Washington Husky Huddle for October 22nd 2011

Oct 22, 2011, 5:28 PM

Washington lost a recruiting battle with WSU on Friday for 2012 guard Demarquise Johnson, as we broke here yesterday, but all is not lost for the Dawgs. The Huskies will host a couple of 2012 big men in the coming weeks leading up to the Fall Signing period in November. Various reports have confirmed that Zena Edosomwan of Harvard Westlake (CA) and Landen Lucas will visit UW officially. Edosomwan is visiting as we speak, according to reports and Lucas has scheduled his visit for November 5th.

Losing Johnson is tough, as he would have been a great insurance policy if sophomore guard Terrence Ross went to the NBA draft this spring. Washington is also after 2012 forward Anthony Bennett, who like Terrence Jones in 2010, could be a game changer for the Dawgs. The competition is fierce for Bennett, but I expect that UW will be there to the end. With the loss of senior guard Scott Suggs after this season, there would have been a lot of minutes for Johnson, but I feel that WSU did a good enough job of convincing “Que” that he would be the focus right from the start, along with some academic reasons, to close the deal.

Good for Ken Bone and his staff, who have a great recruiting class in 2012, which they desperately needed. The Dawgs are not as desperate. They have Ross, possibly next year as well. The Huskies have sophomore guard C.J. Wilcox, who I believe is on a slow and steady track to the NBA or at least a very successful pro career. They also have freshman Tony Wroten, who will likely play a lot alongside junior point guard Abdul Gaddy. You also can’t forget about very promising freshman guards Hikeem Stewart and Andrew Andrews, who will be at Montlake next season with a year in the program under their belt.

Yes, things could go bad for UW if Ross and possibly Wroten, Gaddy or Wilcox leave for the NBA this spring, but all of that is not likely to happen. Washington will probably retain all but one (at worst two) of those kids in the fall of 2012. What they really need is more help in the post, especially a big who can score inside. That is what Edosomwan, Lucas and possibly others could bring and it is encouraging for UW fans to see the staff dealing with that as a focus. Losing senior post Darnell Gant will be hard, but freshman post Shawn Kemp has shown promise and junior post Aziz N’Diaye is going to be a major story in my opinion over the next two seasons in the Pac-12. Freshmen posts Jernard Jarreau and Martin Breunig are also going to weigh in up front, as they gain maturity and define their roles with the UW team.

All is not lost, by the loss of “Que” Johnson, though some greedy UW fans have a hard tim losing to the Cougs in anything. In terms of money as well, the Husky Hoops program is a major success. According to the Seattle Business Journal on October 14th, “The University of Washington men’s basketball team generates $11.48 million in annual revenue” with “$5.37 million in annual basketball expenses”. Those figures put the Dawgs at 19th in the nation, behind only Arizona (4th) and UCLA (17th) in the Pac-12, in financial health among D1 programs, according to bizjournals.com on October 13th.

The real story behind the loss of Johnson and the tremendous help that that will be to Bone and his likely contract extension, is that the class of 2013 for Washington is looking like it could help take UW to another level altogether. It is foolish to count on anything at this point, but the stage is set for coach Lorenzo Romar to land a superb 2013 class. UW will need to replace Gaddy and Aziz by then, along with more than likely a couple of other spots available, but that is looking very promising for UW with the players that they have legitimate shot at signing. Among the ESPN Super-60, UW is seriously involved with six, including four in the top-20 and two in the top-6.

Those two are #1 Jabari Parker of Chicago IL and #6 Aaron Gordon of the Bay Area. Gordon and Parker are thought of by many to in fact be the top-2 players in their class and Parker has been talked about as the #1 high school player in the
nation regardless of class. Local AAU coach Jim Marsh of Friends of Hoop told me recently that Gordon reminds him of Ross, while many are comparing Parker to Boston Celtic Paul Pierce. If Washington and Romar can land either of these kids, along with a couple of others from this loaded class, the Dawgs have the pieces around them to make some big moves in the next few years.

Part of the reason that UW has been able to steadily improve under Romar has been the ability to get Local talent that had been going elsewhere prior to Lorenzo’s tenure and the tail end of the Bob Bender years, which produced much of the material that Romar was able to add pieces mold into a winner. In the past few years though there really hasn’t been that much locally, but what there has been, the Dawgs have been able to retrieve for the most part. Romar was able to drag Ross up from Oregon though in 2010 when not a single local player was signed or perhaps even seriously offered. This year there was a major exception in Wroten and UW got him too.

