1 or 2, and he wants to make the same kind of impact on the basketball program in terms of wins and losses and where they stand in the Pac-10 and where they stand nationally."

Carroll feels like Wolfinger can bulk up to 255 and get some quality playing time in 2005. "Joe's skill set is not duplicated by anybody in that class," he said. "He's seen Brockman and he's competed with Artem Wallace and he'll see two of Washington's other guards in our league this year. He felt comfortable that his role wasn't duplicated and that he had a unique opportunity there for minutes."

But as with every Romar signee to date, Joe gets high marks both on and off the court. "He's a great kid and I can't say enough about him, how he's presented himself on campus," Carroll said. "He's a great get for them in every aspect."

Wolfinger will finish out the year at NMH and then bolt for the purple and gold. "We graduate in June and then he's free," said Carroll. "He'll head to Seattle and hopefully he'll be able to take some classes. He wants to get a head-start academically and hopefully he'll be able to get that done."

Joe Wolfinger Scout Profile

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