Mike Hopkins caused a fair amount of consternation among Washington men’s basketball fans due to the team’s inability to attract an incoming high-school recruit after assembling a nationally ranked top-10 class a year ago.
Losing Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels to the NBA draft only added to the mounting concerns considering the Huskies must replace a pair of freshman stars who led the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
Additionally, backup sophomore point guard Elijah Hardy entered the transfer portal and is likely to depart.
On Wednesday, Hopkins officially began rebuilding a Huskies team that fell flat last season and bottomed out to a last-place Pac-12 finish at 5-13 and 15-17 overall.
Washington received scholarship papers from former Timberline High standout Erik Stevenson, who played two seasons at Wichita State, and junior-college transfer Nate Pryor, who starred at West Seattle High.
“We are so excited to welcome both Erik and Nate to our Husky family,” Hopkins said in a statement. “They’re both local talents that are proven winners, fierce competitors and guys that can’t wait to wear the purple and gold.”
Stevenson, a 6-foot-3 and 198-pound sophomore, averaged 11.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in 24.7 minutes last season. He also shot 37.7 percent from the field and 30.4 percent on three-pointers.
The Lacey, Wash. native owns the Timberline High records for points in a game (45), season (717) and career (1,861). As a senior, he averaged 24.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.9 steals and 1.7 blocks.
“Erik is a big-time scoring guard who brings a toughness and grit every time he steps on the court,” Hopkins said.
Currently, Stevenson has to sit out next season and would have two years of eligibility remaining. However, there’s a chance he could play next season if the NCAA approves a change allowing first-time transfers to play immediately.
Meanwhile, Pryor is poised to bolster a crowded UW backcourt and push returners Quade Green and Marcus Tsohonis – who each started at least nine games last season – for minutes at point guard next season.
The 6-4 sophomore has starred the past two seasons at North Idaho College where he averaged 18.0 points, 4.8 assists, 2.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 2.3 turnovers while posting a 59-3 record.
“Nate is a true (point guard) who is a born leader that can run a team,” Hopkins said. “He makes everyone around him better.”
Pryor initially committed to Seattle University before switching to Washington shortly after Hopkins was hired in 2017. Pryor was unable to get academically eligible and spent a year at prep school before starring at North Idaho College.
Washington currently has 11 players on scholarship – two shy of the NCAA limit.
On the surface, swapping Stewart and McDaniels – a pair of projected first-round NBA draft prospects – for a pair of high-scoring guards appears to be an unequal trade considering the Huskies need help on the front line. Junior forward Hameir Wright is the only returning big man with extensive experience.
However, Hopkins hopes the addition of Stevenson and Pryor as well as the continuity and maturation on a team returning six of its top eight scorers equates to improved results next season.
“These two will not only help us win games, but will have a positive impact on our culture,” Hopkins said.