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Matt Calkins: Washington coach Mike Hopkins out to show that last season's struggles were an anomaly

By Matt Calkins, The Seattle Times on

Published in Basketball

SEATTLE — Short memories.

They are a staple of the sports world. Athletes will say they are paramount to their confidence.

Go 0 for 4 in the batter's box? Delete it from your mind. Get beat on a go route? Act as though it never happened.

But sometimes short memories can work against those in sports. Sometimes all the previous success one has had can be deemed irrelevant if he or she doesn't perform in the present.

Enter Huskies men's basketball coach Mike Hopkins. The former Syracuse assistant came to Washington as a low-profile name who quickly remade UW into a high-profile program. Inheriting a team that went 9-22 the previous season, Hopkins led the Huskies to 21 wins in his first year, then 27 in his second year, when Washington returned to the NCAA Tournament after a seven-season drought. But then came last season, when the Huskies fell about 30 stories short of the skyscraping expectations.

With five-star recruits Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels on the roster, Washington looked primed to make its deepest NCAA tourney run in program history. A second consecutive Pac-12 title seemed likely to follow, as did an incessantly sold-out Alaska Airlines Arena.

 

So when UW finished last in the Pac-12 after going 15-17 overall and 5-13 in conference, it felt like "Waterworld" — all hype, no substance.

It was wondrous to watch what Hopkins did with the players his predecessor, Lorenzo Romar, recruited when he arrived at Washington. The Huskies' zone defense helped turn Matisse Thybulle into a star, as he tallied more than three steals and two blocks per game en route to becoming National Defensive Player of the Year.

But could Hopkins have the same success with his recruits? Could he create as well as he could develop?

These are the questions that linger above the coach as he enters his fourth year on the job. In hopes of proving that last season was simply an anomaly, this could be Hopkins' defining season.

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