In 2009 UW landed a great one in Gaddy and fellow Tacoman Clarence Trent, who later transferred to Seattle U, while in 2007 and 2008 UW only took one local player in Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas respectively. There really hasn’t been
that much local talent to pick from, after a run of about five years that produced much more high end local talent. On Tuesday Bleacher Report chose the state of Washington as one of “15 States That Produce the Most Prep Talent”, but all of the 13 examples of current NBA level talent that they used came from the Puget Sound Area, seven of which chose UW.

It seems like things could be looking up for the class of 2013 a bit with Friends of Hoop point guard Zach Lavine, but as far as high school kids, the class of 2012 appears to be devoid of guys that will be future UW scholarship players. There have been reports that Rainier Beach guard Anrio “Rio” Adams, may work his way into that picture though. In 2014 things may start picking up and the trend appears to be good for 2015 as well, but UW is now ‘all good’ nationally. Things are well at UW and there is no reason to be blue about “Que” if you’re a Husky fan. On Tuesday Romar talked to the Seattle Times about the team, coming out of the retreat to Evergreen State College in Olympia WA, that they used in lieu of “Midnight Madness” to start their official practices last weekend. Lorenzo compared Gaddy to Husky star QB Keith Price, while comparing Wroten to former Dawgs and current NFL QB Jake Locker.

“Tony and Abdul to me are like Jake Locker and Keith Price. Jake is one play can make the highlight for the rest of the year. Keith is just more conservative. Takes his time a little more. Not as spectacular, but highly efficient. I would compare them that way. Tony is Jake. He can make just electrifying plays at times.”

In my opinion Suggs, Gaddy, Ross, Wilcox and Wroten are the best five guards as a group to wear Purple and Gold at UW. Even the group of Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Tre Simmons, Curtis Allen (who just helped to land Johnson at WSU as an
assistant) and Will Conroy, as great as it was, does not have the punch on paper as this quintet. The problem with all of this potential is putting it to work and that is the story for Romar and UW in 2011-12. Can the UW utilize this talent? That group in 2003-04 started out 0-5 in the Pac-12 before literally running the table, including a win over undefeated Stanford to end up in 2nd place in the conference.

Will this UW team have similar problems getting started? I doubt that theirs will be on that level, as the program needed a complete overhaul at the time, but there could be some similarities. Suggs is the lone senior like Allen. Ross is the top pro prospect like Roy was. Wilcox is like Simmons, while Wroten is like Robinson, only almost a foot taller. Gaddy is the facilitator, like Conroy. The similarities are many. The difference is that this UW team has a couple of big kids that they didn’t have then. Freshman swing man Desmond Simmons is very similar to journeyman pro Bobby Jones, while Gant is an awful lot like Mike Jensen (with a chance to be a lot better), but UW had no one like N’Diaye.

Hakeem Rollins was a good weapon in holding serve against big players and Anthony Washington helped out a lot in key situations, but no one did the kind of job defensively that Aziz should be able to do this season. If UW can keep ‘Ziz in
games and get a little help from Kemp, this Husky team will go far, despite the lack of a “back to the basket” scorer. Washington showed a touch of “back to the basket” to his game, as does Kemp, but Anthony couldn’t stay out of foul trouble. We’ll see how well Shawn performs. That 2003-04 team also had no one at the level of Stewart, Andrews, Breunig or Jarreau waiting in the wings available if needed either.

Mark Knight of Husky Haul talked about the 2011-12 Dawgs on Monday in bustingbrackets.com and said that Gaddy, “is going to have an amazing year”. Knight also picked UW 2nd in the Pac-12 behind UCLA and to win the conference tournament for the 3rd straight year. I think that this is a fair expectation and a good prediction as far as the Bruins. Jacob Thorpe of the UW Daily was present on Friday when the team showcased for the Husky student section, also known as the Dawg Pack. Thorpe talked more critically about the UW team, while covering all of the hoopla of Ross and Gant showboat dunks. Jacob noticed free throws to be a problem, which has been in the past a major Husky bugaboo. Thorpe also mentioned a problem that I also noticed with Gaddy when I watched him, right after his return to action in late August.

“Gaddy showed off his fantastic ball-handling and passing, but looked tentative and hesitant to take chances. This often caused the offense to slow down, and there were many times when 10–12 seconds ran off the shot clock before the ball left
Gaddy’s hands.”

This could be a problem for UW, if the offense is too slow to develop. That style tends to result in settling for 3-poin shots, which is great if you are on, but tends to be a killer, especially on the road. Jacob also felt that behind Aziz, Darnell and “Dez” that the newbies are rather green.

