It’s probably not a sign for immediate success when the player making the most jaw-dropping plays at practice is the guy who’s ineligible to play this season.
But if Washington’s season pans out as predicted – the Huskies were picked to finish eighth in a preseason media poll – UW fans can take solace that next season’s team will be anchored by promising big man Robert Upshaw.
The 7-0, 260-pound sophomore transferred to UW after one season at Fresno State where he averaged 5.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in 22 games last season.
Admittedly, Upshaw was out of shape earlier in the year and has only recently began feeling like his conditioning has improved.
During the early portions of Tuesday’s practice, Upshaw made a big impression on a small group of observers gathered inside Harshman Court at Alaska Airlines Arena.
In the video (below), Upshaw promised he’d score 30 points at practice. You can see in the clip that his three-point shot needs work, but he was nearly perfect near the basket.
With Upshaw, everything is a dunk. And not your garden-variety slam. He flushes with ferocity. He punches the basketball through the rim with anger and no concern for anyone who may be in his path. It got to a point in practice where UW coaches told Upshaw to work on layups rather than dunking the ball every time.
Defensively, Upshaw displayed terrific awareness and shot-blocking instincts. On one play, it appeared as if a post player wiggled free inside for a layup before Upshaw swooped in from behind and swatted the ball out of bounds. That block was better than any of his dunks and it produced a chorus of laughter from players while courtside observers watched slack-jawed.
You don’t want to get too far ahead of things, but it’s not a stretch to suggest Upshaw has the potential be one of the best big men in the Lorenzo Romar era. For starters, the list isn’t very long with distinguished players. The Huskies have done an outstanding job of producing NBA guards in the past decade, but not so much with post players.
Upshaw could be the next Husky big man in the pros.
He was No. 52 on Rival.com’s top 150 list and 55th in ESPN’s top 100 rankings after his senior year at San Joaquin Memorial High. All three major recruiting sites listed him as a four-star prospect.
There’s still the question as to why Upshaw flamed out at Fresno State. Citing advanced metrics, ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan cited just how disastrous Upshaw was offensively last season and how incredible he was on the defensive end.
Upshaw said he’s matured and plans to use this season to work on the areas of his game that are lacking, specifically his shooting.
His presence at practice is also a benefit for Washington’s Perris Blackwell, another post player transfer. At 6-9, Blackwell needs to be creative inside against Upshaw who has a 7-4 wingspan.
“They help each other because every day if one of them doesn’t bring it, the other one is going to abuse them on the basketball floor,” Romar said. “If Perris doesn’t bring it, Robert is going to have his way. And if Robert doesn’t bring it, then Perris is going to have his way. So they know they both have to challenge each other.
“Both of them are usually on separate teams. Both of them are great finishers. Very aggressive offensively and they command the respect of the defense. They’re good passers so they definitely help your team.”
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