Tag Archives: Darnell Gant

Husky Hoops: The End of the Road to NYC, and Next Year

The UW basketball season is not officially over, but it’s pretty close.  Many people stopped caring when the team missed the NCAA tournament (me initially being one of them), but those who didn’t watch last night’s NIT battle royale with Oregon missed out.  Hec Ed was packed for the final home game of the year, and it was loud.  With Oregon as the opponent, it felt like anything but an NIT game, and it was played that way, as well.  Both teams played hard and well, I would argue at an NCAA tournament level.

I understand why the Huskies missed the Big Dance.  Their resume probably wasn’t worthy, at least given the way the selection committee looks at teams, but I think anyone who argues that they’re not one of the best 68 teams in the country is crazy.  They have been inconsistent and frustrating, but when they play anywhere close to their ability, they’re a potential sweet sixteen team.  That’s obviously not going to happen this year, which is what makes them so frustrating.  If you can get past that disappointment, though, last night was a blast and a good way to remember this team.

The Dawgs will now head to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals and hopefully final.  Obviously, we hope they win, but it is still kind of hard to get overly excited.  The Oregon matchup was a nice surprise, but when you come down to it, it’s the NIT.

So, you ask, what’s the point of this post?  I can’t really remember.  I started it earlier today and can’t remember where I was going with it.  I guess let’s talk about next year.

Right now, the Huskies are slated to return almost everyone.  They lose Darnell Gant to graduation, but get Scott Suggs back from an injury redshirt and add Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau, who both redshirted as freshman this year.  They have no committed recruits currently (more on that in minute).  I have no doubt that that team would be favored to win the Pac-12 handily and would probably be in consideration for the top 10 in the country.  That’s a lot of talent, and a lot of talent that should be improved and much deeper next year.

The problem is that Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten seem extremely likely to leave early for the NBA.  Both are projected for the first round.  Both have some questions, and it’s a deep draft class, so it’s not like there’s no doubt they’re leaving.  And to be fair, neither of them has given any indication they’re gone.  Just don’t get your hopes up on them staying.  In fact, if you don’t deal well with disappointment, just plan on them leaving.  The power of low expectations!

To break down my thoughts on the two: it would obviously be great if they both stayed.  If I could pick one to keep, it would be Ross.  He’s my favorite to watch, and he’s the better all-around player.  Wroten is a fascinating guy.  He had maybe the best freshman year in UW history and was one of the best players in the conference, but everyone knew what he would do: drive to his left, throw the ball toward the basket, and if it didn’t go in, get his own rebound and finish.  It’s a testament to his talent that he was so successful with this, but it also shows how much he could improve.  His effort, defense and free-throw shooting got much better this year.  If he could add a jump shot and a right hand, he might be the national player of the year, let alone the Pac-12 POY.

It’s not all doom and gloom if Ross and Wroten leave.  This team should still be talented and improved.  Abdul Gaddy has played increasingly well as the season has progressed, looking like an all-Pac-12 point guard in the last few weeks.  CJ Wilcox doesn’t quite have the shocking talent and athleticism of Ross, but he’s not terribly far behind and will only be a junior.  Suggs is in the same mode and will offer a steady head and hand.  Andrews or Hikeem Stewart would need to step up for some depth, but that could easily happen.  The front court would be a bigger question.  Aziz showed huge improvement this year, and if he could continue that and make himself a threat offensively, he could be the best big man in the conference.  Simmons had his moments before hitting a bit of a wall and losing some playing time, but he is still young and has that useful Gant-like skill set.  It will be vital for Shawn Kemp Jr. or Martin Breunig to step up and develop as a legitimate first big man off the bench.

That’s a good team, if lacking slightly in depth and star-power.  The strange thing right now is that the Huskies have no imcoming recruits to augment the returners.  I saw the other day that they’re one of only a few schools in the country with no commits yet.  This is partly by plan.  With only Gant graduating, there’s only one scholarship open, and that’s apparently being held for 5 star power forward Anthony Bennett.  Bennett is no sure thing or even remotely close to it, but he seems to be the only guy out there that the Huskies would add to the team as it is currently.  The recruiting class for 2013 has the potential to be huge, and it’s thought that Romar is happy leaving an extra scholarship open for a year if he doesn’t get Bennett or a similar level of talent.  This would likely change if Ross and/or Wroten leave, as they’d have more open scholarships and the need for some extra depth.  We’ll leave the potential recruits in that case for a later post.

So enjoy this team in the one or two games left, especially Ross and Wroten.  Hopefully they’re back, but don’t worry too much if they’re not.  You can never fault these kids for leaving for millions of dollars, and there’s always someone else ready to take his place.

But if you’re reading this, Terrence and Tony, how about you guys stick around and we make a run at the Final Four?  Seattle could use a couple of new legends, not to mention a winner.

-Matthew

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Bad News, Good News, Great News!