“While all of the posts flashed potential — particularly Shawn Kemp Jr. around the block and Jernard Jarreau’s length and athleticism — they’re all pretty raw. German import Martin Breunig in particular struggled with the ball in his hands. And while Kemp needs to work on his conditioning, the others all need to gain weight to be effective in the Pac-12.”

I agree with this assessment, which supports my point that UW needs to keep those three vets, especially ‘Ziz, in games to stay competitive at a high level. Though they are green, these new guys are showing that they are going to get it
together, possibly as soon as this season in some cases. Mitch Larsen of Rivals assembled Romar quotes from Tuesday on all of eight of the frosh, including walk-on Alex Wegner. Lorenzo seemed pleased with the level of effort from his young post trio.

“You could see Jernard starting to pick up what we’re doing, and the more he picked it up, the more plays he made. He has such great length, he’s going to be a guy defensively that’s what we call putting out fires. He’s going to be able to be a great help defender, he’s going to be the initiator catalyst of us getting into transition a lot because he’s going to get a lot of deflections. He handles the ball really well.”

“(Breunig’s) such a perfectionist, he continues to ask questions. You know, it means something to him to be in the right spot, to do things right, to pick it up, and because of that I thought he did a pretty good job of picking up what we put
out there for him.”

“I’m saying the same thing about each guy it seems like, it’s just, it means something to Shawn to do the right thing. I mean you can just see he’s part of the team, you can see the excitement he has that he’s part of something. His
conditioning helped him because as he starts to figure out what he’s doing you can see the wheels turning.”

Wroten is ready right now to make a huge impact, according to numerous sources. Andy Katz of ESPN on Monday interviewed Romar in NYC and Lorenzo gave Tony a ringing endorsement.

“(Wroten) has great size for a point guard, and he’s an exceptional passer. His athleticism allows him to be a real terror on the defensive end. He’s trying to pick up our concepts now and he’s learning where he needs to be, but sometimes while he’s making mistakes, he makes a play. He’s just very, very unique with a unique skill set.”

A lot of the negative press about Tony’s selfish attitude appears to me to be unwarranted. On a local radio talk show on KKNW Wednesday Wroten sounded very grown up and in fact humble (The segment with Tony is 1/3 the way through until 1/2 way). Unfortunately for the Dawgs on Thursday it was announced that Wroten had minor knee surgery, but that he would likely be available by the Dawgs first game of the season, an exhibition against Seattle Pacific University at Hec-Ed on Friday November 4th. It may be smart to allow Tony to sit that one out. It’ll also be the only chance for fans to see Andrews. Romar explained the situation on gohuskies.com.

“Tony could have probably gone the whole season with a little discomfort at times and played through this. But he and his family, plus our staff, thought it would be better to take care of this now so he would be fine for the rest of the year. It has been nagging him a little bit, but he’ll be ready to go in no time soon.”

On Friday Romar said on a local radio show that Wroten could be back as soon as next week (10-24 to 10-28). Ross also has garnered high praise from Lorenzo in the Seattle Times on October 16th.

“What makes him special is his ability to go out and just get you a bucket and the fashion that he does it. You can count on one or two hands guys around the country that can really shoot the ball from the perimeter, but yet have the type of
athleticism that they can go in the middle and finish on anyone. There’s not a lot of guys like that, and Terrence is one of those guys. It’s just eye-popping.”

On Wednesday Ross was selected 23rd (thin Michael Jordan connection) in CBS Sports’ “Top 100 players in college basketball”. Terrence was the highest selection among Pac-12 players, but UCLA junior post Reeves Nelson was chosen 24th.

“An easy choice for a breakout player, Ross could be the Pac-12’s top scorer.”

On Thursday CBS picked Ross as the 10th best wing in the country and chose Terrence as their “sleeper”.

“This is our sleeper selection. You think Washington’s going to be down and out without Isaiah Thomas, Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton and Matthew Bryan-Amaning? No. Ross is going to be a first-team guy in the Pac-12.”

On Friday Blake Lovell of bustingbrackets.com picked Ross as 3rd team preseason All-American, also using the term “Sleeper”. Lovell also intimated that Ross would lead the Dawgs to Pac-12 success.

“Here’s my sleeper in the group. Ross only averaged 8 points per game last season. Let me say this: he’s not averaging less than 15 this season. He can score any way that he wants to and he’s going to have Washington right in the mix for a Pac-12 title.”

