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Post Game: San Jose State

Coming off of a 56 point victory against Portland State, expectations were high for the Huskies to deliver a similar beat down to Adrian Oliver and the San Jose State Spartans.

While the Huskies got the victory, it wasn’t in the same dominating fashion like last game. The Huskies delivered a solid performance by beating San Jose State 80-70, largely because of a career night from senior Quincy Pondexter.

Pondexter scored a career high 30 points and a pulled down a career high 15 rebounds in what may be his best performance ever as a Husky (thats the second time I have said that this year). So far this season Pondexter has been ridiculously good and has taken control of the leadership of the team. At the beginning of the season very few would name Pondexter as the best player in the Pac-10, now he might be making it fairly obvious.

While Pondexter had his big night, the rest of the Huskies fell behind which caused for the ten point victory.

Venoy Overton struggled shooting again and with his turnovers, although that could be an outcome of the touchy fouls the refs were calling all night. Overton never found a rhythm while freshman Abdul Gaddy put in his best night as a Husky. Gaddy struggled shooting at 1/6 from the floor, but was responsible for seven assists to no turnovers.

The biggest problem came in the two starting big men in Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Darnell Gant. MBA started the game of quickly but then fell off the map, scoring four points and pulling down two rebounds. That is not acceptable. MBA keeps talking about consistency is his main focus this season, hopefully he is able to get it right.

Gant on the other hand is a mystery. While he started the game and the second half, he only played nine minutes, which was the second least on the team. Clarence Trent even got more minutes, and he was expected to be the last man off the bench this season. Gant may be receiving his pink slip as a starter soon because of Trent’s performance (2/2 shooting, 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, in 13 minutes) as well as Tyreese Breshers’ emergence.

Breshers was probably the big surprise last night when he put in 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds. The effort reminded many of Jon Brockman, and once he fully recovers from his injury, he is the logical guy to step in for Gant.

Isaiah Thomas struggled shooting tonight, which should be expected to happen occasionally given his playing style. But Thomas only scored 4/13 shots and had three turnovers. Its strange to talk about Thomas’ game this late in the write up, but this is likely only a game where he struggled. Its nothing to worry about.

The Spartans were led by Oliver, the former Husky, and he put up a game high 23 shots in his return to Montlake. He went for 32 and was easily the leader on his team, but it was not really efficient seeing as he only hit nine of those attempts.

Overall the Huskies  never really seemed to hit their stride. This can again be attributed to the over-the-top officiating, but they still need to hit more than 41% of their shots against a below average team like San Jose State.

Top Performer: Quincy Pondexter

Stat of the Game: 12 turnovers, the Huskies continue to protect the ball well

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Washington Huskies 2009/2010 Season Preview

Today is the day… its finally back.

College basketball, the best time of the year, is back in full swing today for Seattle as our Washington Huskies tip off against Wright State at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

For many people, including myself, the stretch from the end of the championship game till the second week in November can never come soon enough. With the way the Huskies played last season, Seattle is buzzing with the potential of the Huskies which only made the wait that much more excruciating.

This could be a special season for the Huskies and Lorenzo Romar; maybe the most special season in school history.

The Backbone: The Backcourt

Venoy Overton: Overton was named the somewhat surprising starter last week ahead of super freshman Abdul Gaddy, a true testament to the strength of the backcourt for the Huskies. Starting Overton may be controversial because of Gaddy’s natural talents, but make no mistake that Romar really can do no wrong with a starting combination of either Overton, Gaddy, and Isaiah Thomas in the backcourt. The Huskies will rely on Overton to provide his now nationally famous defensive tenacity (one of the best moments from last season was Overton challenging Mississippi Sate’s Dee Bost after an inbounds pass with his typical swagger) to help control the many great guards in the Pac-10. His strength offensively is driving the basketball to the basket, but if Overton can develop a consistent jump shot then Gaddy may not start this season. Its a great problem to have.

Isaiah Thomas: Thomas will be expected to be the primary scorer for the Huskies, that has been apparent since he first committed to the Huskies way back in 2006. By the end of the year he should be in conisderation for Pac-10 Player of the Year, some All-American lists, and the leading player for one of the top two teams in the conference. But what could make Thomas’ special and the Huskies is if he could become consistent with the three ball. This is much more important now that it is known that C.J. Wilcox will redshirt, but important overall as outside shooting will probably be a weakness for the team.