Ready for the bad news? It is a bleak day for Dawg fans, there’s no 2 ways around it. Yesterday’s loss was frustrating, untimely, but certainly not surprising, at least if you’ve followed this team all season. On one side, the Huskies exceeded pre-season expectations by winning the Pac 12 outright, a truly awesome accomplishment. On the other side, 20 of the Huskies 21 wins have come vs. opponents with an RPI of 75+, and time and time again the Dawgs have narrowly missed on opportunities to make a statement, and erase doubts. The biggest factor, for me anyway, is leadership. Gant is the only contributing senior, and I think he has done his best, but his personality is not that of a Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, Jon Brockman, Isaiah Thomas, or Quincy Pondexter. Gaddy, Ross, Wilcox and Wroten, for all the good that they’ve done in spurts, have not embraced the role of captain, the guy that pulls his teammates up in the face of adversity. The result is a plethora of head shaking moments, and some success based largely on raw talent like Lorenzo Romar has never had. It’s tough when talent does not fully translate, and potential is not reached. If this core stays together for another year and really gels, they are a top 10 team, but Ross and Wroten seem destined for the NBA, which nobody should blame them for.

Now for some good news. If the Huskies do make the big dance, which is officially an “if”, their seed will likely be an 11 or 12, rather than a 9 or 10 which seemed possible a week ago. But does it matter? I would argue being an 11 or 12 seed is often better than being a 9 or 10, at least in terms of making a sweet 16 run. The recent numbers back this up. Since 2001, here are the seeds, and what % have made the round of 16.

9 seed- 2/44 = 4.5% make sweet 16
10 seed- 8/44 = 18%
11 seed- 6/44 = 14%
12 seed- 9/44 = 20%

The great news? Check it out, your Mariners are in 1st place! Granted the games don’t “really” count, but we’ll take what we can get.

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The State of the Husky Basketball Team

Yes, I still write for this blog.  Welcome back, you say?  Why thank you.  How have you been, you say?  I’m doing well.  The main reason I haven’t written much lately is that I wanted to make sure that I was still writing on here for the right reasons.  All four of the Good Guys’ write on this blog as a hobby and nothing more.  We aren’t paid for what we write (nor should we be) and we aren’t the most popular sports blog in Seattle (again, we shouldn’t be).  We just do this for fun and we are hopeful that our readers find us entertaining and somewhat informative.  In the last month I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t writing just to see how many blog hits we could get.  I wanted to make sure that I didn’t think of it as a chore.  Most of all, I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed sports more while writing about them than not writing about them.  Now, I’m back!  Yes, I’ve missed writing and, having wasted about 200 words already, it’s time to get on with this post!  There will be more in the future and, hopefully, not as many breaks in the future.

I was driving back to Seattle today and caught the last couple of minutes of the Husky basketball game on the radio.  After watching their blowout loss against Colorado on Thursday, I was hesitant to even turn it on but I’m a Dawg and will always be.  Despite the Huskies best effort to lose the game to a terrible Utah team, they edged out a close victory.  It was their first road win of the year.

After the game had ended I spent a few minutes about what I thought ‘Husky basketball’ is.  In recent years I think the program has been successful enough to earn an identity and I think Romar, Bob Rondeau and Harry the Husky would agree.  What is that identity?  I would peg it as in-your-face defense that takes risks, fast paced offense that thrives off of penetration and shooters, and a dive on the floor to get the loose ball mentality.  Most of all, I think it’s that last part.  That’s what makes Dawg fans stand up and bark.  Since the program has been on the upswing, there is no doubt that Romar has taught his players to want it more than their opposition.  Sure, that hasn’t been the case every single game but I think most Husky fans would agree.  So what’s different about this year’s team? Continue reading

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What’s the Difference?

The Huskies basketball team is heading into their most important week of the season.  They were everyone’s favorite to win the Pac-10 in the pre-season and through the beginning of conference play.  Then, they stumbled in 3 straight games against teams that aren’t in the top 3 in the conference.  That leaves this week’s games, against ASU and Arizona, as must-wins if the Dawgs want an outright conference title.

Over the course of the Huskies 3 game losing streak, there was something completely off about the Huskies.  They didn’t look the Washington basketball team that we’d all grown used to.  Then, in their home games last week, it all came together again.  That leaves us to ask the question, what was the difference?

The two obvious things you can point to are team defense and home-court advantage.  Those clearly were huge reasons for the turn around.  But, the team I saw dismantle Cal last week was completely different than the team that lost at Oregon State.  So, are there more reasons why the Huskies were a different team last week?  Of course.  Here’s my stab at a few of them:

