COLUMBUS, Ohio — He watched his scoring average dip from 15.5 points as a junior to 12.4 as a senior. He went from first-team All-Pac-12 to getting no conference-wide recognition.
At 27-8, the Huskies have won more games than they have in any season since 2005 and just won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in eight years. But senior big man Noah Dickerson admits it: It took him a minute to truly enjoy it all.
“I’m going to be honest: This has probably been the hardest year of my life. This is the first time I hit that real adversity,” said the 6-foot-8 Dickerson, who had a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds in Friday’s first-round win over Utah State. “I was frustrated, and I didn’t understand why. It took me a while to understand that we’re winning games, and that no matter what happens, that’s good.”
You don’t often see that type of candor in today’s “I just want to help the team” environment. A drop in individual production is rarely lamented if there’s team success.
But when all of the other returning starters’ stats surged — as David Crisp’s, Matisse Thybulle’s and Jaylen Nowell’s did — and yours drop, it can be hard to stomach. Until you realize that you’re actually helping.
Dickerson’s skills have not declined since last season. It’s just that other teams realized they have to double-team him to have a chance.
When they don’t, he’ll drop 24 points like he did against Texas A&M. Or 21 like he did against UCLA. If the defense doesn’t send a second man, he’ll typically embarrass the first.
This is why Washington’s outside shooters should pick up Dickerson’s bill any time they go out for a bite. If he’s not sucking the defense inside the arc, they’re not stroking from outside the arc.
“Every time he caught the ball in the post, they (Utah State) would send their four man, so now we’re playing four on three,” said Huskies forward Dominic Green, whose 58 three-pointers are second behind Crisp for the most on the team. “And when you’re playing four on three, it’s like playing H.O.R.S.E. You’re gonna get a wide open look.”
You’re also going to have defenders back off their man to try and prevent a post entry. This is what happened after Utah State cut the Huskies’ 13-point lead to one Friday night. At that moment, UW forward Nahziah Carter felt like he had to turn to Dickerson to get a bucket to stop the bleeding. But Carter’s man sagged, giving him enough room to hit a crucial three-pointer.
This is the type of value that Huskies coach Mike Hopkins has been emphasizing all season.
In fact, when the Pac-12 awards came out, and Nowell and Thybulle earned conference player of the year and defensive player of the year, respectively, Hopkins brought Noah’s name up right away at the next news conference.
By that point, though, Dickerson was well aware of his worth. He just needed a little help getting there.
“It was a lot of mental stuff because I used to be in my own head like ‘jeez I suck’ and things like that. A lot of my friends and teammates and my mom and my brother and my girlfriend had to help me because it was all mental,” Dickerson said. “But at the end of the day, and it took me a while to understand this, we’re winning games. What are we 25-8?
“Yeah, that’s a fantastic season.”
And it can get even better. Sunday, the Huskies take on No. 1 seed North Carolina for a chance to go to the Sweet 16. If they do it, it will have meant Dickerson had a huge game.
It might not show up in the stat sheet, but it will still be true. I know it, you know it, and, at long last, he knows it, too.