Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp and Dominic Green are the last remnants of the most ballyhooed Husky recruiting class that promised much more than they’ve delivered. They sat down with us to reflect on their UW careers and chat about the season ahead.
Four years ago, they arrived on Montlake heralded as teen-aged saviors in sneakers who would rescue a Washington men’s basketball program that had fallen into peril.
Their seven-man recruiting class included three ESPN top-100 prospects – the most in UW history – while drawing raves from the pundits and a top-six national ranking.
Following sensational freshman seasons, Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss left in 2016 and were taken in the first round of the NBA draft.
After a dramatic decline and coaching change the following season, Devenir Duruisseau retired from basketball in 2017.
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Noah Dickerson, Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp and Dominic Green are the last remnants of the most ballyhooed Husky recruiting class that promised much more than they’ve delivered.
Before the season opener Tuesday against Western Kentucky, UW’s seniors, who might be dubbed the Fantastic Four if they deliver a long-sought NCAA tournament appearance, gathered inside an empty gym at Alaska Airlines Arena to reflect on their struggles and triumphs.
Here are the highlights of the 30-minute conversation.
The Seattle Times: What are your thoughts on Murray and Chriss?
Green: “They really showed what hard work can get you. Both of them are really hard-working, very dedicated to what they do. Might as well represent for them. They did their thing. We’re still here and we’re trying to make a name for Washington so we might as well do it for them and everybody that came before us.”
Did you expect them to leave so early?
In unison: “Yeah!”
Thybulle: “It was after the scrimmage when Marquese had a broken wrist. That was when people realized he’s not supposed to be here and he’s not going to be here long. He broke his right hand and was playing with only his left and had 40 points in an intrasquad scrimmage.”
Green: “Had a cast on the whole time. Only shot jump shots.”
Thybulle: “He was hitting free throws with his left. And after that everybody was looking at each other like, ‘Yeah, he’s not going to be around for long.’ ”
Green: “And Baby Boy (Murray) was always big-time. We knew he was going.”
When people leave like that, do you feel good for them or is there a little resentment?
Crisp: “Nah. You proud. We all know that’s where everybody wants to go.”
Green: “They got their own path. You always got to respect somebody’s grind. Always.”
Dickerson: “Everybody has different times. Some guys it’s one or two years. Some it’s three or four years. We’re still here and putting on for that class. We’re not done yet.”
What do you remember from that first year when you guys finished 19-15?
Crisp: “Oregon State.”
Green: “Man, Oregon State. That one hurt. That was like the decider.”
On Feb. 24, 2016, the Huskies lost 82-81 at Oregon State when Beavers guard Stephen Thompson Jr. hit a controversial three-pointer at the buzzer. Afterward, former UW coach Lorenzo Romar said officials missed a traveling violation and he was reprimanded by the Pac-12 for his postgame comments.
Dickerson: “We lost a bunch of close games.”
Thybulle: “Don’t bring up the Cal game.”
Crisp: “Oh yeah, I forgot bro.”
Thybulle: “Yeah, whatever. We’re not talking about the Cal game.”
Green: “At the line (laughing).”
During a 78-75 defeat against California on Feb. 18, 2016, Thybulle missed two free throws with four seconds left that would have tied the game.
Crisp: “But the Oregon State game hurt the most. They started the clock late. He traveled. We still have a lot of vengeance and fire from that.”
Green: “We tried to protest it? I was like, ‘What are they going to do?’ They’re not going to take back that game. Oh well, that’s the past.”
If you can go back and give your freshman self one piece of advice, what would that be?
Dickerson: “Don’t eat pizza everyday. It took me a good two, three years to learn that one.”
Green: “I would tell myself to stay calm in tough times and not get frustrated. Focusing is the most important thing, especially if you’re having a rough patch.”
Thybulle: “Do your work now. You think as a freshman you got all the time in the world and it catches up to you real quick.”
Crisp: “Once you change your mindset from thinking, ‘Why is he getting on me?’ or, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ or trying to blame other people for something you’re not doing or not having. Once you change that to, ‘What can I do to get to where you want to go?’ Just focus on yourself, go hard and take full responsibility for everything.”
We have to talk about your sophomore year. What was that 9-22 season like?
Green: “Very frustrating. It was frustrating not just because we were losing but also because what people were saying about us. I thought you were here to support us but it felt like they turned their backs on us. I know we went through a rough patch, but they were saying some gangster stuff at times. I was like, ‘Man I need to delete my Twitter.’ ”
What’s the worst thing you heard that I could print?
Green: “You can’t print it.”
Thybulle: “It was just consistent hate.”
Dickerson: “Things like, ‘You guys are trash. You’re terrible. You’re the reason why Coach Romar got fired.’ It was bad. We were 19-20 years old. Some people can’t handle that. But it is what it is. Collectively, we sucked that year. We all know that. So we came back the next year and we did not suck anymore because we was not going through that again.
