Washington Husky Huddle for November 15th 2011 (Part Two)

Nov 15, 2011, 6:04 PM

With Ross, Wroten, Gaddy and Wilcox all attacking the cup, as well as doing the things that they already do well around the perimeter, UW is going to be a much tougher out for anyone. As Romar likes to say, Husky opponents will have to
“pick their poison” this season. On Wednesday gohuskies.com’s Gregg Bell wrote a feature on Gaddy in which Abdul talked about his maturation through the process of watching from the sidelines and rehabbing his knee. Gaddy learned more about the system from watching and took the proper steps to improve his shooting, which is a big plus for the team this season. On Friday thenewstribune.com ran a feature on Abdul in which he also talked about just getting more mature and how that makes a big difference in his game.

“I was 17 years old when I got here, I’m 19 now. I’ve become more of a man.”

The Dawgs’ only former McDonald’s All-American showed an ability to get to the cup and more importantly played great defense over the weekend. Gaddy is gradually becoming a big-time all-around player and an important leader for the
Huskies. When Abdul is in the game, everything stays in order. He is like a coach on the floor, like many of the best PG’s in NBA history. His shot felt better in the SPU game than against Georgia State, where he had seven points on 3-9 shooting, but he grabbed seven boards, logged six assists and most importantly the UW team looked collected with him on the floor. Romar talked about his influence on Sunday.

“There were a number of times last year when we could have used him because there was a storm, but we weren’t calm. He brings exactly that. In the midst of everything that’s going on, he just kind of calms everyone down with his play and
his decisions.”

On Sunday ‘Dul picked it up with 15 points, as he did again on Monday and looked even better in providing the “calming influence”. Though Gaddy is not as quick as a lot of the smaller PG’s that he will face this season, he is grasping the defensive system and should be able to make that work for him. This brings us to a touchy subject. UW could really use Isaiah Thomas. Short, quick guards are able to penetrate and cause the Dawgs big trouble. It happened on Monday with 5-foot-10 Tim Douglas, who led the Pilots with 17 points. It was an afterthought in the drubbing by UW, but a reminder of a consistent problem this season.

Thomas meanwhile is trying to find ways to stay in shape and prepare for the currently rocky road of the NBA. Instead of a season that could not even exist for him, only to have to compete with a whole new set of rookies next year, he could
have been an All-American and Pac-12 Player of the Year. Don’t tell me that UW wouldn’t have been preseason favorites in the Pac-12 with cold-blooded “IT”. what’s more, Thomas would bave been an easy answer for what is now UW’s 2nd biggest flaw. Why look back? Because it is a relevant concern. Thomas and departed senior Venoy Overton (when his head was screwed on) were always able to handle those ‘waterbugs’.

Now that will be one of the challenges of a Husky team that is also challenged by a lack of post depth. At least in Darnell and Aziz, the Dawgs have two players that are improving in that area, are big enough and appear to be ready to do the job, at least more nights than not. Despite the need for more bigs and a mosquito killer, there is enough at UW to have a great year. The loss of “IT” hurts, but the opportunity for others to get shots and minutes negates a good bit of that. On this year’s team Thomas wouldn’t have been as big of a factor as in previous years with the other four (plus senior Scott Suggs), but it may have been better NBA prep for him.

Every NBA team will have a number of big guards that are very talented and competing with the 2011-12 Dawgs, is easier than what he’ll have to do in Sacramento or anywhere else that will give him a shot at the next level. I feel that Thomas clearly made a mistake, but it’s not like I didn’t open my mouth about it before he made that risky move. With Aziz in the middle, UW is a lot better defensively and on the boards. Keeping him in the game and available late is a very important factor for the 2011-12 Huskies. On September 7th Yahoo ran another piece on the documentary “Elevate” in which N’Diaye is highly featured. His star will certainly start rising fast and as the hook shots keep falling.

