Mike Hopkins has a knack for coming up with clever nicknames and colorful metaphors to describe his players.

In past years, the Washington men’s basketball coach would refer to Matisse Thybulle as Spider-Man or Deion Sanders to highlight the former UW star’s defensive prowess.

But Hopkins may have one-upped himself Thursday night after the Huskies’ 87-63 exhibition win over Division II Western Washington while describing touted freshman Jaden McDaniels.

When asked if he felt McDaniels’ length frustrated the Vikings, Hopkins likened the 6-foot-9 forward with the 6-11 wingspan to the literary whale in Herman Melville’s novel.

“Sometimes in practice when I have to (go against him) I feel like I’m getting swallowed by Moby Dick,” Hopkins said laughing. “It’s like aargh. You see this mouth coming at you and I’m over there trying to pass the ball. He’s flying. We’ve got a lot of length. … We’re big. We’ve got a big team.”

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Moby Dick. Yeah. So there. Thanks for that visual, Hop.

Here are three impressions from Thursday’s exhibition win.

McDaniels shines in debut

Let’s get back to McDaniels. Wow. Oh man, it’s easy to see that this kid is just different from everybody else. You don’t want to make any crazy proclamations after one outing against an overmatched lower-division opponent, but McDaniels is unlike any player UW has had in recent history. Most of the 8,008 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena were there to see him and fellow freshman star Isaiah Stewart and neither disappointed. Stewart delivered a workmanlike double-double (14 points and 11 rebounds). He’s a more athletic version of Jon Brockman, the former Huskies star who ranks fourth all-time in points and first in career rebounds at Washington. Like Brockman, Stewart outworks and wears down opponents with his hyperkinetic tenacity and aggressive approach. But Brockman couldn’t finish on fast breaks like Stewart, who flushed two crowd-pleasing dunks in transition.


Meanwhile, McDaniels impacts the game in multiple ways that are as obvious as a slam dunk and as subtle as a textbook bounce pass. He finished with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting, eight rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes, but the stats don’t tell the whole story. This kid can play and he makes teammates better, which is probably his greatest gift. (He probably should have finished with six assists if not for teammates bobbling pinpoint passes.)

McDaniels is a skilled big man whose height, length, ball-handling and shot-making allows him to be effective at both ends of the court. He’s a defensive menace who pinned a surefire layup on the glass for a crowd-pleasing block. He’s also able to use his size to disrupt shots on the perimeter. When the Vikings pressured the Huskies with a full-court press, McDaniels served as a sizable outlet and a secondary ball-handler. When WWU reverted to a zone, McDaniels operated in the high post where he found teammates for layups or made midrange jumpers. McDaniels didn’t shoot well on the perimeter (0 for 2 on three-pointers), but it looks as if he’s got good shooting mechanics. McDaniels had a team-high four turnovers, which was the only real blemish on an otherwise satisfying debut. Looking back, it hardly matters that he missed UW’s previous five exhibitions.

Bey outperforms everybody

Remember Jamal Bey? Well, you probably won’t recognize the 6-6 sophomore guard who looks nothing like the unsure freshman who averaged just 1.0 points, 0.6 rebounds and 6.2 minutes last season. Despite his limited production, Hopkins was steadfast in his belief that playing Bey in 30 games would eventually pay off.

Well, Bey could cash in this season if Thursday’s exhibition was any indication. The timid newcomer who turned down shots has been replaced by a confident performer who was the best player on the court last night.

Bey scored 20 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor, 7 of 11 on free throws and 3 of 5 on three-pointers. The Huskies needed those long-range daggers on a night when they shot 6 of 18 from deep. He also had four rebounds, four assists and five steals in 30 minutes off the bench.

Hopkins likes to say this UW team gives him options in terms of the lineups and Bey is a perfect example of that versatility. He played three positions (small forward, shooting guard and point guard) and proved to be capable while directing the offense.

Free-throw woes

It wasn’t a perfect night for the Huskies. Hopkins lamented Washington’s spotty perimeter defense that surrendered 12 three-pointers and a generally lethargic second-half performance, in which UW outscored WWU 41-40 after leading 46-23 at halftime.


Hopkins wants this team to hang its hat on defending the three and shutting down the opposing team’s best player and in those two areas, the Huskies failed to achieve their goals. Vikings forward Trevor Jasinsky, who is the Great Northwest Athletic Conference preseason Player of the Year, finished with 19 points and five three-pointers.

I have no doubt the Huskies will tighten up the perimeter defense considering their tremendous size, but they should be alarmed by their 15-of-32 performance at the free-throw line at home. Hopkins downplayed the poor shooting as an off night and he might be correct.

Still, disregard big men Nate Roberts and Bryan Penn-Johnson, who combined to go 0 for 6, and the Huskies were still 15 of 26 at the charity stripe in their gym.

What might be troubling is the four UW players who shined brightest each had their problems with freebies. Nahziah Carter, who shot 63.8% on free throws last season, made 5 of 9. Bey, who shot 53.8% last season, was 7 of 11. McDaniels sank 3 of 5 and Stewart was 0 for 1.

In a tight game, those guys will probably have the ball and may need to make free throws to secure a win. Missing 17 free throws is a surefire recipe for disaster.