The seats at Alaska Airlines Arena were nearly empty. At one end of the court, most of Washington’s players were emerging from the locker room in street clothes to greet lingering family and friends. At the other end, Quade Green was in the middle of a shooting workout.
Green, a former five-star recruit who transferred from Kentucky midway through last season, wasn’t eligible to participate in the Huskies’ exhibition win over Western Washington last Thursday. At the time, he was still waiting for the NCAA to decide on his waiver.
But Green found a way to play anyway. As workers started cleaning the stands, Green hovered behind the 3-point line. With a group of graduate assistants rebounding for him, Green put up shot after shot after shot. He didn’t stop when the basketball court started transforming into a volleyball court behind him. He didn’t even seem to notice.
“He’s a basketball player,” UW head coach Mike Hopkins said the day before. “He’s out there on the court working hard every day. He’s got a chip on his shoulder. He’s been working really hard. … And Quade gets a lot of reps in practice. He’s that quarterback that might not be getting reps in games because he can’t play, but he’s understanding it and he’s building connectivity with our guys and rhythm.”
But Green’s days of settling for practice reps are over now. Late last week, Hopkins received word that the NCAA had granted Green’s eligibility waiver. So when UW opens the regular season against No. 16 Baylor on Friday, Green will be the starting point guard.
“He can make other guys around him better,” Hopkins said. “You got a guy who has had a year and a half of high-major college basketball, who has that experience that we’re missing. He’s played in a lot of big games for a great program. He can come and help with that experience with our guys.”
Carl Arrigale knows exactly the kind of player the Huskies are getting. He coached Green for four seasons at Neumann-Goretti High School (Philadelphia), one of the top basketball programs in the country. Green made an immediate impact as a freshman before working his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore. He won four state championships with the Saints and finished his career with 1,853 points, which ranks second in school history.
“As soon as he walked in, he was able to handle himself in a competitive gym,” Arrigale said during a phone interview this week. “His sophomore year, he was sensational. It was the first year he was able to start. He shot over 50 percent from three. He kind of just took over from there. He got a lot of confidence, I think, from that year. He had a really good junior year and then once he got settled in the summer circuit, he did really well. It was just a constant uptick.”
Coming out of high school, Green was considered by 247Sports composite to be the No. 26 player and No. 5 point guard in his class. He had offers from many of the nation’s top programs, including Kentucky, Syracuse, Villanova, Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Louisville and Michigan State.
During the recruiting process, Green built a relationship with Hopkins, an assistant at Syracuse. The Orange were high on his list. And while Arrigale said Green was drawn to Kentucky’s tradition, he believed Green’s heart was always partially with Hopkins and Syracuse.
Green wanted to be a lead guard in college, and at the beginning of his time at Kentucky, he was. Green started 13 of the first 15 games of his collegiate career, but his role started shifting as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander emerged as a star. When Gilgeous-Alexander became the Wildcats’ starting point guard and leading scorer, Green began coming off the bench. He also spent more time playing off the ball.
Green still shot 45.1 percent from the field, including 37.6 percent from the 3-point line as a freshman. In nine games last season, he shot 44.9 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from the 3-point line.
“(Kentucky) didn’t really have a lot of shooting, I don’t think, early in his career,” Arrigale said. “They kind of slid him over and wanted him to be a shooter, which was fine. He played a little bit of that role for us in his career as well. Then he kind of just got lost in the shuffle with injuries and different things. His role just changed to the point where I think change was the best for him.”
When Green decided to transfer after the first semester of his sophomore season, UW seemed like a natural fit. Not only did Green have a history with Hopkins, but Arrigale considers Hopkins a friend. And even though West Coast games will keep Arrigale up later, he’s looking forward to seeing how Green jells with UW’s talented, but inexperienced lineup.
“He’s a likable kid,” Arrigale said. “If he goes about it in the right way, he’ll get these guys to follow him. He’s about winning. He understands winning. He’s the kind of guy that guys like to play with. If Coach (Hopkins) lets him go — they kind of held him back a little bit at Kentucky — if Coach lets him go, he’ll make some plays for people and they’ll really enjoy playing with him. So I think they’ll follow him. I think he can definitely help Coach in that area, in that leadership area.”
Even though Green has yet to play a game for UW, Hopkins has already seen those qualities. The Huskies will need them. UW lost four seniors, four starters and five out of its top six scorers from last season. Even though Hopkins brought in a top-10 class that includes five-star recruits Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, he is still relying heavily on an inexperienced lineup.
Enter Green, who has a season and a half of college basketball experience. He was also with UW for practices during the second semester last year. Hopkins said Green is arguably the best shooter on the team. He’ll be looking to distribute, but he can also take over games if necessary.
“He’s a guy that can make open shots and space the floor,” Hopkins said. “He’s really good in transition and he makes the game easier for others.”
Last season, senior point guard David Crisp was the unquestioned leader of the Huskies. So it seemed fitting that even though Green wasn’t eligible to play against Western Washington, he took Crisp’s place in UW’s pregame ritual by hanging from the rim during warm-ups. That was the moment, before every game, that Crisp would set the tone for the Huskies.
Now, it’s Green’s turn.
“(Hopkins) will have Quade’s best interest in mind as well as those of the team,” Arrigale said. “I just think Quade’s in good hands. Once he realizes that, I think it’ll be similar to when he was here and he’ll be able to flourish and take off.”