Given the versatility of the Washington men’s basketball team, most notably the 6-foot-9 pocket knife that is Jaden McDaniels, coach Mike Hopkins is able to mix and match an assortment of Huskies in distinctive pairings depending on the situation.
Hopkins has a scoring lineup to generate points, a lineup of players 6-6 or taller to counter big opponents and a lineup with two point guards and four ballhandlers to counter a full-court press.
However, the lynchpin is McDaniels.
“He’s good all around the court,” Hopkins said. “That’s the thing that’s good about our team is we have a lot of positionless players. We have a lot of guys that can play multiple positions. The good thing is we can give different looks and pose problems.”
During last Friday’s season opener, McDaniels started in the back line of UW’s 2-3 zone alongside 6-9 forwards Isaiah Stewart and Hameir Wright with guards Quade Green and Nahziah Carter out front.
At times during the 67-64 win over then-No. 16 Baylor, McDaniels moved to the front of the zone where his 6-11½-inch wingspan disrupted the Bears’ ability to get the ball into the post.
“Jaden is an elite defender if he’s at the forward, if he’s at the center or if he’s at the point guard,” Hopkins said. “He just moves. He flies around. He’s got great length. He’s got great instincts. It poses a different problem.”
In his collegiate debut, McDaniels finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, three assists and a steal in 33 minutes. He converted 5 of 10 shots from the floor, 1 of 2 three-pointers and 7 of 8 free throws.
Several Huskies made significant contributions (Carter tallied a game-high 23 points, Stewart scored the go-ahead basket and Green finished with nine assists), but McDaniels had the biggest impact on both ends of the floor.
“It’s great playing with someone like Jaden who has length,” Stewart said. “He’s not a forward, he’s a guard. And he’s a guard with a huge wingspan. He just gives opponents hell, especially playing up top in the 2-3. It’s just crazy. … I saw him just totally shut down an opponent just with moving his feet and his long arms. He’s special.”
Jamal Bey didn’t make much of an impact statistically in the opener, but like McDaniels, the sophomore played a major role due to his ability to play multiple positions.
Bey, who tallied 20 points in UW’s exhibition win over Western Washington, finished with three points on 1-for-3 shooting against Baylor.
Still, Hopkins gushed about Bey, who played four spots – point guard, shooting guard, small forward and power forward – during his 19 minutes.
Heading into Tuesday’s 6 p.m. home opener against Mount St. Mary’s (1-1) at Alaska Airlines Arena, Hopkins still is unclear about how much he wants to expand the rotation.
Washington is seemingly loaded with big forwards such as Sam Timmins and Nate Roberts, who combined to log just two minutes in the opener. And 7-foot-1 center Bryan Penn-Johnson didn’t play due to coach’s decision.
“I’ve said this before, our 10, 11 and 12 (players) can impact the game just as much as our 7, 8 and 9 (players). … We can go small. We can go big. We’ve got a lot of options and ways that can hurt other teams.
“Everybody just needs to be ready because it could be somebody different every night.”
— Washington made its season debut this week in The Associated Press top 25 poll at No. 20.
— Freshman guard Marcus Tsohonis injured his mouth in the exhibition opener and is still not cleared to play.