Projecting the 2009-10 Starting Rotation

After winning the Pac-10 Championship in 2009, the Washington Huskies are looking at cutting down the nets again in ’10. Despite the loss of two leaders and great players in Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon, the incoming recruiting class appears to be able to fill in the losses of the senior class in Brockman, Dentmon and Artem Wallace (as well as the Joe Wolfinger transfer) incredibly well.

With a year of growth for the current roster, there will be some new faces in the Huskies starting lineup. Here’s a look at who the five will likely be and what they bring to the table…

Point Guard

Abdul Gaddy, Freshman

The biggest get in the 2009 class is the slick, true point guard out of Tacoma. Having the opportunity to watch him dominate my high school on a consistent basis is already enough to give him the starting nod in my opinion (Gaddy once dropped about 43 and 15 assists against my high school).

But this is the college level now, and by all indications when Gaddy slips on the #0 jersey for the first time, he’ll be starting. What is truly great about Gaddy is that he was likely the purest point guard in the country for the 2009 class. This will obviously be a drastic change from Isaiah Thomas last year as he is a scoring guard to a premium level. Having Gaddy should allow Washington to run the patented Lorenzo Romar offense quickly and efficiently. The court vision this kid posses should be the ideal for all point guards in the country; get used to pinpoint ally-oop passes to the big men on a nightly basis.

The only problem with Gaddy may be that he tries to get the team involved too much. In his final year at Bellarmine (and only season without normal partner in crime Avery Bradley), Gaddy attempted at involving his less-than-stellar teammates at points where he should be driving or taking a jump shot at the top of the key. However if there is a problem for a point guard to have, this would be at the top of the list. The difference between Bellarmine and Washington is that there is a full roster of great talent around Gaddy.

Expect big things from this kid while we have him; it might not last beyond two years.

Shooting Guard

Isaiah Thomas, Sophomore

The freshman year for Thomas was obviously a great success for him and the team. It can easily be argued his arrival at Washington is the reason the Huskies went from below average Pac-10 team to conference champions. His sophomore year however will be a change in that he will no longer be the primary point guard on the team. As a freshman he had the privilege of bringing the ball up the court with Dentmon as the two guard. With the arrival of Gaddy, Thomas now slides over and will no longer be in charge of setting up the offense.

How Thomas will react to this is unknown, but it should be assumed he knew his future the moment the ink dried on Gaddy’s letter of intent.

As a two guard Thomas should excel — especially with the arrival of Gaddy distributing the ball to him. Thomas will now have more ability to use his quickness to create separation from his defender and create more spacing for an open jump shot or cut to the rim. Dentmon demonstrated last year exactly how Thomas should handle the role of switching from point guard to shooting guard; hopefully Zeke was taking notes.

In order to take full advantage of this switch, Thomas will have to shoot the three ball on a more consistent basis. Last year he shot a dismal 29%, a figure that will have to be improved on to keep defenders honest and allow for him to make easier drives to the basket. If Thomas can improve that number, Washington has one of the premiere backcourts in the country.

Small Forward

Quincy Pondexter, Senior

Time sure flies by. It’s amazing to think that Quincy will be a senior the next time the Huskies tip-off, literally feels just like yesterday I was watching his first game against Pepperdine back in ’06. I still remember when he scored on a reverse lay-in of some sort, and just throwing his arms around with all the adrenaline of playing at the college level for the first time.

Since then there has been a countless number of remarks about his inability to live up to his lofty expectations coming in as a freshman. At one point last year it seemed as if people finally accepted his role as a very good third option for the Huskies. Instead Quincy went out to prove everybody wrong and emerged as a possible, dare I say, first option for the team. Just off of memory, the USC victory near the end of the year in Los Angeles was almost completely due to Pondexter’s performance. The rest of the country also witnessed his growth as he took over at points during Washington’s opening round victory over Mississippi State in the NCAA Tournament (23 points and 7 rebounds).

In his senior season Pondexter may be looked to more than any other player in crunch situations. Like every other player on the roster, Pondexter should benefit from the addition of Gaddy as point guard. Romar will likely be calling much more plays for him now, and in order for the Huskies to re-claim the Pac-10 title, Quincy will have to respond.

I think 17, 6, and 2 sounds like a nice season average.

Power Forward

Darnell Gant, Sophomore (RS)

Perhaps the biggest unsung hero for the Huskies last season was Gant playing consistently good basketball in the starting lineup (although I guarantee this idea will be drilled into our heads upon the release of basketball previews regarding the Huskies). It was widely assumed at the beginning of last season that Bryan-Amaning would have the starting nod over Gant last season. But due to injury, Gant was inserted into the starting lineup and was able to defend it for the rest of the season.

If going by stat lines determined the starting lineup, Gant would never be considered due to his 3 PPG and 3 RPG average last season. But Gant proved that he deserved to be in the starting five each night with his tenacious defense and surprisingly strong ability to hit the fifteen foot jump shot when needed. After starting the year cringing whenever Gant pulled up, I eventually grew to the point I was encouraged to see him have the open shot.

