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Loyalty, family kept basketball players at UW

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University of Washington junior guard Matisse Thybulle. (Photo: KOMO News Bill Swartz)

By Bill Swartz, KOMO Newsradio

When University of Washington athletic director Jennifer Cohen made the difficult decision to fire Husky men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar last March, she knew the risks of losing one of America’s best recruiting classes, led by a future NBA lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. Several returning UW players also seriously thought about transferring until they heard something rare in college basketball these days; loyalty and family.

One by one, high school stars Porter, Daejon Davis and Blake Harris asked to get out of their letters of intent. They didn’t want to hear what newly hired head coach Mike Hopkins and his staff were offering; something bigger than themselves. All had the chance to build something special together.

“Loyalty. I didn’t feel like I should leave. These are my brothers and I built a great relationship with them. I felt like I would be letting them down if I left,” explained sophomore guard Carlos Johnson to komonews.com.

Junior guard Matisse Thybulle enlisted his entire family for an important choice.

“It was a family decision the first time I committed to come to the University of Washington. It just felt right staying for the second time,”Thybulle said. “It’s safe to say for all the guys coach Hopkins has made us feel like people, not just basketball players.”

Atlanta, Georgia, native Noah Dickerson toyed with returning closer to his roots but saw the passion and constant energy Hopkins and his assistants are bringing to the program.

“It’s insane and real. 5 a.m., 6 a.m., he’s always full of energy and that’s something I feel we needed really badly around here,” Dickerson shared.

After Hopkins had prevented a whole-sale mutiny he needed to sign a new crop of recruits. The 48-year-old former Syracuse assistant admits he screamed at the top of his lungs when he learned one of Romar’s recruits Jaylen Nowell from Garfield High School had decided to stay at Washington.

Then another Seattle area product Michael Carter switched from the University of San Francisco to U-Dub. Hopkins also convinced two players from New York State, Hamier Wright and Nazahiah Carter to move nearly three-thousand miles to be part of something bigger than themselves.

In a college basketball world laden with one-and-done NBA prospects, agents and assistant coaches breaking federal bribery and corruption laws to sign those young athletes, it’s refreshing to hear the words family and loyalty matter.

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UW 2017 basketball schedule

The Huskies open their season with a home exhibition game against Saint Martins College Thursday night Nov. 2. Washington has a tough non-conference schedule beginning with visiting Belmont Nov. 10.

A trip to New York City will match the Dawgs against quality opponents Providence, Virginia Tech or Saint Louis. They also have monumental challenges in Kansas City against the powerful Kansas Jayhawks, and in Seattle against last year’s NCAA runner-up Gonzaga.

IMG Washington’s Tony Castricone calls the action on KOMO am 1000, fm 97.7

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