Lost in the N’Diaye’s promising weekend was the fact that he recently suffered a concussion and was just back healthy enough to compete. As he continues to dial the hook in, I expect Aziz to be a consistent scorer in the 8-11 PPG range and
a consistent double/double man. According to thenewstribune.com on Wednesday, the concern about N’Diaye’s health also had to do with his teeth, after he sustained a serious blow in the closed scrimmage against Santa Clara. Gant and N’Diaye are players that should have solid pro careers (if they choose to), but as of now I feel that there are four certain NBA players on this UW squad in C.J., Ross, Wroten and Gaddy. All four guards are big enough to navigate the paint, guard wings and even some post players in a pinch.

What’s more important is that these four are size mismatches for most of the guards that they will face. When Suggs returns, another tall shooter who has a burgeoning all-around game, this group of guards has the potential to be really
good. The down side is that this group is still a work in progress. While these guys have size advantages on the vast majority of college level guards, as I mentioned, little guys will often use quickness to take them off the dribble. The aggressive style that UW employs may also produce games in which the officials will call things that may not have been called on small players like Thomas and Overton.

This UW team must eliminate turnovers and stop dribble penetration, or the limited supply of serviceable big men will get in foul trouble, a potentially bigger problem. The guards have enough depth to absorb a lot of fouls, especially with the return of Suggs and the continued development of freshman Hikeem Stewart, but the bigs do not. Most teams will perish at the hands of these big, skilled and mobile guards, but those that are able to penetrate and cause the bigs to foul will be successful. I expect Romar to install a zone to protect the bigs and with the length that he has on the outside, it may be a very successful ploy, despite the slow downs that may hurt his offense.

I found it interesting that the team that consistently penetrated and had big guys who could knock down jumpers did the best of the three in the Owls. Their penetration into the lane with their little guard and from the baseline with their
wings kept them close. When their bigs got hot from outside late, FAU were right in it. Aziz and Darnell did not do the job in the 2nd half in getting out on their men on J’s and against better teams UW wil lose games that way. Romar wrote it off to a loss of focus on Sunday, which may be the case. Players didn’t get out on shooters and let guys get ahead of them and if Romar is right these are correctable mistakes.

“This hasn’t been a reoccurring theme for us. I’m a guy who looks at patterns. When there are patterns, you better deal with them. If it just happens here and there, OK, sometimes things go wrong. As much as we want our teams to be perfect and play at a high level every night, it probably won’t happen.”

Teams will still attempt to get past these big, but potentially porous defensive guards to get inside and confront the bigs. If UW’s bigs get in foul trouble, that will be difficult and it is an obvious strategy to use. Duke will provide quite a challenge on December 10th at Madison Square Garden (for one) with their full roster of elite level talent. On Wednesday CBS Sports chose the UW/Duke game as one of 2011-12’s “Top 50 ‘can’t miss’ games”. It will take more than just one or two key players to succeed in big games like that with the Blue Devils. It will take post depth, or a scheme that protects it against one of the most brilliant hoop strategists in history in Mike Krzyzewski.

Simmons is a great defender but on the small side to deal with really big guys toe to toe. That said, if Dez starts hitting shots, his value will literally double. Defensively he is going to be a gem, so if he can hit shots when open, he could actually score a lot and like Darnell those scores will add vital value to UW’s effort. Breunig showed enough all around improvement, according to Romar on Saturday night, to earn minutes in that 4th post slot after N’Diaye, Gant and Simmons. That said, Breunig is not a great defender, nor a big body yet. Martin is a bit taller than Simmons, but not as strong, so neither are a great choice to cover a great go-to big man.

Freshman Shawn Kemp Jr. is big enough to do that, but Romar said he felt that Breunig had earned the right to play before him. That seemed to change on Monday, despite Lorenzo’s insistence that Breunig had earned those 4th post minutes in practice. I doubt that UW practiced too hard on the day of their 3rd game in three nights. Kemp will likely back up Aziz and Darnell when there is too much beef on the other side and actually looked more prepared than many assume, based on his not getting much PT in the 1st two games. Time will tell if match-ups make Lorenzo change his mind and bring in Shawn in more often to save Gant and N’Diaye.