Abdul Gaddy: I have praised Gaddy non stop throughout the offseason, he’s a special player. Having the opportunity to watch him play on so many occasions allowed me to appreciate his game, maybe too much as I have built him up to a superstar status on this blog. But he has a bright, bright future for the Huskies. He’s the vital piece for Romar to build a national championship team because he’s a guard with unique abilities in passing and scoring. Gaddy is among the best in the country as a guard in the qualities already, and if he stays on campus for three years he could be a first team All-American. Romar may have made the right choice in letting him season a bit on the bench as he continues to adjust to the college game, but coming off the bench the Huskies will not skip a beat in game management, they have one of the best in the country checking in.

Scott Suggs: Suggs is perhaps the most intriguing player on the roster because we did not see him play much last season and many praised him for his performance in camp this season. Coming in last season he had the buzz of being the top rated incoming recruit for the Huskies, but saw the least amount of playing time. Now he should see a dramatic increase in playing time with the departure of Justin Dentmon and redshirt of Wilcox. Suggs is one of the top shooters on the team and will be looked upon to provide an outside threat for a team largely built for driving to the basket. Its difficult to project him just because of how little we were able to see him play, but if he finds his identity on a team stocked with talent, Suggs could develop into one of the most important players coming off the bench this season.

Elston Turner: Like Suggs, Turner will be expected to provide outside shooting for a team in desperate need of exactly that. Suggs and Turner are related to one another as how one another performs could determine how much the other plays. However with the redshirt of Wilcox, it could mean that both play significant roles while someone else falls out of the rotation. Turner was perhaps the most intriguing freshman from last year because of the potential he flashed; if he puts it together he could be starting for the team next season. For now Turner needs to make sure he shoots lights out and take pressure off of Thomas and the big men in the paint.

C.J. Wilcox: Redshirt

The Providers: Small Forwards

Quincy Pondexter: Along with Thomas, Pondexter will be expected to be the leader of the team. After two frustrating seasons Pondexter was able to break out and have a huge impact on the Huskies Pac-10 championship last season. Often he was the best player on the floor for Washington, arguably winning the final USC game last season all by himself. The big shoes for Pondexter to fill will be rebounding in place of Jon Brockman. Replacing Brockman completely by himself will be impossible, but improving off of last season’s 5.9 per game is important for Washington to advance further than last season’s second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. What Pondexter offers is known, consistency. Every night he should be among the leaders in scoring and rebounding and perhaps the most important piece on the team.

Justin Holiday: Along with Pondexter we know what we will be getting from Holiday, which is great on the ball defense. Anything more that Holiday can add offensively is a bonus, but we have seen over the past few years that Romar trusts Holiday guarding the opponents top offensive player. With how much Romar preaches defense Holiday will most likely be in the rotation, and he will be expected to provide that same great defense.

Clarence Trent: Trent will most likely be watching the majority of the season of the bench. But we saw what he offers during the exhibition game: insane athleticism and hustle. There will be moments when Romar will put him in to get some momentum going in Washington’s favor.

The X-Factor: The Frontcourt

Matthew Bryan-Amaning: MBA is this season’s biggest question mark because of his potential and now being placed into the starting lineup. For his two seasons in Montlake, MBA has shown flashes of being a great post player for the Huskies. So far he has yet to completely take ahold of that potential, but if he puts it together this season paired with the rest of the team this could be a Final Four season. All MBA needs to do is establish some post scoring to keep pressure off the guards and be a force rebounding. Next year with the departure of Pondexter there will be more of a need for MBA to be one of the leaders of the team, bur right now he needs to step up and fill in the stat sheet when needed.

Darnell Gant: Much like Holiday the primary focus for Gant will be continuing his defense. If MBA can hold down the post scoring then there wont be as much pressure on Gant to improve on last season’s average. However it is important for Gant to become more offensively reliable because of the departure of Brockman, perhaps drifting ten feet out for a jumper.

