Washington Husky Huddle for Tuesday January 17th 2012 (Part Two)
The Apple Cup of basketball took place on a snowy day in Seattle. The Huskies came back from an 11 point deficit in the second half to beat the rival Cougs. Two Huskies that have been most criticized as of late have been Gant and Ross. Both
did not disappoint. Terrence finished with a career high 30 points and added 14 rebounds, but UW came out flat in the first half, very flat. WSU slowed down the Huskies in a 2-3 zone defense that the Dawgs couldn’t break. Gaddy and Wroten couldn’t buy a bucket from the field. WSU received a huge boost from Brock Motum and former Curtis High School standout Davonte Lacey in the first half. Both players couldn’t miss, while the Dawgs seemed to desperately miss Wilcox. Lacey hit three 3-pointers and Motum scored at will. The Cougars went into halftime leading the Huskies by six and the Dawgs were lucky to be that close. The second half came around and the U-Dub were still having trouble with the zone. Gaddy and Wroten continued to struggle from the field. The Dawgs seemed like they were going to go down to the Cougars yet again until Coach Romar received what may be a season changing technical foul. Whether it is that consequential or not, it certainly changed the momentum of the game.
Someone needed to light a fire underneath UW’s collective butt and it took the coach to do so. The team responded and the crowd did as well. From that point on the Huskies topped the Cougs by 38-18 on the score board. The questions regarding Ross and Gant have been that Terrence hasn’t been assertive enough and Darnell has taken steps back. The whole team made contributions in the winning run, but Ross and Gant took matters into their own hands. Ross had four points in the first half, but in the second half he displayed why NBA scouts consider him a first round draft pick. Ross was unstoppable on the wing and put on a show for the crowd. At one point in the game, Terrence caught an alley oop and one from Gaddy that made the crowd go wild. Ross had a smile on his face while no Cougar could stop him. Gant received another oop from Wroten that also lit up the crowd. Gant hit open shots and fed off the momentum. It was like the team had woken up after a long sleep.
Simmons has been getting more minutes lately but Gant showed why he belongs on the court. The Huskies didn’t look back after they took the lead. The Cougars got cold and couldn’t seem to find the bucket in the second half. It was hard for them to keep their focus with an amped up crowd and an energized Husky defense. This was a great win for the Dawgs, as they shook off the adversity that was thrown their way and handled their business. The key to the Huskies success this season will be winning games on the road. They broke that hex in Utah, but the UW team will need Wilcox back in a week or less, or I believe that Andrews is the only way to give them enough depth to make any kind of run at it. This is not meant to be a slight to Stewart, but someone from those two red-shirts (and Suggs is too radical of an idea), needs to be a prime time performer. So far Hikeem has shown himself to be able to put in productive minutes, as long as he is not asked to be aggressive offensively.
That is going to help down the road this season and beyond, but it is not going to get it done. I believe that Andrews can take that baton and run with it and that UW needs to roll the dice this time. The program is at a crossroads. Either they do the best that they can to get a 4th straight NCAA invite or they look at this season as a rebuilding year. It is hard to see, in light of no fall signees, that they are having great success in preparing for the lack of an inside scoring big man. A failed attempt to get that school record 4th straight dance card can’t help that effort. To get a great big man is tough, but to sell one on this team being a better opportunity than a power like Kansas, Kentucky or the other factories that seem to always scoop them up in the spring, will not be made easier by sitting at home in March. A year ago UW had one of the deepest teams in the nation, but the loss of the three seniors and Thomas, has turned them into a team that has great quality but perilously low quantity. To win once again, without Wilcox, drastic measures must be taken.
Three players red-shirting in Andrews, Suggs and post Jernard Jarreau is the same as how many have done so in the other nine years at UW. It will not hurt much of anything to burn Andrews red-shirt under the circumstances, in fact it will probably flatter him to be shown that he is needed so much and challenge him to do more with his time currently than he is already doing. The Husky Haul on Friday took a worthwhile look at the changes in the UW team depth wise from last year to this. On Thursday the Seattle Times’ Percy Allen picked Wilcox and Wroten as co-MVP’s in his mid season analysis. The loss of such an important player from such a thin team demands a major shift in philosophy. On Monday Husky Haul upped the ante, asking the question, “Can The Huskies Ever Be A National Powerhouse in Hoops?”.
I think that it is silly to talk about Romar falling short of much if anything, but he has been unable through tough luck and some bad evaluation, to land enough competent big man talents over the course of the 2008 and 2009 classes. The
2008 class yielded zero bigs, after the loss for medical reasons of Tyreese Breshers. In the class of 2009 Romar found a gem in Chuck Garcia, but he was not well vetted enough. Chuck was found to be a problem, not only for UW admissions, but for Dollar, who had a tough time with team chemistry in Garcia’s lone year of college ball. Romar also took Clarence Trent, who was one of the five Redhawks who fouled out on Tuesday. Clarence was also not the right choice, as he transferred and took a spot that could have gone to among others, including (according to Romar) Derrick Williams.