  • Venoy Overton – Throughout this season, Venoy hasn’t been the same player he was last year.  There were too many turnovers, not enough assists, and his defense wasn’t where it used to be.  Part of it was the refs calling him closer due to his reputation, but the intensity just didn’t seem to be there.  Last year, the first time V.O. came off the bench and into a ballgame it seemed as if a wave of an energy had washed over the building.  This year we haven’t felt that.  Losing Abdul Gaddy also didn’t help Overton, as more pressure was put on his back as a point guard.  Last week, Venoy was close to getting back to his old self.  He was driving, scoring, dishing, and, most of all, harassing opponents on defense.  When he’s like that, this team is at another level.  He pushes the pace and frustrates opponents.  This will come up as a key this week, specifically against Arizona.  The Wildcats point guards, although they’ve improved, are prone to turnovers and that could change the game around.  I could make an argument for Overton being the Huskies most important player going forward.  We know more or less what we have with I.T., MBA, and Justin.  We know some other guys will knock down shots.  But, if Overton is the player he was last season this team takes a step forward.
  • The Role Players – Many people would count Overton as a role player, but I think he’s a little more of a key to success than the role players.  The role players I have in mind here are Scott Suggs, C.J. Wilcox, and Darnell Gant.  When all these guys play well, I think the Huskies are as good as anyone in the country.  Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox are straight shooters.  If they make their shots, then they’re doing their job.  Percy Allen wonders if Scott Suggs is taking a step forward, and it sure seems like he has in recent weeks.  I still count anything he does other than shooting well as extra.  The same goes with C.J. Wilcox.  Last week, we saw Wilcox at his best.  He was scoring quickly and scoring in bunches.  If he is shooting like that, he needs to be on the court about 20 minutes a game.  The other role player, Gant, serves a different purpose in my opinion.  Gant is there for rebounding and for his defense.  If Gant grabs 5 rebounds a game, or more, than he is doing his job.  Also, we all forget that Darnell is an underrated defender.  For his size, he has great agility which gives him an advantage against other guys his size.  Lately, Gant may be shooting a little too much, but it’s good to see him with confidence.
  • Big Plays – I don’t think there are too many “big play” basketball teams, but this is one of them.  This team builds off of them.  Think back to the 3 game losing streak.  How many alley-oops were there?  How many fast-break dunks? How many great passes that led to made 3-pointers?  Not many.  Last week came and there were more highlights than you could count.  The home crowd does play a part in this one, but still a big play on the road can really change the momentum.  I think hustle plays lead to big plays, and maybe the Huskies were lacking their usual hustle on their 3 game skid.
  • Help Defense – In my opinion, defense was the biggest cause of the losing streak and the wins last week.  I think Romar would agree and just about anyone else who covers the Huskies.  But, one small aspect that was remarkably better the last 2 games was the Huskies help defense.  Yes, the on ball pressure was much better but the help defense made it that way.  I’d like to see the amount of charges the Huskies took in their 3 game losing streak compared to their 2 game winning streak.  Charges weren’t the only stat that proved that.  The Huskies also had an amazing amount of blocked shots over the last 2 games that proved their help defense.  If the Huskies are going to win, they can’t allow all the open lanes that we saw during their 3 game losing streak.

There are surely more points to be made on this (and feel free to put them in the comments).  But, these are a few hidden keys in order for the Huskies to be successful.  Go Dawgs!

Andrew

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A Very Quick UW Basketball Post

The UW basketball team started practice about a week ago, so I’ll throw this out there in case anyone wants to discuss the team.  They’re favorites to win the Pac-10, which looks to be nearly as weak as it was last year.  Some quick thoughts and things to watch.

  • The team is very deep overall, but not in the frontcourt.  Tyreese Breshers had to retire for medical reasons just before practice started, leaving MBA, Darnell Gant, and Aziz N’Diaye as the only bigs.  Given Romar’s style of play, they can work around this, but one more body would be very nice.  Freshman Desmond Simmons is about Darnell Gant’s size and does all the dirty work, but he’s more of a wing and is recovering from an injury.
  • Speaking of Aziz, he sounds like he could be a difference maker.  Quick history: an incoming sophomore from a junior college, he lost all of last season to surgery.  Good news: he’s 7′ 260 lb and ran the fastest mile on the team.  Most thought he’d get limited time this year while he recovered and developed, and that might still be the case, but Romar singled him out as playing well in a recent scrimmage.  If he adjusts quickly, he could have a huge role as a defensive stopper and rebounder.
  • Venoy Overton will miss most of the preseason with an injury.  Hopefully the extra practice time will give Abdul Gaddy a chance to get rolling out of the gate.  Gaddy playing up to his potential could make this team tough to beat.
  • I don’t have any inside access to the team or anything, but now that Isaiah Thomas is the top Dawg, I’m betting we don’t see the same chemistry issues that dogged the Huskies (no pun intended) the first half of last season.  Something never quite fit last year, and I still think it had to do with Quincy Pondexter’s personality not meshing with the rest of the team.  I could be crazy, and I’d sure like to have Quincy’s scoring back, but I’m betting this team finds its identity a lot quicker than last year’s did.
  • Off the court, UW got a huge recruiting commitment from Tony Wroten.  A big Seattle point guard, Wroten was talked of as the top recruit in the country at times.  Injuries and maturity issues have quieted those discussions the last couple of years, but he still has a world of potential.  In the past, he seemed like a lock to leave the state after high school, so the commitment is even sweeter.  I’ve seen some Gary Payton comparisons, which seem to fit from the little I know.  The Huskies currently have a good but somewhat under-the-radar class.  They’re in on two of the top big men on the West Coast, Angelo Chol and Norvel Pelle.  Getting either of them would be huge and make it a very complete class.  Signing day for the fall is coming up, and we’ll do a full breakdown as it gets closer.

More to come as the season gets closer.  If there’s anything you’d like to hear about, leave it in the comments and we’ll see what we can do!

-Matthew

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