Reunited at UW, Keion Brooks Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler are poised to show Huskies round

Reunited at UW, Keion Brooks Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler are poised to show Huskies round


It’s not as if Keion Brooks Jr. and Sahvir Wheeler end one another’s sentences or something like that, however the brotherly bond between the previous Kentucky Wildcats-turned-Washington Huskies turns into obvious after a couple of quick minutes.

Their hoops rapport was on show on the onset of UW’s 103-58 exhibition win towards Division II Saint Martin’s final Sunday when Wheeler lofted a no-look lob to Brooks, who flew excessive over visitors and turned the cross right into a spotlight alley-oop dunk that left Alaska Airways Area spectators gasping.

“We haven’t had anyone like (Wheeler) since we’ve been right here,” stated Mike Hopkins who begins his seventh season on the helm of the Washington males’s basketball workforce. “Sahvir modifications the whole lot. His velocity is completely different. He can rise up and down the courtroom nearly as good as anyone. He’s a coach’s level guard if what I imply.

“As a coach, when you could have a terrific quarterback, you’ll be able to sit again just a little bit and it’s in good arms. He’s a terrific chief. He’s reliable. He is aware of the best way to distribute the ball and simply as necessary, he is aware of who hasn’t had a shot and the best way to get them a shot. … It’s the place we needed to tackle earlier than the rest and he makes all of the distinction.”

Resulting from accidents and experimentation, the Huskies had 4 major ballhandlers final season together with Noah Williams, PJ Fuller II, Keyon Menifield and Koren Johnson.

Washington led the Pac-12 with 14 turnovers per recreation and ranked 10th with 11.5 assists per recreation, which partly explains why the Huskies had been 16-16 and completed tied for eighth within the Pac-12 at 8-12.

Unsurprisingly, Hopkins revamped the backcourt with a brand new forged together with Rutgers switch Paul Mulcahy, Lamar switch Nate Calmese and Wheeler, a dynamic 5-foot-9 playmaker who spent the previous two years at Kentucky.

“It’s sort of humorous as a result of I assumed this was a pipe dream,” stated Brooks, who teamed with Wheeler at Kentucky throughout the 2021-22 season. “Generally I might sit round after video games final yr and be like ‘Rattling, if I had Sahvir this could have occurred or that will have occurred.’ However by no means actually considering it could be a chance for us to play collectively.

“We at all times sort of saved involved with one another. Nothing too critical, simply checking in once in a while. Then as soon as he hit the portal, I used to be like ‘Coach, get him proper there. Bought to go get him. I don’t need no person else.’ And we had been capable of make it occur.”

On the time, Wheeler was searching for a contemporary begin after two years at Kentucky the place he averaged 9.1 factors, 6.3 assists and a couple of.5 rebounds whereas beginning 43 of 51 video games.

“Let’s not act like (he) wasn’t an element,” Wheeler stated when requested about Brooks. “After I entered the portal initially, I feel I texted Keion with just a few eye emojis. At first it was similar to a pair forwards and backwards (texts). He’s like: ‘Man, are you enjoying?’ I’m like: ‘No, I’m for actual. What’s up? Inform coach Hop to hit me up and see if that is going to be the most effective match for me.’

“Once they made that call, then we visited. I had a dialog with the entire teaching employees and continued to speak with Keion and even a number of the gamers on textual content message and DMs. I felt prefer it was simply the most effective alternative for me and the most effective match for me.”

Washington is the third collegiate cease for Wheeler, a well-traveled 22-year-old Harlem, New York, native who grew up in Houston the place he had a record-breaking prep profession at Houston Christian Excessive College that included two state championships.

Wheeler initially dedicated to Texas A&M, however reopened his recruitment when the Aggies fired coach Invoice Kennedy. Wheeler spent two years at Georgia, setting the freshman report with 139 assists, and earned second workforce All-SEC honors as a sophomore whereas averaging 14 factors, 7.4 assists and three.8 rebounds.

At Kentucky, Wheeler garnered second-team All-SEC honors as a junior whereas averaging 10.1 factors, 6.9 assists and a couple of.6 rebounds and beginning 29 of 30 video games. Final season, Wheeler began 13 of the primary 14 video games earlier than struggling a season-ending ankle harm in February.

“All of us have a unique journey and path and the whole lot occurs for a purpose,” Wheeler stated. “I’m at UW for a purpose. I’m glad I’m right here and I wouldn’t wish to be wherever else proper now. My course of has at all times been the identical.

