With Mike Hopkins replacing Lorenzo Romar, returning starters David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle and Noah Dickerson want to put a bad season behind them.
“The guys who are the leaders on this team and who have been here for a while, just said what happened last year can’t ever happen again,” said David Crisp, a junior guard on the Washington men’s basketball team. “It just left such a bad taste in my mouth.
“You say you flush it and move on. And you do. Turn the page and all of that. But it’s still kind of there. It motivated you. It sure motivated me this summer. And I bet I’m not the only one.”
Monday: WSU men and women
Tuesday: Gonzaga men and women
Wednesday: Seattle U men and women
Today: Washington men and women
The Huskies’ three returning starters – Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson and Crisp — made a pledge to each other and themselves that this season would be different.
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Truth be told, it would be difficult to get any worse than a 9-22 campaign, an 11th-place finish in the Pac-12 and a season-ending 13-game losing streak that prompted UW’s first coaching change in 15 years.
“Nobody wants to go through that again,” Thybulle said. “You don’t ever want to do it in the first place, but it happened. … Now going forward, you say how can it be different and what can I do to make it different?”
Each took different tacks over the summer to make sure the 2017-18 season would be a success.
For Dickerson, the last returning player to commit to new coach Mike Hopkins, he needed to make sure Washington was the place he wanted to finish his career.
After the Huskies fired Lorenzo Romar, Dickerson made overtures to other programs and considered transferring. The Atlanta native from Montverde Academy in Florida visited Louisiana State and intended to take a trip to Florida.
On April 21, Dickerson announced via Twitter that he was returning to UW, which proved to be a significant achievement for Hopkins, who lost only one player to transfer.
“He needed to go through that and find out about us, who we are and what we can do for him,” Hopkins said. “I see Noah as a key piece in this whole thing. He’s going to be really good, and he’ll continue to get better.
“Last year – towards the end of the season – he was already playing at a really good clip.”
Dickerson, who averaged 16.2 points and 8.2 rebounds over the final 11 games, said he worked to improve his conditioning.
The 6-foot-8 forward is still listed at 245 pounds, but said he lost about 10 pounds and is in the best shape of his life.
“Not saying the previous coaching staff didn’t talk to me about it, but this summer this coaching staff really made a focus to change my body,” Dickerson said. “I wanted that too. It was a lot of hard work. I wouldn’t say I lost a ton of weight, but I moved it around to the right places.”
Thybulle, a defensive menace who led the Pac-12 with 2.1 steals per game last season, worked on his offensive game. He was the leading scorer on a summer pro-am team in Seattle that included NBA star Jamal Crawford and Dickerson.
“Coach Hopkins has made a point of telling me that I’ll have a much more significant scoring role,” said Thybulle, who averaged 10.5 points while shooting 44.8 percent from the floor and 40.5 percent on three-pointers last season. “This summer was really good for me in terms of learning how to do that. More than anything it was a mindset. Through the pro-am and individual workouts, it’s a mindset that you have to bring to every possession that you’re going to kill the guy who is guarding you.
“That hasn’t been the mindset I had coming into things. That’s been my biggest step. And him giving me the green light to make mistakes and push things to find the line to where I can go has been really helpful. I can play through my mistakes while finding my role on offense.”
Perhaps the most scrutinized player will be Crisp, who is tasked to provide leadership and scoring.
“Coach Hop wants me to be a leader and a floor general. That’s all I worked on this summer. I watched a lot of film on the point guards that came through here like coach (Will) Conroy and IT (Isaiah Thomas). Just studied at being a playmaker and an all-around point guard.”
Admittedly, Crisp isn’t a pass-first point guard. He’s the leading returning scorer and averaged 13.8 points, 11.8 shots and 3.1 assists per game last season.
“I like to say, I do whatever needs to get done,” Crisp said. “If that’s playmaking, then it’s playmaking. If it’s rebounding and playing defense, then I’m going to do that. If it’s scoring, well, I know how to do that.
“More than anything, it’s being out there for these guys and making sure we’re playing hard every game.”