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November 29, 2014 at 6:21 PM

JaQuori McLaughlin picks Washington

A few weeks after signing one of the highest ranked classes in school history, the Washington men’s basketball team got an early start on assembling the 2016 group.

The recent upswing in recruiting continued after the Huskies secured a verbal commitment Saturday from Peninsula High star JaQuori McLaughlin, who is rated the top junior prospect in the state by ESPN.com.

“I’m doing it now because this is what I really want,” he said. “I want to be in Washington where my family is. I built a great relationship with coach (Lorenzo) Romar. He’s the whole reason why I want to go to Washington.”

The 6-3, 170-pound point guard from Gig Harbor averaged 19.6 points, 3.3 assists and 4.1 steals as a sophomore. He’s considered a four-star prospect by ESPN, Scout and Rivals.

Here’s a link to video highlights from his 2013-14 season.

McLaughlin picked UW over Arizona and Washington State. He also had scholarship offers from Oregon State, Boise State and Memphis.

Last year McLaughlin gave a verbal commitment to Oregon State before re-opening his recruitment in May when the Beavers fired coach Craig Robinson.

He’s the second 2016 prospect to verbally commit to Washington following Jermaine Haley, a 6-7 four-star guard from Burnaby, British Columbia, who decommitted from UW in July.

Meanwhile, Washington compiled a touted 2015 signing class that includes: Guards Dejounte Murray and David Crisp, small forward Matisse Thybulle, power forwards Marquese Criss and Devenir Duruisseau and junior-college center Malik Dime.

The Huskies’ 2015 class is ranked sixth nationally by Scout, seventh by Rivals and 10th by ESPN.

“The class ahead of me and my class I think we’re really going to get UW back on the map,” McLaughlin said. “I think the local guys that are committing there and going there really do have pride with Washington on their chest and representing that around the country and on TV. They really have pride playing for their state.”

JaQuori McLaughlin (Photo credit: Jon Maley – Gateway)

JaQuori McLaughlin (Photo credit: Jon Maley – Gateway)

Here’s a Q&A with McLaughlin.

(Take me through the recruiting process. I saw you committed early to Oregon State and after some upheavel down there you re-opened your recruitment.) “Yeah I committed early to Oregon State. I had a good relationship with coach (Craig) Robinson. Once they left I wanted to open up my recruitment out of respect for him because he was the whole reason why I was going there. So I opened my recruitment and started getting interest from a lot of schools early. The University of Washington being one of those schools. They came on really fast early. The same with Washington State, Oregon State and Memphis. From that time on it was really fun, but now I just want to focus on the season, school and getting better every day.”

(Having gone through the recruiting process once, did that teach you some things for the second go-around?) “Yeah it did help me a lot the second time. Knowing that the coaches are going to be there. Or my relationship with the coaching staff and how their system is. Just a lot of stuff. Learning how it all works.”

(So you’re a junior right?) “Yeah.”

(And you’re 16?) “Yeah.”

(You’re making a verbal commitment now, but you’ve got time. Why do it now?) “I’m doing it now because this is what I really want. I want to be in Washington where my family is. I built a great relationship with coach Romar. He’s the whole reason why I want to go to Washington. It’s because of him.”

(Who was on your final list?) “Washington, Washington State and Arizona.”

(Between those three, what were the pros and cons?) “The time and (distance) where Arizona is located and where Pullman is located, I want to be close to where my family is. But I love those programs too. I thank the coaches that recruited me there and the relationships that we built together.”

(Was there one thing that pushed you to Washington?) “It was really just coach Romar staying in contact with me everyday. He’s really the only coach that contacted me every day and talked to me every day. That’s the whole reason why. It’s because of him.”

(Who has helped you through this process?) “My coach. My dad. They’re really the main two that’s helped me get through this process.”

(What advice did they have for you?) “Just be smart. Know what the coaches are saying. Learn from what they’re saying. And build relationships with the coaches that you could possibly be playing for.”

(And what advice would you give to others who may go through the recruiting process?) “Just really watch what the coaches are doing when they’re at their schools. Build a relationship with them and see who really cares about you. And see where they want you in their program.”

(I haven’t seen you play and I’m sure there’s a lot of UW fans who haven’t seen you play. So how would you describe yourself as a basketball player?) “I would probably describe myself as a leader on the floor. A floor general. Kind of a smooth game, but athletic at the same time. Pretty good shooter. I like to get my teammates involved.”

(From what I’ve read, you’ve been categorized as a point guard. But some would say you’re a shooting guard. I’m guessing in high school you probably have to do a lot of things. Still, where do you see yourself?) “I see myself as a point guard. I see how people see me as a combo guard or a shooting guard probably because with my high school team and my AAU team I have to score a lot. So I don’t really get a chance to show people my passing ability as much.”

(Is there anyone you patterned your game after?) “I’ve kind of watched Chris Paul and Jason Kidd over the years when I was younger. Then more recently Stephon Curry. So trying to mix those players together to get a complete player out of myself.”