“From after I was initially dedicated to A&M and going to Georgia. From Georgia to Kentucky and Kentucky to right here, it’s at all times a brief window it’s important to decide that impacts your life. It’s at all times the identical and I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve loved each course of and I’m right here now and may’t wait to get began.”

Washington begins its last season within the Pac-12 at 8:30 p.m. Monday towards Bellarmine, which is the primary of three nonconference dwelling video games at Alaska Airways Area earlier than a doubtlessly consequential Las Vegas journey for 2 video games on the Continental Tire Foremost Occasion event.

In some ways, Wheeler has already impacted the Huskies earlier than enjoying an official recreation. Hopkins hopes to make radical offensive and defensive modifications and can want Wheeler to spearhead the transformations.

In the beginning, Hopkins, the previous longtime Syracuse assistant, is ditching his beloved 2-3 zone protection in favor of a harassing man-to-man defensive scheme, which can embrace a full-court press and half-court traps.

“You sort of received to shake it up just a little bit,” Brooks stated. “Our man protection has been nice for us. I’m nonetheless fairly positive we’ll play zone right here and there, however we would like to have the ability to be disruptive, take individuals out of their stuff and make offenses uncomfortable with the stress that we’re capable of placed on the ball.

“Sahvir is admittedly nice at being on the ball and making you flip and making you uncomfortable. Then behind him we received guys with lengthy arms and good peak.”

On the different finish, the Huskies will try to supercharge a slumping offense that ranked within the backside half of the Pac-12 final season in three-point subject purpose share (31.3% — 11th), assists per recreation (11.5 — 10th), factors per recreation (69.2 — eighth) and subject purpose share (43.1% — seventh).

“With us having a unique workforce and completely different skill-sets, it opens up the ground much more for shooters,” Brooks stated. “We now have top-of-the-line level guards within the nation in Sahvir. He will get within the lane. He can rating and he’s actual good at preserving everyone concerned.

“That mixture plus the stress that Braxton (Meah) places on the rim … we now have a great combination of men who can do plenty of various things. We don’t have two people who find themselves precisely the identical or turn out to be redundant. Our new offense actually highlights the mixtures and skill-sets that we now have.”

Theoretically, Wheeler and Mulcahy, a 6-6 playmaker and fifth-year guard with 457 profession assists, ought to make life simpler on the offensive finish for Brooks, Meah and sixth-year newcomer Moses Wooden, a 40% profession three-point shooter.

“The factor about Sahvir that I like is he is aware of who wants a contact,” Hopkins stated. “That’s a type of innate traits that the great level guards have. They know the place the ball must go and so they can get it there.”

The final time, Wheeler and Brooks performed collectively, they helped Kentucky to a 26-8 report, which ended with a surprising 85-79 time beyond regulation loss to No. 15 seed Saint Peter’s within the first spherical of the NCAA event in 2022.

Again then, Brooks averaged 10.8 factors and 4.4 rebounds whereas beginning 33 video games. Final season, the 6-7 ahead averaged a team-high 17.7 factors whereas capturing second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

“The largest distinction is his confidence,” Wheeler stated when requested about Brooks, a preseason All-Pac-12 choice who is taken into account a convention MVP candidate. “He’s grown as a participant and clearly, I’m speaking about his skill-set. However I feel the most important factor is his confidence. Half of the sport is confidence. When Keion is empowered and he is aware of he’s empowered by his coaches and his teammates, then the whole lot else goes to fall in line as a result of he has all of the expertise, athleticism and the ability. … He’s going to be top-of-the-line gamers within the nation for positive.

“What Keion Brooks brings to this workforce or any workforce can’t be replicated. It might probably’t be taken without any consideration. This dude is an all-world dude not solely on the courtroom, however off the courtroom. The way in which he carries himself as a pacesetter by instance. The way in which guys look as much as him. Positively, Keion is a type of guys who stirs our drink. He’s the sugar you add to the Kool-Support.”

Sitting close by, Brooks smiled sheepishly earlier than ending their joint interview ultimately month’s Pac-12 media day with an addendum.

“I’m flattered by that,” he stated. “I admire it, however I’m no larger than anyone else on our workforce. With out everyone else, I’d be nothing. It’s cool to say it’s my workforce, nevertheless it’s all of our workforce.

“We will’t do something with out the subsequent man. It sounds good, however I’m nothing with out my teammates. Particularly, this man proper right here.”

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