By Bill Swartz, KOMO News
It's only an exhibition game 7 p.m. Thursday at Alaska Airlines Arena against the St. Martin's University Saints, but there's obvious excitement for the Washington Husky men's basketball team.
"Oh my gosh! I'm excited, can't wait to get this thing going," exclaimed first year head coach Mike Hopkins at a UW pre-season press conference.
The former player and long-time assistant coach at Syracuse University inherits a University of Washington program that went just 9 and 22 last season. Hopkins is all about process and instilling a positive culture as building blocks to success on the court.
"It's really about how we're going to act, how we're going to look, how hard we're going to work, how together we're going to be," Hopkins said. "We like to say how you do anything is how you do everything. That's academically, study table, that's how you treat people."
While freshman star Markelle Fultz expectedly jumped to the NBA and most of ex-coach Lorenzo Romar's prized 2017 recruiting class opted to go to other schools, Hopkins does have a few returning players to work around.
Junior Noah Dickerson, at 6'8" and 245 pounds, is highly highly motivated by Hopkins and his staff, especially assistant coach Cameron Dollar.
"He's actually a coach I needed in life, I can't lie to you," Dickerson said about Dollar. "I love him to death, but I can't stand him. (Dickerson smiled) He's real hard on us and expects nothing but perfection every single time."
Dollar returned to the Husky program after eight seasons as head coach at nearby Seattle University. Former UW point guard and Romar assistant Will Conroy will be a key man for Hopkin's first year at the helm.
Dave Rice, a one time head coach at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, rounds out the Husky brain trust.
Juniors David Crisp and Matisse Thybulle will play key offensive roles for the Dawgs. Sophomore center Sam Timmins is an important man anchoring the famous 2-3 zone defense Hopkins brought with him from Syracuse.
Freshmen Jaylen Nowell, Nahziah Carter and Hameir Wright will have to become consistent contributors.
Early on, the final score is not as important as how the Huskies play the game, according to Hopkins.
"It's valuing possessions, it's executing well. It's the extra pass and seeing a guy dive for a loose ball. You know, the basic things when you see strong teams, that's intimidating, that's together," Hopkins said.
Following the exhibition contest with St. Martins, the Huskies have 10 days to continue growing and learning before their true season opener against visiting Belmont University.