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Huskies basketball appears to be in good hands with Mike Hopkins

New Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins appears to have the Huskies pointed in the right direction. (Nick Wass / AP)
New Washington men’s basketball coach Mike Hopkins appears to have the Huskies pointed in the right direction. (Nick Wass / AP)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

The impact of a newly elected president is often measured by what he achieves in his first 100 days, but what about a newly hired college basketball coach?

After all, it has been 100 days – OK, technically 103 – since Mike Hopkins replaced Lorenzo Romar at Washington.

So what’s the verdict? What has the former Syracuse assistant done to inspire hope among Husky hoop fans?

Actually, quite a bit.

Let’s keep in mind that this is the offseason, when even the lowliest of programs are teeming with optimism. At this time last year, Dawg die-hards were gushing over what Markelle Fultz and Michael Porter Jr. might bring to the program over the next two years.

A nine-win season and a Porter transfer later, the landscape has changed dramatically. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons to get excited.

One hundred days in, Jennifer Cohen’s gamble on an unproven coach has shown signs of paying off. Productivity has replaced uncertainty. A mass influx has offset a mass exodus.

None of this means anything if it doesn’t translate to wins, and there’s no way to tell if it will. But let’s take a quick look at what Hopkins has accomplished so far.

He’s flexed his East Coast muscle

When Fultz committed to Washington from DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, it felt more like a one-off than the beginning of a trend. But with Hopkins landing Hameir Wright and Nahziah Carter in the last week, it appears another region of the country is now at Washington’s disposal.

This was part of the appeal to hiring Hopkins in the first place. The man has spent two decades fostering relationships on the East Coast.

But to bring in two high-level players just like that?

Wright is a four-star recruit who stands 6-feet-8 and was named Gatorade New York Player of the Year. Carter — also from NYC — is considered the 29th-best shooting guard in the country by

Are these transcendent talents that will have the NBA salivating? Probably not. But they’re skilled additions that round off what says is the 20th-best recruiting class in the nation.

He’s gotten players to stay

Noah Dickerson? He’s coming back as a Husky. Same with Matisse Thybulle, David Crisp and Carlos Johnson, among others. Despite Romar’s lack of recent success, his players still admired him. So it would have been understandable if they bounced after his ouster.

Center Matthew Atewe did that. And Dickerson initially intended to. But for whatever reason, Hopkins and company have been able to retain what could be valuable pieces going forward. That says something.

His assistants have delivered

Shooting guard Jaylen Nowell — the 57th-best recruit in the country, per ESPN — could have joined fellow Garfield product Daejon Davis in decommitting from Washington. But he didn’t. And you can bet that had a lot to do with his relationship with Will Conroy, whom Hopkins kept aboard his staff. Former West Seattle star Nate Pryor was initially set to play for Cameron Dollar at Seattle University. But when Dollar was fired and subsequently hired as a UW assistant, Pryor committed to the Huskies.

Despite his ties to the East Coast, Hopkins has said that Seattle is his primary focus, recruiting-wise. The talent here is richer than all but a few cities in the country and must be capitalized on.

Whether top recruits from the area will continue to flow in remains to be seen. But with Nowell, Pryor and O’Dea product Michael Carter III coming in, there’s reason to think it will.

The big question, of course, is whether Hopkins can actually coach. Romar brought in NBA lottery talent year after year, but went six straight seasons without making the tournament.

Hopkins is known for his recruiting, but he was also an assistant for USA Basketball, which has nothing to do with luring players to a school. That Mike Krzyzewski would bring him aboard implies that Hopkins’ basketball acumen is well-regarded.

Still, the difference between captain and first mate is monumental in the coaching world. That 18-inch slide to the head coach’s chair has made idiots out of previously brilliant assistants. So we’ll have to wait and see.

Make no mistake: This is a rebuild. It’s going to take time. The first couple years probably won’t likely be drawing too much applause.

These first hundred days, on the other hand? I think you have to give Hopkins a hand.

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