Seattle University’s men’s hoops squad has struggled to escape the shadow cast by the University of Washington basketball team for the last five years. It’s a difficult task to shed the “little brother” label for a number of reasons. The biggest might be that Redhawks coach Cameron Dollar came to SU from an assistant position at the UW, and has brought a very similar style of play to his Redhawks squad.
That similarity is blindingly obvious in the likely starting five for each team. In all but one case, the players lining up on either side of the tip-off circle are extremely similar. The positional battles have been outlined below, with the Redhawks player listed first and his Husky counterpart in parenthesis.
Point guard: Isaiah Umipig (Nigel Williams-Goss) Two slightly undersized, extremely quick, do-it-all point guards. Both have reputations as very good passers. Umipig might tend a little more toward the score-first side of things than his UW freshman counterpart.
Shooting guard: Emerson Murray (Andrew Andrews) Here is the one spot on the floor where the players matching up don’t mirror each other. Murray is a well-rounded shooting guard who has built an instant rapport with his fellow transfer Umipig. Andrews is an inconsistent sparkplug. Both are in their second years in their respective programs (although Murray was ineligible last year).
Swingman: Jarell Flora (CJ Wilcox) Two natural two-guards playing at the three spot for relatively small, quick, up-tempo teams. Wilcox is one of the best shooters on the west coast. Flora is the superior defender, and began developing a nice offensive game at times last year. If he can play with confidence, he could be the leading scorer for this Redhawks team.
Forward: Clarence Trent (Jernard Jarreau) Two undersized power forwards, both able to run the court very well, whose primary strength is in their athleticism. Jarreau is rangier and the better defender; Trent is more physical and more aggressive on offense, and will be counted on in a leadership role for a Seattle squad with just one other senior (Dvonne Pickett, Jr.)
Post: Deshaun Sunderhaus (Perris Blackwell) Two natural post players with good moves in the block, enough quickness to recover on defense, decent midrange games… but no one truly elite skill. Blackwell is a little bigger and more experienced, having starred at USF. Sunderhaus might have been the best overall player for the Redhawks last year as a freshman.
Another problem with the little brother complex? When you play the same style of game, but your older brother has an inherent talent advantage, it’s really hard to beat him.
For a football example, take Washington (a good, up-tempo up-and-coming program) and Oregon (a powerhouse playing exactly the same offensive style). For the last several years, Oregon’s talent advantage has simply been too monumental to overcome. But Oregon has had trouble with Stanford, who play a completely opposite smash-mouth, grind-it-out game.
So here’s how the Redhawks can challenge their older brother: Take a cue from Stanford and hit him in the mouth. Play tough, aggressive defense, and take time on offense to find a quality scoring opportunity. Take the ball to the rim and get to the free-throw line all game.
It’s time for the little brother to develop his own identity and step out from the shadows. Time for the Redhawks to take flight.