Tyreese Breshers: The one guy who could come in and be another Brockman type player, and Romar recruited him to Washington. Breshers has the same body type, style of play, and athleticism to make him a special player for the Huskies. In the exhibition he was the best player on the floor when put into the game, and even now he is still not 100% healed from his shin injury last season. Breshers could have a big impact on the team and be a key building block for the future.

Projected Regular Season Record: 24-6

Projected NCAA Tournament Run: Sweet Sixteen

The projected standings in the Pac-10 will be continued to be released over the non-conference schedule until the start of Pac-10 play.

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Jones Would Be Best Fit For Final Spot

As recruiting is nearing the finish line with national signing day well within sight, it means that two recruiting sagas involving two of the top players in the country will end for Lorenzo Romar at the Washington basketball program.

Terrence Jones and Josh Smith should both know who they will suit up for in the next few weeks as both are in the final stages of their recruiting processes. Jones will finish his recruitment after trips to Kentucky and UCLA, Smith likely after an unofficial visit with the Husky team next week.

When looking at the two players it is impossible to say that either one would be bad for the Huskies, but to me Terrence Jones would be the best fit for the Husky program as opposed to the big man Josh Smith.

Going off my initial judgements with both guys I just get a strong sense that Jones is a special player. By special player I see someone who will be an absolute superstar for the Huskies, the Pac-1o, and College Basketball. Someone who could help lead the Huskies to a national title and fit in perfectly with the fast paced offensive system Romar has installed since his arrival at Washington in 2002.

Smith would be a major get for Romar and the Huskies without a doubt, its just that Jones seems like someone who could be the guy. It might be that I am scared off from local big men who will command the ball after the lone disappointing season of Spencer Hawes in 2006, but I just get much more excited with the idea of adding Jones as opposed to Smith.

Adding Smith means probably slowing down the offense to better compliment his talents. This could either be a home run for the team or a struggle like we saw with Hawes in his season as a Husky. Jones is someone who will come in immediately and probably be inserted as a the starting small forward the second he steps on campus. Joining a lineup with fast break titans like Abdul Gaddy and Isaiah Thomas would only make Romar’s system more dangerous. Just look at the possible starting five with Jones on the roster…

PG: Abdul Gaddy, Sophomore SG: Isaiah Thomas, Junior SF: Terrence Jones, Freshman PF: Darnell Gant, Junior C: Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Senior

With this lineup you would have the dynamic guards with Gaddy and Thomas to compliment Jones’ style of play, the defensive play of Gant, and the likely improved play of a senior MBA. Jones can hit it from outside, bring the ball up and create his own shot, has tremendous passing ability, great handles for someone his size, and drive to the hoop very well for someone his size (think of the mis-matches!). He would be somewhat of another version of the “point-forward” that became popular with a local guy like Terrence Williams at Louisville. Having three players in the starting lineup with elite guard abilities should be fatal for any team facing Washington.

Now That Smith Has Picked UCLA

Now that the first shoe has dropped and Smith has finally announced UCLA as his destination, the ’10 class hinges on Jones and if he decides to be a Husky.

It looks like Jones could be a spring guy, which could work in favor or completely against them considering the schools Washington is going against.

If Washington wins the Pac-10 and shows to Jones that playing in an offense with Gaddy and Thomas is the most beneficial for him he will be a Husky. An obvious starting spot opens up with the departure of Pondexter, it makes sense.

But should one of the other schools, specifically Kentucky, deliver on those high expectations and fail to bring in another top recruit (say C.J. Leslie), the Wildcats could be the top contenders.

The 2010 class is now down to one player, and we’ll see how much Romar’s recruiting prowess can change the future of the class. It has to be believed that Romar is confident enough seeing that Jones is the only other player he has recruited agressivley besides Smith.

Hopefully he knows something Husky fans don’t.

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Desmond Simmons, Its Official

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Quincy Pondexter Has Arrived

When Lorenzo Romar strolls onto the podium for Pac-10 media day, he will bring along his most important player and team leader to accompany him to answer the media’s questions on how the Huskies figure to defend their conference title. This was an honor previously held by the likes of Brandon Roy and Jon Brockman, two giants in the history of University of Washington basketball. But today a new leader will be sitting on the podium for Washington, and that player is Quincy Pondexter.

