When second-year Washington head coach Mike Hopkins thinks of his seniors, he thinks of sacrifice.
Of Noah Dickerson becoming a capable and willing passer in the face of constant double teams.
Of David Crisp switching positions out of necessity and turning himself into a point guard.
Of Matisse Thybulle accepting a smaller role on offense while wreaking havoc defensively.
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And of Dominic Green, one of the Huskies’ hardest workers, embracing his role as a sharp-shooter coming off the bench.
“They’ve all sacrificed for the greater good,” Hopkins said Tuesday afternoon. “Moving forward, I think that’s what we’re all about.”
UW’s seniors will play their final home games this week against Oregon State on Wednesday and Oregon on Saturday.
Dickerson is just the sixth UW player to reach 1,000 points and 900 rebounds in his career. Thybulle, the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, is the only active player in Division I to be in the top 25 career rankings in both steals (306, 1st) and blocks (170, 25th). Crisp is second all-time in made 3-pointers in school history with 243. All three have passed 1,000 points.
Together, the four seniors have scored 4,763 points in 500 career games. But it was something else they did together that helped Hopkins rejuvenate the Huskies’ basketball program.
“To see them have success has been really special,” Hopkins said. “Those four guys… (When) we got the job, you don’t know who’s staying and who’s leaving, if you’re going to have a roster or not have a roster.
“They stayed, they believed, they came together, they worked, they bought in. To see them have success is really, really rewarding.”
Hopkins still remembers a moment from shortly after he took over the program. The team had just finished early morning workouts and was heading to eat. He waited by the door, thinking everyone had already gone inside, when he saw Dickerson walking the other direction with assistant coach Cameron Dollar.
“Where are you guys going?” Hopkins recalled asking. “I thought you were going to eat?”
“No,” Dollar said. “We’re going to go back and get on the treadmill.”
To Hopkins, that was when Dickerson truly committed to being a better player. He worked out, got in shape, improved his foul shooting. He averaged 15.5 points last season, up from 12.5 as a sophomore. He also increased his free-throw shooting percentage from 67.6 to 78.6.
Like Dickerson, the rest of the seniors fully embraced Hopkins’ energy and philosophy. And Dickerson hopes fans will remember them for their loyalty.
“I want them to think about how we stayed together through it all,” he said. “Just through all the ups-and-downs. And then these last two years we’ve been on an up. Probably that, just how we all stayed together.”
It wasn’t just on the court that UW’s players recommitted. While Dickerson said the Huskies spent time together during past summers, the team hung out even more before this season.
They got closer, Dickerson said, which helped their productivity on the court. Because they learned more about each other’s games, they were able to put themselves in the best positions to succeed.
“Even with all the new guys and stuff like that, we’re tight,” Dickerson said. “We all love each other. There’s so much love in the room. I hear everyday from the new guys, ‘It’s going to be weird without you guys.’ Everybody is tight. Everybody loves each other.”
Weeks ago, sitting in the stands inside a mostly empty Alaska Airlines Arena, Crisp said his main focus as a senior was embracing everything, the highs and the lows. He wants to remember it all.
“Just seeing the beauty in all of it,” he said. “Beauty in the victories, beauty in the pain. It’s just been a crazy ride.”
This year — two seasons after finishing 9-22 – the Huskies’ seniors have dealt with the highs more often than not.
They clinched UW’s first Pac-12 regular season title since 2012. They earned the first conference road sweep in six years. And in a few weeks, they will likely be celebrating the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth since 2011.
That’s a milestone they narrowly missed out on last season when UW finished 21-13 and played in the NIT.
“We decided coming into this year that nothing was going to stop us because it was all in our control,” Thybulle said. “We had good seasons and we had terrible seasons and we learned from all of them. We just knew we were going to try and take that into this year to try and get something special done.”
What the seniors have done more than anything else, said sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, is reshape the culture of the program.
“They’re definitely leaders,” Nowell said. “We look to them for them to lead us, being the oldest. It really wasn’t hard for them to come in and set the tone, really. We were all open to being led by them. They’ve really done a great job, as you can see. We’re really thankful to have all of them.”