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Washington Husky Huddle for Sunday February 19th 2012 (Part One)

(Jason McCleary of contributed to this post)

The Dawgs are the youngest of the top seven teams in the Pac-12, according to a calculation that I did last week. UW had a combined experience coming into the season of 1.2 years, followed by Stanford 1.5, UCLA 1.6, Arizona, Cal and Colorado
1.7 and Oregon 2.4. Though the statistics may be a bit misleading because of the presence of so many freshman.

The only consistent contributors from that nine man class have been guard Tony Wroten, red-shirt post Desmond Simmons and lately a little bit bigger helping of Shawn Kemp Jr. and solid support in practice and even in a few games from football walk-on post Austin Seferian Jenkins.

Really only two players have logged consistent prime rotation minutes, though Shawn has increased his minutes of late and on February 8th ran a feature that gave insight as to why. Kemp has looked good, but needed time to get in shape and with the addition of a tough challenge from “ASJ”, plus his continued hard work, the future is looking brighter every week for Shawn Jr.

Most of the minutes, other than those of Wroten and Simmons have come from players that are sophomores and juniors, with one scholarship senior post Darnell Gant playing an important role off the bench. Sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox has been slowed by a hip injury that limits his ability to practice completely, but he is a serious pro prospect and just those limited contributions have been key.

Other than Wroten and Wilcox, the other big go-to-gun has been sophomore guard Terrence Ross. The crowd cheered “one more year”as Ross left the court late, with the Dawgs triumphant 79-70 Saturday home win over Arizona in the bag. Terrence
scored 25 points and five steals to lead the way, but Wroten with 22 points and nine boards was just as impressive.

The Huskies have been playing their best basketball, since the large step backwards that they took on February 9th at Oregon. Arizona came into Hec Ed to face off against the Dawgs. In the last eight years, these two teams have been the main event for Pac-12 games of the year and both teams are very similar in style of play.

The game started off very emotional by sending off a couple of seniors. Brendan Sherrer, Tyreese Breshers and Gant received standing ovations before the game for what they have brought to the team over the years. Gant could possibly be the only Husky to ever play in the NCAA tournament in all four seasons he has been with the team.

On February 9th did a nice feature on Darnell, which pointed out his many accomplishments on and off the court at UW. On Friday did an up-close interview with Gant, in which he talked more about his artistic side and
compared basketball to dance, as being the closest of the art forms that he has studied as a Performing Arts Major.

Sherrer has won every game he has played in and received the start from Coach Romar on his big night. On Saturday ran a story on the Husky seniors, which talked more in depth about Brendan’s time on the team, after being an active member of the UW student section for a couple of years.

Breshers is a sad story, hoops wise, as he was forced to retire from the sport because of an undisclosed medical reason. Ty could have been a big help to the Dawgs, over the last couple of years. He was a physical, “weight room” type of
undersized post that could have actually played next year as well because of sitting out a season.

Both teams came out the gates ready to go. It was a heated game that brought out the best in the coaches, players, and fans. Alaska Airlines was sold out and the atmosphere was great for a day of college basketball. Ross and Wroten carried
the load, while junior post Aziz N’Diaye made his presence felt in the paint.

Ross got it going in the first half, something that he hasn’t been doing much this season. Wroten and Ross combined for 25 of the Huskies 39 points in the first half to give the team a boost out the gates. Being the last home game of the season, the fans possibly could’ve seen Ross and Wroten’s last games at Hec Ed.

Ross performed at a level that is destined for the NBA whenever he chooses to go, but consistency is his issue. On February 10th however listed Terrence at the 8th position in their 2012 Mock Draft. Isaiah Thoma would have given this year’s Dawgs a lot, but all has worked out well for him in the NBA. Thomas weighed in on the negative side to the question of Ross leaving early, stating on February 11th that Terrence and Tony should stay “one more year”.

Ross talked about the NBA after the game on Saturday and insisted that as of now he is coming back, when he spoke to the media. He tried to deflect attention off of himself, being that it was senior day and after a number of questions pushed him into a corner on the issue said, “At this point, I’m coming back”.

He also told a reporter from, “If I feel like I’m ready, then I’ll sit down with my family & Romar and talk about it” adding “But at this point I’m coming back.”

Wroten is even more of a focus of those that speculate on the NBA draft and search for that future superstar, as they cover young players. On January 31st, a hard national news site featured Tony as just that big of a news story. On Tuesday it was announced on YouTube that a feature film titled “L.O.E (Loyalty over everything)” about Wroten and a rapper friend named Rasaan was in the production phase. On Wednesday chose Tony as the “point guard most likely to go first (in the draft)” and Wroten was chosen as one of the five finalists for the Tisdale Award for the nations top freshman.

Both Ross and Wroten seem to be playing more consistently as the year moves on, which is a good sign for the future at UW, if they stay. Wroten gets to the rim so easy at the college level and there have been rumors from NBA GM’s that teams
love the way Tony plays.

Arizona got great contributions from junior wing Solomon Hill, senior post Jesse Perry and freshman guard Nick Johnson. Senior guard Kyle Fogg looked like he was going to have a good night scoring the first five points of the game for ‘Zona, but Fogg settled down after that and didn’t really get going like he often has this season. ‘Zona is a tough team that you can’t let up on and they will only get better with next year’s top rated class coming in.

Wroten didn’t have the best shooting night, going 8-22 from the field, but in the second half the talented freshman came out the gates poised scoring six quick points, attacking the basket and finishing. Tony was getting to the basket easily
the whole game, but was just missing some bunnies. His rebounding made many of those end up as scores anyway. With a quick second jump, Wroten was able to grab nine rebounds and played the most minutes out of any Husky with 34.