Pondexter, someone who every Husky fan had nightmares about with the thought of him being the leader of a Husky team. If a Husky fan was asked how comfortable they were with that idea during the middle of his sophomore season, most would have shuddered with fear. Ask the same question today and a much more positive response would be given.

Out of the former players who have represented the Huskies, nobody has endured as much of a roller coaster ride as Pondexter. Coming out of California, Pondexter was a widely regarded five star prospect with the ability to perhaps be a one-and-done player. His athleticism and ability to create were unmatched at the high school level. Now he was bringing his game to the college level in a recruiting class that ranked among the top-5 in the country.

With Spencer Hawes, Adrian Oliver, and Phil Nelson being the other incoming freshman, it spoke volumes that Pondexter was getting the second most attention (after the local standout Hawes) out of everyone in the class when each one could have been a headliner for any other school’s recruiting class.

In his first game as a Husky, Pondexter did not disappoint by putting in 21 points and grabbing 7 rebounds as a freshman starter. At that point it seemed very obvious that at the end of the season Romar would be saying goodbye to two freshman, not just Hawes.

Fast forward to the beginning of last season and Pondexter saw his freshman season fall off the map, a disappointing sophomore campaign in which it seemed every fan had him in their doghouse, and the Huskies coming off two straight seasons without an appearance in the NCAA tournament when people were dreaming of Final Fours after Pondexter’s first game.

Maybe it should not have been a surprise that when expectations for the Huskies and Pondexter were at its lowest ever that both would deliver. Instead of another year of missing the tournament, Washington surprisingly won the Pac-10 because of the steady play of senior captain Brockman, the revival of Justin Dentmon, the arrival of Isaiah Thomas, and the emergence of Pondexter.

Romar has said on many occasions that at during the stretch run and tournament games, Pondexter was often the best player on the floor for the Huskies. Its difficult to argue as he averaged 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in a ten game stretch at the end of the season that saw the Huskies go 8-2 and secured the title.

Now with the departure of Brockman and being the only senior on the team, Pondexter is the unquestioned leader of a Husky team expected to challenge for the Pac-10 title once again and make a deep post season run.

In his previous three seasons it had been widely known about his extreme work ethic. Often he would stay after games to work on his weaknesses, often after a performance that Husky fans would chastise him for. But it was this work ethic that dug Pondexter out of the hole he had with Husky fans that have made him what he is today. There might not ever be a player to wear the Husky colors again that was hungrier for redemption and success as Pondexter.

“It took a little bit longer than I expected,” Pondexter said after the home game against Oregon last season. “I thought I could be a Brandon Roy as an 18-year-old kid and that’s really tough to do. But right now I’m settling into myself and it’s becoming my own little script.”

At the start of last season there was an article by one of the local papers that applauded Pondexter for his play, stating that he was underrated and that Husky fans needed to accept him as the player he was and not expect the five star recruit. The article was correct in accepting Pondexter as the player he is, but that player is now a star player who can lead to Huskies to the next step in building a powerhouse basketball program.

The long road that lead Pondexter to the point of being a star and leader may not be similar to those of a James Harden or Darren Collison, who saw team and personal success immediately in their careers. But their stories do not feel nearly as rewarding when compared to Pondexter.

“I did feel a lot of pressure on myself,” Pondexter said. “I found there were a lot of times when I would just be in my room and just wondering when it was ever going to be great here. Now I think it’s turning around into that fairy tale, and I’m loving every minute of it.”

Husky fans are loving every minute of it as well Quincy.

Quincy Pondexter is a young man looking to lead the Huskies to new heights, and that idea is a very comfortable one indeed.

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Bow Down… to C.J. Wilcox

Go back to when C.J. Wilcox committed to the Huskies back in June, 2008 and Husky fans were wondering just exactly where the program was headed. Coming off a 16-17 season, Lorenzo Romar’s first addition to the 2009 recruiting class was an unknown when local All-American guys like Abdul Gaddy, Avery Bradley, and Peyton Siva appeared to be looking elsewhere. Many were confused wit Romar whose strength had always been recruiting, and some even wondered if the program was headed in the right direction. I always held the opinion that one day the Huskies will be playing on Lorenzo Romar Court, but I was a little puzzled with this unknown from Utah.

