After a deluge of defections and departures the past few weeks, the Washington Huskies men’s basketball team and coach Mike Hopkins picked up an early verbal commitment from King’s High junior Tyler Linhardt.
“I’ve had my heart set on UW ever since I was little,” Linhardt said during a phone interview Friday. “When I got the phone call and the offer from Hop, I was pretty pumped.
“It’s definitely early, but it’s just the right fit for me. I don’t really know how else to put it. It feels like the right option. I’ve always wanted to play at UW. If anyone else were to call me, I honestly don’t think I’d choose anyone over UW right now. I love Hop. I love what he’s got going on. I think he’s a great coach, and he’s going to put me in the right situations. Man, I trust him, and I just wanted to pull the trigger.”
Linhardt, a 6-foot-7 forward, chose the Huskies after receiving scholarship offers from Washington State, Boise State, Portland and Eastern Washington.
“I was always inspired to play there,” Linhardt said when asked why he picked Washington. “As I grew older I kind of knew what it meant to play for UW and how the culture was. It was the big school in Washington. Being from Seattle and to play for Washington is a big deal. I always looked forward to that and dreamed about that.
“At the end of my freshman year, I went to Coach Hopkins’ camp. He didn’t know me that well at the time, but I told him then that was my dream school. And here we are.”
The past year has been difficult for top-notch basketball recruits such as Linhardt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out last year’s AAU summer basketball circuit and delayed the 2020-21 high-school season.
The last time Linhardt was on a big basketball stage, he scored 25 points and collected 16 rebounds while leading King’s to a thrilling, 70-67 overtime win over Lynden Christian in the Class 1A boys state tournament final on March 6, 2020. He was named MVP of the tournament.
Linhardt, who also plays for the Seattle Rotary AAU team, has drawn favorable comparisons with Gonzaga standout Corey Kispert, who also starred at King’s.
“I was in eighth grade when he was a senior,” Linhardt said. “I saw what he did, and I inspire to be like that. My high-school coach, Rick Skeen, always believed in me, and he was hyping me up. I don’t know if he was lying or not, but he would say, ‘You got more potential than Corey.’ I was like, ‘All right, that’s a large bar to live up to.’
“Even though I’m from a small school, I always just focused on my development. We all run our own race. Just try to get better and be the best that could be. I always knew that playing on Rotary would compensate for what I would miss out in playing a smaller division at a 1A school.”
Linhardt is UW’s first 2022 recruit, and he is eager to play with 2021 recruits Jackson Grant and Samuel Ariyibi.
Following a disappointing 5-21 season, Washington lost six players who transferred and two assistants. The Huskies have added transfer Terrell Brown and assistant Wyking Jones.
“Everywhere is going to have ups and downs, and it’s going to have its good years and bad years,” Linhardt said. “I know Hop, I trust him and I know he loves to win more than anything and I know he’ll turn it around, especially with the guys they got coming in next year.
“I love what he’s doing and his attitude towards everything. I don’t think it can get any better. It’s a great situation. Everything is going to turn around, and we’ll win some games.”