Junior guard Abdul Gaddy has been getting knocked on for not scoring and dribbling into no man’s land, but Gaddy had nine points and a game high six assists. Husky Haul over the past couple of weeks have ran at least three obsessive features debating the pros and cons of Gaddy’s game. Again, it never hurts to get press. One focused on Gaddy holding too much back, another defended him from those that feel he’s a major disappointment and one even compared him stylistically to NBA rookie sensation Jeremy Lin.

Washington only had nine assists total as a team, which makes that assist total for ‘Dul all the more impressive. Though Gaddy hasn’t become the scorer he once was coming into college, he has the best assist to turnover ratio in the Pac-12.

Aziz is a beast down in the paint and is only getting better. The big man had eight points, 12 boards and four blocks. It’s hard not to prepare for a game against UW without mentioning Aziz. Although still raw on the offensive side, N’Diaye has come a long way from where he was when he first stepped on the court last year.

The second half was sparked by a monster dunk from Wroten on ‘Zona freshman Angelo Chol. Tony talked about the play to the media after the game.

“I wasn’t planning on dunking it. I was going to pass it to Ross for an alley oop but when I looked back over there were two ‘Zona players. I went up and just dunked it. I was laughing after because it was on Chol and if you all remember he was supposed to come here, so it was funny.”

C.J. Wilcox didn’t take one shot in the first half but got on the board in the second finishing with 11 points. A couple of threes Wilcox hit got the crowd going crazy and were instrumental in the Dawgs pulling away down the stretch. Romar stated after the game that he would have to agree.

“Once C.J. hits a couple of those, the team gets a sense of energy like, ok let’s get going”.

All in all it was a battle tested game for both teams and it gave college basketball fans, regardless of allegiance something good to watch. Wroten got a little banged up in the game as well as Ross and both will go through treatment to get healthy for next weekend against WSU.

Though those two, plus Wilcox, provide the firepower (while N’Diaye brings the brawn), Gaddy has been the facilitator and done a subtle job of bringing these four likely future pros to the same page, when things have gone well for the Dawgs this season. Abdul’s assists, with zero turnovers against ‘Zona put a smiley face on the win for UW.

Gaddy’s eight assist, three TO effort in a less pretty 77-69 win over ASU on Thursday, led some observers to question Abdul’s abilities, but his performance against the dangerous ‘Cats redeemed him.

N’Diaye has shown considerable improvement over the last year and a half of his Husky career. Against the ‘Cats, his performance was probably what most tipped the scales for UW. A hard to believe coast to coast dunk in the first half drew the ire of ‘Zona coach Seam Miller, who received a technical foul in the process. It was not a walk in my opinion, despite dribbling the ball twice from mid-court and the YouTube clip does nothing to contradict that.

The addition of Seferian-Kenkins into the post rotation has been a positive, as the tight end has raised the level of physicality and competitiveness in practices and select games. Those four freshman, two sophs, two juniors and one senior have been most of what UW has put on the floor in conference play, though frosh guard Hikeem Stewart and frosh post Martin Breunig have seen spot action, mostly in garbage time as the season progressed.

Freshman swing-man Jernard Jarreau, frosh guard Andrew Andrews and senior red-shirt Scott Suggs will join the Huskies in 2012-13. While the Dawgs have not signed any players from the class of 2012, there are a lot on the radar and Coach Lorenzo Romar will likely bring in one and probably more depending on what attrition occurs.

That attrition will be based on players like Wroten and Ross, who have considerable buzz from NBA scouting analysts and mock draft sites. Wilcox and N’Diaye also have been projected by some (if not all) analysts to be future NBA prospects, but appear to be more likely to stay another year.

Regardless in April, when the wheels start turning as to who could be leaving and who may be arriving, the Dawgs appear to be in good shape for the next few years. Whatever happens, the Huskies will be making another cross country trek to
play at the Tip Off Classic in mid-November, it was announced on Wednesday. The other teams will be juggernaut Ohio State, an upwardly mobile Seton Hall and a Rhode Island team that also has a lot of talent coming back.

Being the youngest of the top Pac-12 programs currently and working very hard on the recruiting trail, it seems as if competing for conference championships will be a consistent theme for the Dawgs. That said, UW are a team this year that doesn’t play well on the road, as young teams tend to do.

They have improved over the course of this season, after losing the core of the three departed seniors and two other VIP’s. Guard Thomas (early NBA departure), Venoy Overton, Suggs (injury) and Justin Holiday and post Matthew Bryan-Amaning is not a bad starting line-up and is two big men short of a very good seven-man rotation.

To do as well as the Dawgs have done with losses like that speaks very well for Romar and his staff of Paul Fortier (who focuses on the bigs), Raphael Chillious (guards) and Jim Shaw (rebounding). Shaw has done a very good job getting this group to rebound, as UW was ranked after the game Saturday 7th nationally on the glass.

Where the UW staff have not done as good of a job is in foul shooting. UW shot a meddling 67% on Saturday, but have averaged a mediocre 62% from the stripe this season. What’s worse is that Aziz has been horrible at 36%. UW needs him in games late for defense and rebounding, but has to put him on the bench to keep him away from the foul line.

Wroten has been steadily improving his numbers, but at 57% he is wasting an incredible talent to get the cup or the line. If Tony and Aziz were respectable foul shooters, with Wroten at between 75-80% and N’Diaye between 65-70%, both would raise their NBA stock exponentially.

Ross really looked every inch an NBA millionaire against ‘Zona, but at the beginning of this four game run against Oregon Terrence was kept cleanly in check. The Huskies were the hottest team in the Pac-12 until they played the Ducks in Eugene
on Thursday the 9th.