As Lorenzo Romar puts it, everyone in the state of Washington knows — or should have known — who Malachi Flynn was coming out of Bellarmine Prep.
Elsewhere, it might be a different story.
“Outside, I am not sure how many people knew how good he was as a shooter,” said Romar, the University of Washington men’s basketball coach. “People are aware of him now.”
It’s been an uncanny season around the Pac-12 so far. As many as eight true freshmen have seen multiple starts at point guard.
Seven of them — UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, UW’s Markelle Fultz, Oregon State’s JaQuori McLaughlin, Cal’s Charlie Moore, Oregon’s Payton Pritchard, Arizona’s Kobi Simmons and Flynn, at Washington State University — are the primary ball-handlers and decision-makers for their teams heading into conference play.
“Look at our league, just the outstanding talent at the point guard position as freshman is amazing,” Ducks coach Dana Altman said. “If the talent is there, and the young man is competitive and has toughness, you’ll go through some growing pains. But then it’s not too bad.”
Flynn is easily the most underheralded of the talented group.
He is the quintessential late bloomer, both in size and reputation. Before a senior-season growth spurt in high school, Flynn was one of the smaller guards in the South Sound. And not only had he been cut from a higher-profile AAU team in Seattle, he wasn’t even regarded as the top player on his local club team — Team Access. McLaughlin was.
Things began changing for Flynn as a senior. He developed into the area’s premier scorer at 29.7 points per game. And not only was Flynn selected as The News Tribune’s All-Area most valuable player, he was named the Associated Press’ all-classification player of the year.
Yet, it wasn’t until way after the state championships were completed that Flynn — after months of being committed to the University of Pacific — chose to play for the Cougars. He eventually signed his letter of intent in April.
“My (recruiting process) was a little funny,” Flynn said. “But I just think if you are good enough, you will eventually be seen. Rankings do not matter. If you can play, you can play — and WSU found me.”
It’s one thing to sign with a Pac-12 school. It’s another thing entirely to immediately become a key cog in what the Cougars are doing.
At 11.3 points per game, the 6-foot-1 Flynn might not be the same prolific scorer as a Fultz (conference-leading 22.0 ppg) or Moore (15.8 ppg). But outside of the occasional game of multiple turnovers, the Tacoma native has not had a stinker game so far in his young career.
“He hasn’t had a stinker practice, which is more surprising,” WSU coach Ernie Kent said.
Flynn is among the league leaders in field-goal percentage (51.2 percent), and is tied with Fultz for fourth in the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage (46.8 percent).
Flynn’s 27 points against Utah Valley is sixth most by a Cougars’ freshman in school history. His 11 made field goals in that 83-76 victory in late November is a WSU freshman record.
He is logging heavy minutes for the Cougars, too — 32.6 minutes per game, which ranks eighth in the conference.
“He’s so poised for a freshman, he can handle that many minutes,” Kent said. “And we just don’t play him at the point guard spot. He shoots the ball so well, we can move him to off guard.”
The only thing so far that seems to give Flynn fits is the subfreezing winter temperatures of Pullman.
“That’s about it,” he said with a chuckle. “I wear two jackets every day, and I’ve got to have gloves. I’ve got to stay warm.”
Cougars vs. Huskies gameday
WASHINGTON STATE (7-5) at WASHINGTON (7-5)
5:30 p.m. Sunday, Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Seattle
TV: ESPNU. Radio: 1000-AM, 97.7-FM.
All-time series: UW leads, 181-102. The Huskies have won the past three meetings, including a season sweep last season (99-95 in Pullman; 99-91 in Seattle).
Statistics for 2016-17:
2 — Ike Iroegbu, G (6-2, 195, sr.): 10.8 ppg, 2.8 apg.
22 — Malachi Flynn, G (6-1, 170, fr.): 11.3 ppg, 3.0 apg.
23 — Charles Callison, G (6-0, 185, sr.): 9.3 ppg, .853 FT.
24 — Josh Hawkinson, F (6-10, 230, sr.): 15.2 ppg, 10.8 rpg.
42 — Conor Clifford, C (7-0, 260, sr.): 9.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg.
1 — David Crisp, G (6-0, 195, so.): 14.3 ppg, .471 3-pointers.
4 — Matisse Thybulle, G (6-4, 195, so.): 10.4 ppg, .852 FT.
15 — Noah Dickerson, F (6-8, 245, so.): 12.0 ppg, 8.9 rpg.
20 — Markelle Fultz, G (6-4, 195, fr.): 22.0 ppg, 6.4 apg.
33 — Sam Timmins, F (6-11, 265, fr.): 4.0 ppg, 14.2 mpg.
Scouting report: With both teams inclined to run, this game will not only be about tempo — but which intra-state rival can get enough defensive stops. The Huskies are shooting — and making — 3-pointers, ranking second in the country in shooting percentage (43.4 percent). They are on pace to shatter many of their school records for 3-pointers, so WSU defenders have to know where UW’s top shooters, notably Fultz, Thybulle and Crisp, are on the floor. ... Hawkinson’s relentless rebounding and nose for the basketball concern the Huskies. UW coach Lorenzo Romar said the WSU senior reminds him a lot of former Husky star Jon Brockman. Hawkinson has 48 double-doubles, and is five away from the school’s all-time mark. He is 171 rebounds away from 1,000 for his career. ... Romar is 14-7 head-to-head against WSU coach Ernie Kent, including a 3-1 record in the past two seasons. ... UW has won seven of its past eight conference home openers, while the Cougars are 0-5 in league openers since the conference expanded to 12 teams in 2011-12.
Todd Milles: firstname.lastname@example.org