Wilcox was interviewed by Percy Allen on Friday and Allen pointed out that though C.J. was the dagger thrower of the year in the Pac-10 last year for his 24-point game against UCLA, he actually had for him a rough go because of illness.

“During an 11-game stretch that began mid-December and extended to early February, he connected on just 5 of 28 (17.9 percent) three-pointers.”

Wilcox talked to Allen about what he worked on over the off-season and from what I saw in August and September it appeared to me that he made marked progress.

“Getting to the basket, free throws, getting to the free throw line, a lot of footwork stuff beneath the basket and a lot of 1-on-1 moves and stuff like that to get around my defender and get other people open.”

Gaddy was the focus of a feature by Scott Johnson of heraldnet.com in which Romar again spoke highly of yet another Husky 2011-12 guard.

“Abdul, as I’ve always said, is the calm in the storm. He’s always been that way. Abdul is a big part of this team.”

Looking at Washington’s guards you have to marvel at the ways they can hurt you. Ross can take you one on one. Wroten can get by you and make you look the fool. Wilcox and Suggs can just out shoot you, while also playing a more well rounded
game than many think. Gaddy sets the table, but don’t think he won’t bust one in your face from 25 feet. Suggs had a tough piece of news this past week though, as he had foot surgery which will keep him out for much of the next eight weeks. I’ve heard from sources that he may be back sooner, but Scott told thenewstribune.com on Tuesday in a video interview that he hopes to be back on the team for the trip to NYC to face Marquette and Duke in early December. One sad sidebar to the story is that Suggs won’t get to play in his hometown of St. Louis MO on November 20th. UW fans can hope that Scott can use this as motivation to come in and shoot lights out when he gets back. Suggs shared his
frustration with Larsen on Tuesday.

“I was upset when I heard. Initially it was supposed to be 3-4 weeks, but when they found out I had to have surgery and I would miss the (Saint Louis) game, I was angry. It happens, so you have to deal with it. I’ve been looking forward to
playing in front of my family and friends for a while. I was real disappointed when I heard that. It’s disappointing, but there will be another opportunity to play at home.”

On Thursday Jeff Taylor of Husky Haul projected his idea as to how Romar would rotate the players without Suggs in the mix. One way was to start Wilcox at the off-guard, with Gaddy at the point (backed by Wroten) and Ross at the three
guard. The other was to move Terrence to the two and put Breunig at the three. Those are both interesting possibilities, though I doubt that Martin is ready for that role yet. I see this situation as more like the former, with Wilcox and Wroten getting more minutes, while Ross will already stay in games as long as Romar can, mostly at the three, but occasionally at the Four spot. Suggs was interviewed by Allen as well as part of his countdown series on Wednesday, in an interview that was done before the surgery. Scott mentioned his younger brother Ronnie, who is apparently a big-time hoops prospect as a sophomore in high school.

“He’s going to be a sophomore this year. He’s like 6-4 or 6-5. He’s done some things. His game is kind of similar to mine. He’s got the same type of build as me. He can shoot. He’s more of a … I don’t even know how to describe it. I saw him play a couple of games this summer. He’s pretty good.”

Hopefully for UW fans, Scott can make his home in Seattle, like so many former UW players from elsewhere have and keep his little brother company while he’s starring at UW. That’s when Scott’s not too busy playing in the NBA, to complete the Suggs/UW dream. Gant was the subject of the next interview feature from Allen on Thursday. Darnell spoke highly of his front court mates, which bodes well for UW fans.

“I think Dez has really worked hard in the off season and Aziz changed his shot for the better as far as free throw purposes. And he’s gotten better scoring on the block. He’s more demanding of the ball and finishing better. He’s kind of vocal. He’s a winner. He tries to win everything. If he loses, he’s upset. And I’m real impressed with the way he’s come back over the summer time.”

Aziz may be story that just keeps getting better, a star in the making if you will. On Friday Allen ran a blog post about “Elevate”, a documentary about a program for African born players that stars N’Diaye and also features cameos from Husky assistant coach Raphael Chillious. This is apparently a major film, which according to Allen debuted in NYC on Friday and “debuts in Seattle on Nov. 18 at AMC Pacific Place 11”. One former Dawg that continues to keep his face on the basketball stage is guard Justin Dentmon (2005-09). “JD” made the final 15 for the USA Basketball Men’s team on Sunday and on Wednesday it was announced that he made the final squad of 12 who will play at the Pan American Games on Oct. 26-30 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Dentmon is a bright kid and a great player.

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Washington Husky Huddle for October 22nd 2011