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.