It now appears that Romar will have the last laugh. The Dawgs turned it around with a Pac-10 Championship season, the recruiting class ended up nationally ranked with the additions of Gaddy and Clarence Trent, and Husky basketball perhaps has a brighter future than ever before. Add Wilcox as another victory for Romar as it appears that the Huskies got away with a major steal in the 2009 class.

What Wilcox Offers Next Season…

In the past when trying to figure out what Romar’s nine man rotation would be I speculated that Wilcox would be one of the guys to lose out and sit on the bench the majority of the time. It seemed like perfect sense because of his slight frame and the depth ahead of him at guard. I even threw out the possibility of redshirting him.

Fast forward to when camp has officially tipped off and I have no idea what the rotation will end up at. Everything coming out on Wilcox has been incredibly high remarks for his shooting ability and surprise athleticism. It seems that Romar may end up forced to play the freshman because of his out-of-this-world ability to shoot from long range.

If Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas show an improved skill at shooting the three ball, then likely I see Wilcox on the bench because there will not be as much of a need for his services at this time. But if there is any sort of struggle, Wilcox could push someone out of the rotation to make space for his incredible talents.

Personally I would love to see a redshirt just so he could continue to get used to this level of play and add more weight onto his frame. Whenever there is an opportunity to save more eligibility for later for a probable four year guy like Wilcox, its hard to argue against with a team as talented as the Huskies (especially if the possible walk-ons prove to be worth something so the team is not just 11 men deep).

But if not I would be just as happy because it means that Wilcox is contributing to the team. His ability to shoot the ball means he could see some serious playing time late in games when the team needs shooter, kind of like how Elston Turner came in against Purdue and nailed that huge three to help swing momentum back to the Huskies.

Wilcox has the talent to contribute to the team this season, but depending on how the rotation is put together it is very hard to judge his role. What is for certain is that he has a very bright future ahead of him in Montlake.

What Wilcox Offers Long Term…

By the time Wilcox graduates he will likely have carved out a very successful career as a Husky with a great chance at a pro career. Everyone needs a shooter, and Wilcox has demonstrated NBA range even in High School.

Whether or not Wilcox sees time as a starter will depend on recruiting (guys like Tony Wroten and Gary Bell could possibly start ahead of him at the two guard) and how he develops the rest of his game. But there is no doubt he will have significant impact on any future Husky team.

All teams need a shooter and a glue guy that can step up at any moment. That type of talent just burst from Wilcox when I see him play, someone who could even take over a game at times.

Think of a perfect world Husky team in two seasons. Norvel Pelle blocks a shot with Josh Smith collecting the loose ball. Gaddy brings the ball up only to dish off to a streaking Isaiah Thomas cutting to the hoop. Thomas then passes out to an open Wilcox in the corner for an easy three. Sounds sweet, huh?

Wilcox seems very similar to former Husky Tre Simmons. The ability to start, take over when needed, shoot very well, and be a key cog to the success of the team. When Simmons transferred from Green River CC he immediately became an important member of team of the bench because of his ability to shoot. By the time Simmons was a senior he was starting for a team picked as a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Hopefully Wilcox can have that type of impact, maybe even a bigger one. Out of the three freshman, its easy to give them all titles. Gaddy is the diamond, someone to be a leader on a Final Four team. Clarence Trent it the most intriguing, with as much upside as anyone in the country. Wilcox may be the key ingredient, the type of player that makes a Final Four team into a championship team.

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Next: Pac-10

Inspired by a recent article by Andy Katz of ESPN, I thought it would be fun to label who/what/where is “next” in the Pac-10. In his own article Katz labels Washington as “West Coast Guard U.”

So here is who is “next” in the Pac-10 according to Montlake Fast Break.

Washington/UCLA Rivlary

It appears that Washington is quickly jockeying towards a perennial spot among the top teams in the Pac-10, joining long time titan UCLA at the top of the conference. What makes this rivalry even more intriguing is how Washington has been able to play with the Bruins consistently, owning a 6-4 advantage over UCLA since 2004.

