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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.