At times, Quade Green’s steely-eyed and stern demeanor dissolves into a warm and disarming smile when he’s attempting to punctuate a point, which gives a little insight into his state of mind these days.
During a teleconference call earlier this week, the Huskies point guard spoke publicly for the first time about his academic suspension that forced him to miss the second half of the 2019-20 season and coincided with UW’s dramatic tailspin.
“I’m more mature now,” said the 22-year-old Green while staring into a camera. “I can’t do the things I used to do early on in college. I’m way more mature. I’m a senior now. I’m holding myself way more accountable than I ever did in life.”
Green, who returned home to Philadelphia for five months during the pandemic, dwelled in self-pity and tormented himself during what he described as the lowest point in his life.
“I had to break myself down to get back up,” Green said. “Last year I broke myself down during the (second) half of the season. So when the summer time came after the season, I built myself back up and that’s pretty much how my confidence came about.
“Just always in the gym 24/7. Twice a day or three times a day. Going out running at 7 o’clock in the morning.”
According to coach Mike Hopkins, Green also “had his best quarter academically” and firmly positioned himself as one of the emerging leaders on a UW team that desperately needs to find new stars to rebound from its worst season since Hopkins took over in 2017.
“I believe he’ll be — if not the best guard in the league — then one of the best guards in the league and maybe even the country,” Hopkins said. “We’re really, really high on him. He’s been playing really well and has been a good leader to our guys.”
In many ways, Hopkins has no choice but to turn the offense over to the 6-foot junior guard who averaged 11.6 points last season.
Washington lost Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels to the NBA draft while senior guard Nahziah Carter remains suspended for violating the Intercollegiate Athletics student code of conduct.
It wasn’t so long ago when Green, a former five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American who led Philadelphia’s Neumann-Goretti High to four state championships, was considered a can’t-miss prospect heading to Kentucky.
After 1½ seasons with the Wildcats in which his minutes and production steadily decreased, Green transferred to Washington in December of 2018 to revive his career.
For the first two months of the 2019-20 season, it was a classic redemption tale as Green proved to be a play-making catalyst for Washington’s aspiring NCAA Final Four team that was loaded with young stars.
Green tallied nine assists in his UW debut in an upset 67-64 win over No. 16 Baylor. Two weeks later, he dished a career-high 10 assists.
Once defenses began to adjust, Green showcased his scoring ability, notching at least 20 points three times during a four-game span. During the stretch, he connected on 12 of 19 three-pointers.
With Green at the controls, Washington raced out to an 11-4 record and was seemingly poised to compete for a second straight Pac-12 title.
But then everything changed Jan. 9 when UW announced Green was academically ineligible for the remainder of the regular season.
The Huskies rotated between Elijah Hardy, who has transferred to Portland State, Jamal Bey and Marcus Tsohonis — but collectively the trio averaged fewer assists (4.4) than Green (5.3).
Without a steady floor general, the Huskies nosedived while losing 13 of their final 17 games. Washington bottomed out at 15-17 and finished last in the Pac-12 at 5-13.
“I let the team down last year badly with that academically ineligible stuff,” Green said. “I let the team down. I’ve never been as low in my life ever than how I was last year.”
Admittedly, Green never felt the need to apologize to teammates.
“They already knew I was beating myself up every day,” he said. “Every day I was beating myself up so they didn’t really … they just looked at me and they already knew what it was.”
While the losses mounted, Green worked to regain his academic eligibility and re-dedicated himself to the Huskies. He poured himself into a fanatical workout regime that includes late-night shooting sessions and early morning runs.
“He’s grown in so many different areas,” Hopkins said. “He’s taken accountability for his actions. He’s improved. … He’s working. He’s been a better leader. He’s been great every day in practice. He’s really growing. He’s taken a so-called negative and turned it into a positive.”
Bey has a theory on Green’s undeterred resolve.
“He has a bulletproof mind,” Bey said. “He’s out there. Relentless. Cheering us on. Helping us however he can. That was last year. Now he’s just being the leader that he is and the point guard he is. He’s a wonderful player and we can’t wait to have him this season.”
Green doesn’t disagree.
“Just like Jamal said, just having a bulletproof mindset,” Green said. “Taking negativity and then flipping it and turning it into good ideas and good energy. I messed up last year and this year is a whole new year. I got another thing coming for everybody.”
And that’s when Green finally breaks into a wide grin as if he’s holding a secret that he’s been waiting months to reveal.
“I just block all the negativity out and just focus on the team really,” he said. “My biggest key right now is being a leader and a captain on our team. I just got to block everything out good or bad and just focus on what we need to focus on.
“Just being aggressive every game and every practice. Holding my team accountable and holding myself accountable. That’s all it really comes to because I want to be the best point guard in the country by the end of the year.”