(Then off the court, how would you describe yourself?) “Probably really low key. Like to hang around my house, watch movies and stay with my family. Really quiet.”

(It’s super early, but do you have any ideas what you may want to study at UW?) “I’d like to probably study sports medicine.”

(Why sports medicine?) “My older brother liked to do a lot of training stuff and he was always doing his homework at the house so I was really fascinated by the stuff that he was doing.”

(Did he play basketball?) “Yeah, but he started in high school. He’s at TCC (Tacoma Community College) right now.”

(When did you realize you really had something with basketball?) “Probably about seventh or eighth grade. That’s when I started to get really serious about basketball. I noticed I could do something really good with this.”

(What happened?) “Actually, it was probably about the fifth or sixth grade when I first went to the UW camp. I was starting to play football actually and then my older brother kind of got hurt. Then my dad was like I don’t know. Then I went to the UW camp in the summer and the UW coaches really inspired me to stick with basketball and keep playing. So that’s really why.”

(What does basketball mean to you?) “This sport means a lot of things to me. It’s really an opportunity – it’s not everything – but it’s an opportunity to go somewhere in my life.”

(For people who haven’t been to Gig Harbor, how would you describe your town?) “I don’t know. It’s not really a city. It’s a town. There’s a lot of people though. Everyone knows each other. Even the rival schools, we all hang out together.”

(I’m not trying to knock Gig Harbor, but how did that town produce a Division I basketball player? I guess I’m asking, is there much basketball competition there or did you have to travel to really push yourself and test yourself against better players?) “I lived in Tacoma and then we moved to Gig Harbor for more school purposes. They have better schooling out here, especially public schools which is one of the best in the state. So that’s really why we moved to Gig Harbor. There’s not really a lot of people that play basketball here. Sometimes I get some pickup game, but usually I just go back to my friends in Tacoma that are on my AAU team and play with them.”

(I heard you played AAU ball with Donaven Dorsey?) “Yeah. Tacoma Access.”

(Did Dorsey being at Washington influence your choice?) “A little bit. I really didn’t play with him too much on Access, but I practiced with him a couple of times. But I really like Donaven. He’s a great player and a great person.”

(What are you thoughts on the current Washington team?) “The team looks pretty good. They’re athletic. Their big guys are really doing good this year. Running the floor, playing good defense and finishing down low. And Nigel (Williams-Goss) is just a natural leader.”

(And what’s your thoughts on the 2015 class?) “That class is great. They got all the pieces there. Guys that I can get the ball to in scoring position really easy. Guys that will run the floor and play hard for each other.”

(Do you know any of those guys?) “I know David Crisp.”

(How so?) “Just AAU stuff. Playing against him in a couple of tournaments.”

(What’s your thoughts on the Washington program?) “They started out pretty good when coach Romar was there. They kind of took a little dip, but the class ahead of me and my class I think we’re really going to get UW back on the map.”

(Do the local guys take any pride in staying home?) “I think the local guys that are committing there and going there really do have pride with Washington on their chest and representing that around the country and on TV. They really have pride playing for their state.”

(Got to ask, but it’s a long time before you sign any documents with Washington. Any chance you change your mind before then?) “No. As long as coach Romar is there, I’m sticking with coach Romar.”

(What goals do you have for the upcoming season?) “Team goals, we want to get into the playoffs and make a statement in the playoffs and get to the (Tacoma) Dome. That’s one of our goals as a team.”

(Has Peninsula not been to the playoffs in awhile?) “Our school’s history before I got there and the juniors that are with me, our school won like four games in four years. We’re really doing a lot better since then.”

(Being the best player on your team, I would imagine you see a lot of crazy defenses. How do you deal with that?) “My teammates help me. They try to get me off the ball more with screens and just staying level-headed during the games. Not letting anyone get into my head.”

(Now that you make this commitment, is there more pressure on you? I’m guessing opposing players may want to target you a bit.) “Yeah I think there’s a little more pressure. Guys may want to make a statement when they play me. See if they’re better than me and anyone of that stuff.”

(I hear your team is playing in the Les Schwaab Invitational in Portland. Are you looking forward to that?) “Yeah I’m really looking forward to that. Montverde (Academy) is there. So is Wheeler High School with Jaylen Brown, who is the No. 2 player in the nation. And then there’s Payton Pritchard with West Linn (Ore.), the two-time defending champions in Oregon. Can’t wait to go down there on a national stage and play.”

(In terms of basketball, what’s the biggest stage you’ve ever been on?) “Probably the Reebok Classic and the Reebok Breakout Challenge camp in Philadelphia  over the summer.”

(That’s an individual thing, right?) “Yeah.”

(But in terms of playing on a big stage with a team that really hasn’t happened for you yet?) “No it hasn’t. In high school we got to districts last year. So this year we really want to do better than that. Try to make a statement and show everybody how good we are.”

(Are you interested how you and your team will respond when you get on that big stage?) “I’m interested to see that, but I think with the guys we have and the work ethic we have I think we’ll do pretty good on that stage.”

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