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Season Opener: Huskies-Northern Illinois Tip Off Season Tuesday

Nov 7, 2021

SEATTLE -- The new-look Washington Huskies will roll the ball out for real on Tuesday, Nov. 9 when they welcome in Northern Illinois to tip-off the 2021-22 season (7:00 p.m.). The game will air on Pac-12 Washington with Elise Woodward and P.J. Carlesimo on the call. Tony Castricone and Jason Hamilton will handle radio coverage on the Washington Sports Netwrork and locally on Sports Radio KJR-AM 950. 

The Huskies are coming off a 5-21, 4-16 Pac-12 season, but have plenty of reasons for hopeful expectations. Despite losing three starters and eight total players, the Huskies have a talent-filled and experience-laden roster thanks to a handful of returnees and an exciting collection of newcomers (more below).

Northern Illinois is led by first-year coach Rashon Bruno. The NIU Huskies were 3-16 overall and 2-12 in the MAC in 2021.

It marks the eighth time Washington will play another school with Huskies as a mascot. The last time they played a team with the same nickname was 2013 when they faced UConn (UW is 0-5 all-time against them). UW is perfect in its other two games against fellow Huskies. They played NIU on Dec. 12, 2012 and beat them, 67-57. UW also played Houston Baptist in 2011 and won that matchup 88-65.

Coach Hopkins (68-60 at UW/5th Year): Head Coach Mike Hopkins is in his fifth year at Washington, and fifth as a head coach after becoming the 19th head coach in UW history. During his 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse, Hopkins was a part of teams that reached the NCAA Tournament 16 times including the 2003 National Championship, four Final Fours, five Elite Eights and 10 Sweet 16s along with four NIT berths. Syracuse never dipped below a 55.0 percent record while Hopkins was on staff. Hopkins is a two-time Pac-12 Coach of the Year, winning the honor in each of his first two seasons with the Huskies as he led UW to back-to-back 20 win seasons with postseason appearances each year. (2018 NIT, 2019 NCAA Second Round).

The Returners: The Huskies have two returning starters from 2020-21, Jamal Bey and Nate Roberts. Bey is the Huskies leading returning scorer at 10.3 points per game and shot a Pac-12 leading 50.8% from three-point range. Roberts average 5.2 ppg and was the Huskies' top rebounder in 2021, averaging 5.7 per game. Roberts grabbed 12 in 21 minutes during the Huskies exhibition win over Central Washington. Cole Bajema, a one-time transfer from Michigan, also figures prominently in his second season at UW. He averaged 5.9 points over the final 7 games after he averaged 1.9 ppg in first 17 games.

Experienced Transfers: The Huskies return only 31.3 percent of their scoring and 42.4 percent of their rebounding from last year, but they are by no means left without experienced players. In fact the Huskies add four transfers from Division I schools -- Terrell Brown Jr. (Arizona), Daejon Davis (Stanford), PJ Fuller (TCU) and Emmitt Matthews Jr. (West Virginia) -- that bring with them 12 years of high-level playing experience. Combined, the foursome who all hail from the Seattle/Tacoma area, have played in 336 games (256 starts), scored 3,238 points, grabbed 1,295 rebounds and dished out 964 assists. Brown enters the year with 1,254 points in three seasons (1 at Arizona, 2 at Seattle U) and Davis has 1,064 career points and 429 assists.

Freshman Additions: The Huskies have two freshmen that are expected to contribute immediately. The local connection is 6-foot-10 forward Jackson Grant from Olympia. He was the Gatorade Washington State Player of the Year and a McDonald's All-American. Also joining the fray is 6-foot-8 Samuel Ariyiba out of Lagos, Nigeria. He was part of the NBA Africa Academy.

NBA Connections: Not only are there eight former Huskies currently active in the NBA, but there are two former players on the Huskies' coaching staff with NBA experience. Seventh-year coach Will Conroy spent part of four seasons in the NBA, while first-year coach Quincy Pondexter just wrapped up a nine-year career in 2019. The following eight players are currently on NBA rosters: Markelle Fultz (Orlando Magic), Justin Holiday (Indiana Pacers), Jaden McDaniels (Minnesota Timberwolves), Dejounte Murray (San Antonio Spurs), Jaylen Nowell (Minnesota Timberwolves), Terrence Ross (Orlando Magic), Isaiah Stewart (Detroit Pistons) and Matisse Thybulle (Philadelphia 76ers). Additionally, Marquese Chriss began the 2021 season with the Portland Trailblazers.