Now the stats do not lie in one category, he will need to improve on the 36% field goal shooting. While he did hit that fifteen footer on a consistent basis, raising his shooting percentage on the blocks would make the Huskies a much better team in the post. However, the beautiful aspect for Gant is that he is not needed to see a drastic bump offensively. Most of the offense will come from the guards and Pondexter. All that is needed from #44 is that he plays the same defense and disrupts the opposing big men exactly how he did last season. Anything more would be a bonus.

Center

Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Junior

The big Brit will finally have the opportunity to play in the starting lineup after being blocked out by Brockman and seeing Gant take his presumed spot last season because of an injury. But with the ability to say he is a starter for the Washington Huskies, MBA will be expected to bring it.

There is no doubt that MBA has the talent of an elite player, he has just been somewhat of a tease for the past two seasons. During the summer prior to last season he demonstrated his elite talent while playing for the British youth national team when he dropped over 40 on the Czech Republic. MBA also showed Husky fans his talent in multiple games such as Texas Southern, Portland State, and Stanford.

Problem for Washington was whenever he delivered a great game, it seemed MBA took another step back. The game after the Stanford performance may be the best example as his stat line against California was a dismal 4 points and 0 rebounds. How someone 6’9″ and played 36 minutes of basketball and failed to grab a rebound is beyond me, but the point is that Washington will have to witness less performances like California and more like Oregon State (12 and 9).

Out of all the players, MBA has the strongest chance of forfeiting his starting spot. Gant can easily slide to center while newcomer Charles Garcia Jr. will flash what two years of junior college will do for a basketball player.

There is no doubt that the focal point of the Huskies is going to be the guard play. But for the team to repeat, MBA has to step up as the big man to command defense and be a force to be reckoned with on the boards.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Projecting the 2009-10 Starting Rotation

  1. Paul

    I just found this web-site by accident and have to say that you’re a very good writer and provide excellent analysis. I enjoyed reading these articles immensely. I’m impressed that you are apparently only a year removed from h.s. I’m certain you have a successful career ahead of you as a sports journalist or whatever your ambition is.

    I do have a couple comments regarding your Gant and MBA projections.

    First, your comment that Gant obtained the starting role over MBA due to an injury isn’t the first time I’ve read that. However, that isn’t correct. You may recall that Gant actually had earned the starting role over MBA prior to the exhibition game vs. Western Washington, in which MBA came off the bench. MBA had that fall/injury a few days following that game.

    Second, I do agree with you that MBA will replace Brockman as a starter next year. I think it is too often overlooked that MBA very much became Brockman’s back-up as really his role and Brockman’s are very similar on the court and they rarely synced well when on the court at the same time. Which is why I suspect Gant had earned that starting role…his game meshed with Brockman’s better than MBA’s did.

    Which leads me to two ancillary points.

    A. I suspect MBA will have a better season this next year than anticipated by many. I think he is one of those types of players who needs to be ‘the guy’ and not a sub/role player. As long as Brockman was around, that was never going to happen. But next season MBA should be the focal point down low and he’ll blossom there. One piece of evidence of this is when Brockman sat out with the sprained ankle against Portland State. MBA was incredible in every facet of the game; scoring, rebounding and passing.

    B. I’m a little surprised you are so confident that Gant will retain a starting position. I see a myriad of possibilities where Gant will become a sub. One, possibility is with the plethora of good guards, Romar going small with a 3 guard line-up, QP at the #4 and MBA down low. Another realistic possibility is Gant losing his starting job to Garcia since it doesn’t appear any one has much of a feel exactly how good Garcia is. However, when Romar recruited him so strongly and so early on I suspect he sees Garcia as a real contributor.

    However, I do like Gant’s game immensely, I agree with you on his jumper, and if he does maintain a starting role I think he’ll do great.

    Nice work on the blog, I’ll be sure to check it more often.

  2. David

    First, thank you for the kind comments on the blog. I’m going to be trying update every day.

    Second, if you remember UW played Wyoming a few days before the Western game in a “closed scrimmage”, MBA got the start ahead of Gant. Yes you are right that Gant got the start against Western, but in the beginning it could be assumed Romar was merely experimenting with the lineups after seeing MBA against Wyoming. I think you would agree that MBA was widely considered the favorite for that fifth spot, Gant became a revelation and maybe earned the spot permanently after the Wyoming game, but it is difficult to interpret Romar’s thinking at the time. I should have made that more clear as opposed to just saying “due to injury.” I was just implying that MBA was considered the favorite, but it is possible his injury forced Gant into the starting lineup.

    Third, regarding my logic that Gant definitely has a spot. I did wrestle with the possibility that Garcia could come in and take the spot or the chances of the small lineup. However Romar has emphasized defense more than ever these past few years, which is why I see Gant maintaining his spot. Of course there could be a “Darnell Gant” this year and someone like Breshers or Garcia will take the spot when it was presumed Gant had it. It should be interesting, but there is no doubt that Romar has options, which is always nice to have.