This has been a trend in the past as players like Jeff Pendergraph (ASU), Diamon Simpson (St. Mary’s) and Wendle McKines New Mexico State are part of an embarrassing list of productive post players that were passed over by UW. This while the Dawgs have taken players like Garcia, Zach Johnson, Breshers, Joe Wolfinger and Trent. The Dawgs have also passed on guys who have not done well at all other places, just as many times, but ultimately the responsibility falls on the UW staff. They need to find players that can become capable bigs and they need to have enough on hand, so that the ones that don’t work out won’t leave them scrambling. If it means missing out on a great guard or wing, so be it. Romar is the guy that has little problem recruiting and developing guards. Something, other than landing the obvious 5-star like Anthony Bennett or Terrence Jones needs to happen for UW to benefit from that ability to fill their back court.
Besides Wilcox, Ross is another (possibly the best since Brandon Roy) in a line of wings that Romar has produced. That list includes Quincy Pondexter, Holiday, Bobby Jones and Adrian Oliver, which is impressive. On Sunday, almost prophetically, the Morning News Tribune ran a feature about Terrence being a sort of ticking time bomb waiting to go off. The wait wasn’t long, as UW fans saw later that afternoon. On Monday, not only was Ross awarded Pac-12 Player of the Week, but also gohuskies Student Athlete of the Week. As I mentioned I believe that Gaddy, Wroten and Ross will need help, as it a waste of great talent to make it perform without enough back-up. That said, Tony is so competitive, that it may be fun to watch him try. On Wednesday sportspressnw.com ran a feature which looked at some of the potential accomplishments that are within reach for Wroten in 2011-12. Chief among them are leading the league in scoring as a freshman and setting the UW all-time freshman scoring mark.
On Thursday CBS Sports moved Tony to 5th on their “Freshman of the Year” candidates list. Most of the year he was listed at the end of that list, but his performances at camps were so strong that even the east coast media biased rag had to include him. “ASJ” is a high school friend of Tony’s and his addition could also take some of the edge off the loss of Wilcox, by providing a new culture of toughness and competitive fire in practices and maybe even in games. With the way that frosh posts Martin Breunig and Shawn Kemp Jr. are taking their time developing, perhaps just a cold hard hustle guy like Austin may be more effective when one of the posts needs a blow. Austin certainly talked like he is ready to help the club, when he spoke to the media on Tuesday.
“Iâ€™m not the type of guy to just sit there and not work hard. If I donâ€™t play 10 minutes a game, Iâ€™m going to be the best practice player in the country. An All-American practice player.”
That type of competitive spirit was the hallmark of Isaiah Thomas’ dominant 3-year run in the Pac-10. What could have been is what I keep thinking when I look at a weak guard draft that will likely allow Tony to be one of the guard picks, despite his free throw and turnover problems. If Thomas had stayed, most of UW’s depth problems at guard would be gone. He and Tony would be turning the Pac-12, let alone the five non-conference opponents that they lost to, into Swiss cheese. No one can keep Tony out of the paint and no one could ever stop Isaiah. Instead, Thomas is at least doing well in Sacramento, so I guess all’s well for him. On Thursday Bleacher Report ran a piece that made the case that Thomas was potentially the Kings “point guard of the future”. All I can say is good news for Isaiah and good news for UW fans to see another one of Romar’s success stories in the making.
“The very last selection in the NBA draft, Isaiah Thomas, has come in and given the Kings exactly what they needed all along. In Thomas, the team now has the speedy, defensive-oriented, pass-first floor general they have been looking for.”
Romar in turn, was one of Marv Harshman’s success stories. Harshman had 636 wins as a head coach at Washington, WSU and PLU, including 246 at UW from 1971-85. At 67 he was let go by then Husky AD Mike Lude, too early in my opinion. His ability to speak intelligently about the game well into his 90’s is evidence of that. Marv was fully capable of coaching into his 70’s, as Mike Krzyzewski has at Duke. Strangely enough, UW’s loss was Duke’s gain as star guard Quin Snyder of Mercer Island chose the Blue Devils in 1985 over the Dawgs largely because of “Harsh” being fired, according to a conversation with his former MI team mate Brian Schwabe.
I spoke to Schwabe, who chose Northwestern over UW, outside of Hec Ed late last season and Brian told me that he and Quin would have gone to UW, if Harshman would not have been let go. Snyder went on to start at PG for Duke for three years and helped them to three Final Fours in 1986, 1988, and 1989. Those were all unfortunate decisions for UW fans in retrospect, but it was great to see Marv honored at Hec Ed early in the first half on Sunday. At 94 and in a wheel chair, Marv (who was brought out by son Dave Harshman) looked triumphant. Husky basketball and hoops in the Puget Sound Area for that matter owes Marv a ton of gratitude. Romar came to UW because of Marv in the late 70’s and the lessons he and assistant Paul Fortier learned from Harshman definitely impacted the lessons learned by Thomas and the rest of the current and future Dawgs (notably Wroten, whose dad played football at UW during the Harshman era) in the NBA.
(Jason McCleary of Leftcoastrecruiting.com contributed to this post)