As the Bruins have grown back into the old national power that they used to be, Washington appears to be the team closest to compete with UCLA year in and year out for the conference title. With a young core of talented players on both sides, whenever the two schools matchup during the season it could have serious conference title implications on the line.

What may be even more of a sign of a budding rivalry is the recruiting battles that Ben Howland and Lorenzo Romar will have. Romar has lifted the Huskies to a level of prominence never seen before with recruits. The Jrue Holiday recruitment was no bigger sign of a changing of the guard when Romar had the Huskies in a close battle with the Bruins for the services of a L.A. kid ranked as one of the top five players in the country. While Washington did end up losing the battle to the Bruins, being the other school besides UCLA is a sign of Romar’s ability to recruit.

Then look at the Abdul Gaddy recruitment in which the Huskies beat out the Bruins. While Gaddy had originally committed to Arizona, when he made that original commitment it was the Wildcats over the Bruins. However after it was confirmed that Lute Olson would not be returning, Gaddy then chose the Huskies over the Bruins.

Expect more recruiting battles to be waged between the two schools. There are already battles for Josh Smith and Terrence Jones, and the recruitment of 2011 guys like Angelo Choi and Norvel Pelle could come down to the two rivals as well.

Sean Miller

When Arizona was originally courting Tim Floyd to be their head coach, I absolutely loved it because I knew at some point Floyd would lead the program into a basketball version of the Hindenburg (which coincidentally happened to him and his USC program right after turning down Arizona). But then Arizona recovered and made a smart move by hiring the young and energetic Sean Miller away from Xavier.

I was immediately impressed by this hire, and Miller has done nothing short of exceeding my expectations already.¬†Convincing Nic Wise to stay another year was a big move for the program, but then adding a stellar recruiting class has actually put the program in a position to out perform last year’s team and start the Miller era off on the right foot.

Originally I only saw a near bottom finish for the Wildcats. Now they could even make it into the top-3 of the conference if they play to their ability.

While I originally thought I was seeing the fall of the once mighty Arizona program, Miller may bring the Wildcats back to the top.

Oregon State

This all depends on one man, and that is if Craig Robinson will stay there long term and not bolt at job offers that will most definitely come should the Beavers put together a tournament run. Right now the program just oozes of good vibes. Whether it is the presence of Robinson, a stellar incoming recruiting class, or the fact that key players remain from last year’s team; the Beavers have a great shot at establishing themselves as perennial top-5 team in the conference if they play their cards right. With the fall of Oregon basketball last year, the Beavers could put their stamp on the state of Oregon and own that state for the near future. Especially if Ernie Kent is out at the end of the season and the Ducks will be forced to go through more rebuilding under a new coach.

The Beavers could very well be undefeated when they kick of Pac-10 in Seattle on the 31st of December.

Malcolm Lee

Lee will likely be sliding into the starting two guard spot that was vacated by Jrue Holiday. His skill set paired with his height make him an obvious NBA candidate, but before he leaves for the league.

Lee possesses tremendous playmaking ability that should make him a deadly weapon at shooting guard. His ability to get to the basket and create his own shot make him a tricky guy to defend for opposing defenses, especially when he will be the primary ball handler at times for the Bruins.

Michael Dunigan

If there is a reason to hope for the Ducks next season, it is that this talented sophomore will put the team on his back and lead them back to respectability. Last season Dunigan put up respectable numbers as a freshman, 8.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in 20 minutes of work on average. Expect those numbers to significantly climb as he has a year of experience under his belt. His frame is monstrous in its own right, 6’10” while weighing 255 pounds. If Kent cam make sure that Tajuan Porter finds Dunigan under the basket more this year, he could be a potential first teamer in the Pac-10. I expect him to be someone similar to Jordan Hill, one of my favorite and most feared players in the conference last season.

Abdul Gaddy

You probably knew it was coming, but Abdul Gaddy could easily establish himself as the top point guard in the conference by this time next year. He possesses all the tools to contend for Pac-10 Player-of-the-Year at a young age, and could very well be the next lottery pick that Washington puts in the league by the end of his sophomore year. Gaddy could team up with Isaiah Thomas and be the face of this Husky generation, much like Brandon Roy and Nate Robinson were when they played in Montlake.

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