  3. Paul

    Fair enough. I did not know anything about MBA starting in that closed scrimmage game. UW did a good job of complying with NCAA rules and successfully prevented much coming out of that scrimmage to the public, I am impressed and surprised you knew the starting line-up.

    I absolutely agree with you that MBA was considered the obvious choice for the 5th starting spot last season. That is why I remembered he ‘lost’ it prior to the injury, because I was so shocked that Gant was the 5th starter instead.

    However, I still believe the injury became irrelevant and Gant would have continued to start anyways as I believe MBA’s had poor on-court chemistry with Brockman, which also helps understand MBA’s inconsistency last season. It isn’t an indictment on MBA or Brockman that their games didn’t mesh, rather, a compliment. Both of their styles demand they be the primary low post option, so when on the court at the same time, it was logical one of them would struggle…and that naturally was MBA. Gant, on the other hand, was a perfect complement to Brockman offensively, then factor in his defensive skills, it makes sense that he start instead of MBA.

    Admittedly, none of this made sense to me last fall, but in retrospect it does now and further impresses me with Romar’s coaching skills to recognize that before a single game had even been played (except the scrimmage apparently).

    Having never seen Breshers, nor Garcia, play. Any of my opinions are based strictly on what I’ve read. But it sounds to me that Breshers is predominantly a low post player on both ends of the court, like MBA. So my guess is, the battle to replace Brockman is between those two and one of them will be a starter next season, but not both.

    So again I agree with four of your starting five; Gaddy, Thomas, Pondexter and then MBA (or Breshers).

    Now, regarding the 5th starter. Garcia sounds to me very similar to Gant; capable of defending several positions and can operate effectively in the high post, or possibly even the wing.

    Therefore it would seem Gant or Garcia be the 5th starter.

    Except…for this…if there is any advantage MBA has over Brockman it is MBA’s length. Because of this, as I said previously, I’ve wondered if Romar might go with MBA and Pondexter as his big men and start three guards instead of Gant or Garcia.

    One of the things I love about Romar’s style is he doesn’t limit himself to putting 5 guys on the floor by their ‘positions’. Rather, he’ll find the 5 best guys who create the greatest synergy. When keeping that in consideration, I can see him trying to figure out a way to start three of his stellar guards along with Pondexter and MBA.

    I’m not debating you, you have better insight on this than I do, and far better insight to the game of basketball then I did when I was in college…a long, long time ago. Your write-up just got me to thinking and I enjoyed contemplating what next year’s Huskies will look like.

    Well done.

  4. dawgprospect

    Very good response Paul.

    I am very intrigued by the three guard lineup, always have been. I don’t think there is any doubt that a consistent lineup for the Huskies next season would be Gaddy, Thomas, Turner, Pondexter, and (fill in the blank) during the middle of games. I am absolutely crazy about Turner’s game, and that lineup would provide incredible offense. Even bring in Overton for Thomas for increased defense if needed.

    But thanks for the thought out comments, and hope you make this a regular place. I’ll be discussing more about the Husky lineup and players in the future.

  5. Dawg53

    All good comments by everyone – glad to see this blog, DP. Here’s my interpretation of the lineup next year: I see it going two possible directions; if Zo wants a “traditional” lineup with 2G, 2F & C, then it my guess is IT, Gaddy or Turner, QP, Gant and MBA. If he goes with a non-traditional set, then I see IT, Gaddy and Turner, with QP and MBA down low. This gives us a disher, a slasher and a bomber out high, with the true low-post presence in MBA and arguably the POY in the Pac-10 next year in QP. It would be easy to bring Gant, Garcia &/or Breshers off the bench if we’re getting beat down low too much or to give QP & MBA a blow; we have Venoy, Holiday, Wallace and Suggs as an excellent rotation at the guard spot, and that doesn’t even count in the one that I see as a real dark horse – Mr. Trent. That is one awesome lineup we have next year, and one that I think I can comfortably say will be the repeat Pac-10 conference champion and at least a Sweet-16 participant…

    • Paul

      Agreed on Turner. I thought I was the only one who felt that way about his game…in fact…he is the 3rd guard I would have projected if Romar started 3 guards, but I didn’t state that because I didn’t feel like debating it (I was assuming no one else would agree with him being a starter).

      I felt like he very quietly proved to be one of the Huskies with the most potential thanks to his high basketball I.Q. I loved it when he was on the floor last season. He didn’t get a lot of accolades, but he quietly did a lot of small things that brought success to the team.

      • dawgprospect

        Very true Paul. I remember when he committed to Romar awhile back and knowing absolutely nothing on the kid except for the fact that his dad was an NBA coach.

        Now in hindsight he seems to be one of the biggest steals in the recruiting year because of the potential he has along with his current impact.

        With three point shooting being a question mark for the team next year, if Romar does go with the three guard lineup, I don’t think there is any question he would get the starting nod.

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