One way that the Dawgs could keep their bigs fresh is to play a four guard look, with four of their big guards and either Aziz or Darnell in the middle. With this line-up, the Dawgs could crash the boards and hope that they also have the speed to get back against quick, but mostly shorter guards. The other post option was freshman Jernard Jarreau and I applaud his decision to red-shirt in 2011-12. Jernard has put on 17 lbs. this fall, through weight training and if he continues to work hard in the gym and at the dinner table, he could come in next fall at a forceful 225-230 lbs. easily.

At 6-foot-10, Jarreau also has an astounding wingspan and an ability to handle the ball like a guard. Two of the more dazzling players in college hoops this season will be Kentucky’s Anthony Davis and North Carolina’s John Henson, who will both be likely gone in 2012-13, unless the NBA changes it’s rules from ‘one and done’ to ‘two and through’. John’s gone regardless in my opinion, based on what I saw in the “Carrier game” against MSU on Friday. Jarreau has a very good chance to come in and have an impact similar to those two, at least at a Pac-12 level, with a year of work on his game and in grasping his place within the UW system. Jarreau spoke with Percy Allen on Saturday after Romar broke the news and Jernard seemed to have a very good attitude about the situation.

“Since I came here everything has changed. The practices. Basketball period. No more like little-boy games. I’m just being honest right now. I just got to step my game up.”

This move also evens out the classes, with “JJ” and freshman guard Andrew “Drew” Andrews (another gem) joining the 2012 freshman class. That 2012 class so far includes zero true freshmen and with the signing by Kansas of 6-foot-10 and 240 lb. Landen Lucas of Portland OR, there are few recruiting analysts that expect that to change until at least spring. Don’t count out crafty Romar though, as he could have a trick up his sleeve. On Wednesday Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports published the results of a survey in which Lorenzo was chosen by a group of 100 D1 coaches as the most “underrated recruiter”.

Here at mynorthwest.com we have more tricks up our sleeve as well, as Shannon Dreyer will be covering Husky Hoops with me this season. Follow our Husky blog, where Shannon will be regularly providing news reports and game stories, as well as
continued Husky Football news. I’ll continue weekly in bringing you the “Husky Huddle” with more of an analytical slant. Shannon is also a solid hoops analyst as well and longtime Husky Digest contributor Jason McCleary will also help me in the “Huddle” on a regular basis, with analysis and inside info. This first weekend showed UW to be a team that above all will not be dull and potentially can become a formidable foe for anyone in D1. Will they? That’s the question, but that’s why you play the games.

Former Dawgs Making Tracks

Robinson and Thomas were the subject of a Thursday feature in slamonline.com. For all of the criticism that I have given Thomas about walking away from a chance to be the schools all-time leader in scoring, assists and steals and the times I begged Robinson to stick around for his senior year, you have to admire the heart of these two. To stand in the face of a game that is dominated by tall players and say, ‘no one is going to stop me’ takes a high level of faith. Like David against Goliath in the Bible, their two stories are inspiring. Both of these guys as players have few peers, but will always be challenged to make it in a league where prioritizing size and match-ups is such a concern.

It is a true blessing that both of them came from UW and bring such a great legacy to the school. Detlef Schrempf is also one of the greatest Huskies, if not one worthy of having his number retired. Schrempf was the subject of a Monday feature on nba.com which talks about his storied career and current pursuits. Here’s a story about the original Hec-Ed. No not the arena, currently known as the Alaska Airlines Arena, but the man the Pavilion is named after, Clarence “Hec” Edmondson. “Hec” was one of the most successful coaches in the history of the
game though his tenure was so long ago that few alive ever saw one of his teams. Steve Rudman and David Eskanazi of sportspressnw.com wrote a feature Tuesday on who the “Hec” he was that should be required reading for any UW, Seattle, Pac-12 or just plain hoops fan. The man invented the fast break, for all intents and purposes.

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Washington Husky Huddle for November 15th 2011 (Part Two)