Crisp: “I would take hour-long showers and I would blast on the speakers Sam Cooke’s ‘A change is going to come.’ I swear to God, I was singing to the top of my lungs. I just knew it. I would sing that song all the time.”
After the season, there’s a coaching change and UW hires Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins. How close were you to leaving?
Dickerson: “I was pretty close. New coaching staff. I never got recruited by Syracuse and I didn’t know Coach Hop at all. I’m an East Coast guy and in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘I love these guys but I’m going back home.’ And then I met Coach Hop. He seemed like a cool dude and I didn’t want to an extra year of school too. That would have been tough.”
Green: “For me, I was kind of close to leaving but I didn’t want to go hella far. I had a coach over at Marquette who I knew pretty well, but it was Illinois and I didn’t really want to go. After I talked to Hop, he broke down his game plan for us and what he wanted to do with the zone and with us. And it sounded like something I wanted to be a part of.”
Thybulle: “I definitely was considering going to other places, but then I was like, ‘You always think the grass is going to be greener on the other side.’ Just because I don’t know what’s going to happen you don’t know if this other situation is going to be better than what I have. For me it was about trusting Coach Hop and believing in him.”
Crisp: “I talked to my mom and she was like, ‘Be patient, pray about it and see who the next guy is that they hire and hear him out with open ears.’ Mom’s word is always good. I got the call from Coach Hop and we talked for a while. That was like the first time that through a phone call I could tell that someone was genuine. … Just talking to him I felt he was a real cat, a real dude. I felt like he had a lot of energy and ready to work. He was a guy that always had a chip on his shoulder and that’s how I am. I felt like I could relate to him.”
How would you describe last season? How did you guys post a 21-13 record?
Thybulle: “The season was weird because we didn’t set expectations for ourselves. We just wanted to win.”
Dickerson: “That’s because we hadn’t won in months.”
Thybulle: “At first we started off a little rocky, but once we started to get going, it started to steamroll. The only thing that held us back was ourselves.”
Dickerson: “We learned how to start putting teams away. That’s the thing that used to kill us.”
What’s the hardest part of being with a group for four years?
Crisp: “We had a meeting one time and had a speaker come talk to us and asked, ‘How well do you really know your teammates?’ He asked, ‘What’s (your teammate’s) mom’s name?’ And I didn’t even know and that makes you think that maybe we’re not as close as we think we are. … I know for me, that changed things and made me want to get to know these guys even more than I do. Being a family, you got to be there for each other. I’ve had plenty of deep talks with Tisse (Thybulle). You really learn about people and find out who they are and what’s drives them. Once you really understand somebody and really care for people, you’ll run through a wall for them.”
Dickerson: “Last year, me and Dom (Green) were roommates and we kicked it everyday.”
I’m curious what you guys think about each other. David, how would you describe Dominic?
Green: “Beautiful. Light skinned and beautiful. With nice hair.”
Crisp: “He’s sick, for one. (Laughs) But, his energy is contagious. He always has positive energy. Positive vibes. Anytime you’re around Dom, guaranteed you’re going to laugh. He’s as loyal as they come. He’s going to have your back through anything.”
Noah, describe David?
Dickerson: “There’s so many words that you can use, but I’ll start off with the good one. Crack beast, for one. He’s always moving. Being from Atlanta, we don’t like that. He has contagious energy. He’s vocal. He’s a leader. Does great impressions. That’s my guy. He’s called ‘a walking good time.’ ”
Dominic, it’s your turn. You got Matisse.
Green: “He’s an extrovert-introvert.”
Thybulle: “What does that mean?”
I think you just made that up.
Green: “Isn’t that a word. Y’all know what I mean. But seriously, Tisse is somebody who cares about you and cares about everybody. Even though sometimes when gets into his mood, you want to chop his head off. But at the end of the day, he really cares. If you’re in a bad situation, he’s going to help you.”
And Matisse, you get Noah.
Dickerson: “Choose your words wisely.”
Thybulle: “Noah is interesting. Over these last four years, he’s stayed true to himself. He’s hasn’t changed for anyone. He’s been through ups. He’s been through downs like we all have. We can always count on Noah whether it’s on the court or off the court. That last few years it’s been on the court for sure.”
This last question actually came from your assistant coach Will Conroy who was hired the same year you guys arrived. What’s the legacy you want to leave at UW?
Green: “One of grit. They went through tough times, but they prevailed.”
Dickerson: “We went through some big ups and downs. Every year it’s a whirlwind. We all stayed. And we’re all hoping at the end of this year we’ll do something. I know Coach Hop will have this place rocking, but we want to be able to be the team to jump start that.
Crisp: “Like a David and Goliath story.”
Green: “Of course, you would say that (laughs).”
Crisp: “Against all the odds, everybody counted us out and nobody believed in us and we still stuck together. We didn’t worry about what other people said. We believed in ourselves.”
Thybulle: “We’ve been lucky enough to play with each other long enough to get close and bring that family feel back. There’s a lot of great teams, but I feel like we’re a great family. We really care about each other. Our coaches and our whole staff. It extends beyond what we do on the court.”