The question was asked with somewhat innocent intentions.
Do you guys know who holds the (Washington men’s basketball) steals record for a game and is that in the back of your mind?
“Is it Matisse?” Daejon Davis said, referring to Matisse Thybulle, the Pac-12 two-time Defensive Player of the Year who set the UW single-season and all-time steals records.
“Is it Will (Conroy)?” Terrell Brown Jr. asked.
“Nate (Robinson)?” Brown asked.
The correct answer is … Jason Hamilton.
“Oh, I know him,” Brown said.
“Wait, he’s the radio guy,” Davis chimed in.
“How many steals did he have?” Brown said.
When told Hamilton set the record with nine steals in 1996, the UW players smiled and laughed.
“Whew, you got to get a double double to get it,” Davis said. “That’s just a part of our culture. Defense.”
(Full disclosure, I love ribbing Hamilton at every opportunity.)
However, Hamilton, the former UW player and coach who has worked Husky men’s basketball games as a radio analyst for the past 20 years, also took delight in the recent exchange between Davis and Brown as well as their pursuit of his record that’s stood for 26 years.
“I’m actually really enjoying it,” Hamilton said during a phone interview. “The one record that I hold is being threatened. It’s fun for me to be honest. I fully expect it at some point to be broken and I had a lot of fun holding that record for a long time.
“But I enjoy good defenders and good defensive basketball because I was that kind of guy. I was a facilitator/defender/opportunistic scorer and not a score-first point guard. Any time I see guys get after it on the defensive end, I really enjoy it. That’s why I love watching Matisse Thybulle play so much. I’m having a blast. The comment from Daejon, that was really fun. The radio guy actually played the game? I think it’s kind of funny.”
Brown and Davis, who are cousins and former Garfield High teammates who re-connected for their final collegiate seasons, spearhead a ballhawking Washington defense that leads the Pac-12 and ranks No. 22 nationally among Division I teams with 9.5 steals per game.
Despite playing the second-fewest games in the Pac-12, Brown leads the conference with 37 steals and Davis is second at 33.
“I’ve got to watch out for this guy,” Brown said. “He’s coming after me.”
More like, they’re going after opposing teams.
Washington has outgained opponents in thefts 133 to 61.
In the past four games, the Huskies are averaging 13.8 steals — a stretch that began last week with a season-high 18 thefts at Arizona. Brown and Davis each tallied five steals against the Wildcats.
“We’re doing a good job right now of getting our hands on a lot of balls and being disruptive, which is not only our best defense, but has helped get us out in transition to get our offense going,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “A lot of times — and we’re no different — teams are able to force turnovers when they press or play man.
“We’ve been able to be disruptive in our zone and that’s when we’re at our best. … That tells me that some of the guys who weren’t with us (last season) are starting to feel more comfortable with what we’re doing. They’re finding ways in which they can be disruptive and impact the game at the end of the court.”
Brown and Davis highlight UW’s senior backcourt while forward Jamal Bey and backup guard PJ Fuller have each collected 17 steals.
“Like three-pointers, steals can become contagious,” said Hamilton while noting UW ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in points allowed (69.9 points). “You get a couple of steals and now everyone is going for the steal. As long as you stay principled and the steals are coming inside of what you’re trying to do, it’s all good. But if you’re gambling three times to get one steal and the two times you miss lead to threes, then it’s bad defense.”
Hopkins compared Davis to Thybulle because of his ability to anticipate steals before they happen.
“Daejon is seeing things before they happen,” Hopkins said. “He’s able to read and react and doing things that we haven’t seen since Matisse.”
On Thursday, Davis tallied six steals for the second time this season in Washington’s 64-55 win over California. In the previous outing, Brown racked up six steals in a 78-64 loss at Colorado on Sunday.
At their current pace, Brown and Davis will fall far short of Thybulle, who set a Pac-12 record of 126 steals during the 2018-19 season.
However, both will likely surpass their personal bests.
As a junior, Davis collected 55 steals at Stanford and Brown had 46 thefts during his sophomore season at Seattle University
“Both of those guys are using their experience and skill set and then putting that to use within the zone concept,” Hamilton said. “They’re starting to see more passes come their way and they’re picking stuff off left and right.
“If you start to understand and play the angles, you can anticipate more where the pass is going to go. And those guys, especially Daejon right now, he’s starting to figure out when players turn their back, when they’re trying to fit it into the high post, when they’re going to ball fake and get it to the wing. He’s becoming real adept at recognizing those patterns.”
Washington (7-7, 2-2 Pac-12) faces Davis’ former team, Stanford (10-4, 3-1), at 3 p.m. Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena.
It would be poetic if Davis were to break Hamilton’s record against the Cardinal, but the former Husky wouldn’t be surprised to see one of them break it at some point this season.
“(UW radio play-by-play announcer) Tony Castricone always jokes that I survived the Matisse Thybulle era,” Hamilton said laughing. “But all records are meant to be broken. It’s been 25 years. And I fully expect someone to tie it or break it. That’s just the nature of records.
“I wouldn’t be surprised to be quite honest if these guys challenge it in multiple games. … You’ve seen what they’ve done in the last few games. They’ve had 5-6 steals. So one of these games, 6 can turn to 7 and 7 can turn into 9 if you get the right scenario.”
Here’s a look at where Washington men’s basketball guards Terrell Brown Jr. and Daejon Davis rank among the Pac-12 and Division I steal leaders.
Name Steals Pac-12 NCAA
Terrell Brown Jr. 37 1st 6th
Daejon Davis 33 2nd 20th