You never know what you’ll get at the Northwest Collegiate Summer League. Games are played Mondays and Wednesdays and some nights NBA players such as Isaiah Thomas and professional players like Justin Dentmon and Matthew Bryan-Amaning will make an appearance.
But mostly the NCAA-sanctioned league is a showcase and training ground for college players. This year Washington, Seattle University and Seattle Pacific are participating and since this is a UW blog, we’ll focus on the Huskies.
There were four games this week, but the most interesting matchup was Monday’s nightcap that included a Suns team comprised of UW freshmen Darin Johnson and Jahmel Taylor against a Nets squad led by UW walk-on Quinn Sterling.
The Nets dominated in a 72-55 victory with Sterling adding 12 points. He’s a lights-out shooter, especially when his feet are set. Off the dribble, he’s not nearly as effective and he’s limited athletically.
Taylor finished with four points in loss. He’s exciting to watch because he’s all energy and hustle. A couple of summer league coaches raved about his leadership skills and ability to accept coaching. Taylor is a prototypical undersized point guard. At 5-11, he’s always one of the quickest players on the floor. He doesn’t shy away from contact and stands his ground against bigger guards. However, at times the 160-pounder is at a size disadvantage when he’s forced to defend forwards in the paint. If he’s in a defensive scheme that switches on picks, then he could be exposed.
Still Taylor is at his best on the defensive end because he’s got a bulldog mentality. On Monday his perimeter shot was erratic. He struggled on pick-n-rolls, which is bound to happen in summer league games. And he had more turnovers (five) than points. Taylor has to improve his college three-pointer much like Thomas and Dentmon did during their careers at UW.
Johnson was the best player on the floor and the star of the night. He scored a game-high 21 points. He stood out because of a diversified offensive attack. He did a little bit of everything. On three occasions in the first half, he got to the rim with a beautiful spin move in the lane and finished with his left hand. Twice in the second half, he used his dribble to separate from a defender and drained long jumpers. He was also adept using screens at the high post to create offense for himself.
Johnson is a fluid player who doesn’t look like he’s exhorting much energy. He tends to glide across the floor. But he’s also surprisingly athletic and grabbed a couple of rebounds in traffic.
On Monday Johnson didn’t make many high-flying plays above the rim. Not sure if that’s in his repertoire. However, he looked like somebody who might help the Huskies offensively next season.
Washington, which lost three of its top four scorers, needs players who can score. It’s easy to imagine Johnson filling a spot in the rotation as an offensive-minded spark plug off the bench. Not sure how the 6-4 guard can start in a backcourt that will likely feature C.J. Wilcox, Andrew Andrews and Nigel Williams-Goss. It also remains to be seen if Johnson can rebound and defend well enough to warrant significant minutes. Terrence Ross is arguably the most gifted offensive UW player in the past decade, but he struggled to stay on the floor as a freshman because his defensive struggles.
Here’s a quick Q&A with Johnson from Monday.