Washington Husky Huddle for August 25th 2011 (Part One)

Aug 25, 2011, 6:36 PM | Updated: 6:51 pm

Local hoops changed remarkably in the early 90’s. Prior to that the Puget Sound area had few players with a national pedigree that were not big men. There was the occasional exception like Quin Snyder of Mercer Island, who went on to Duke and Clint Richardson of O’Dea High and Seattle U to name a couple of notable exceptions. By 1992 there seemed to be many more skilled, athletic hoopers and great small players than ever. Most Husky teams (and Seattle U) teams that I followed from the late 60’s to that point had to bring in their PG’s and athletic wing players. Other than Raphael Stone and Alvin Vaughn of Garfield in Seattle, most of the top UW PG’s were imports.

Louie Nelson from Compton CA, Charles Dudley from Missouri, Chester Dorsey from Indiana, Lorenzo Romar (also from Compton), Steve Burks of Kansas City MO (dad of Colorado and Utah 1st round pick Alec) and Eldridge Recasner New Orleans LA were for the most part the best guards at Hec Ed at that time. Either the Huskies went else where to find a PG or wing, or they at best had the best that the area had to offer, which was at times not that good. Such was the plight of Husky hoops for a long time, but in the 90’s things changed markedly. First it was the success of Federal Way’s Donny Marshall, who was originally from Detroit MI, but came to the area.

UConn signed the physical small forward Marshall, but right on Donny’s heels came Federal Way’s Michael Dickerson, who went to Arizona, though then brand new UW coach Bob Bender made a futile push for him to stay home. “Mike D” was followed

by Decatur’s Roberto Bergersen, who Bender did land, but then lost to transfer to Boise State. That group was followed by the first great PG of the last 20 years in Seattle in Frankin High’s Jason Terry, who also went to ‘Zona after publicly declaring for UW along with another great guard in Kirkland’s Donald Watts. At that point the flood gates opened.

Doug Wrenn of O’Dea, Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson of Rainier Beach, Luke Ridnour of rural Lynden WA, Brian Morrison of Kirkland, Curtis Allen of Tacoma, Will Conroy, Brandon Roy, Marcellus Kemp and Tre Simmons of Garfield and Justin Holt
of Tacoma all of a sudden made the area a small national story hoop wise. That generation led to another that was even a step up. Ryan Appleby of Stanwood, Aaron Brooks of Franklin, Roderick and Loderick Stewart and Terrence Williams of Beach, Martell Webster of Seattle Prep, Rodney Stuckey of Kent, Micah Downs of Bothell, Franklin’s Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas of Tacoma proved that the area’s hoops resurgence was no fluke.

What’s more big men with athleticism and skill, not just tall guys who wanted to learn the game, started showing up in Marvin Williams of Bremerton, Spencer Hawes of Seattle Prep, Jon Brockman of Snohomish and Josh Smith of Kent. The guards kept coming too in Tacoma’s Abdul Gaddy and Avery Bradley, Reggie Moore of Beach and Franklin’s Peyton Siva. Wing Clarence Trent of Tacoma and Aaron Dotson of Beach also made waves in 2009 along with the big man Smith in 2010, but things seemed to be slowing down. Some assessed that the loss of the NBA to Seattle would have an effect and that this sudden drop in local talent was a sign that things were changing to the negative.

Husky 2011 Freshmen Tony Wroten Jr. and Hikeem Stewart and Oregon frosh Brett Kingma were the first big time guards after a down back court year locally in 2010. 2012 also appears to be a the slowest year in a long time for local talent, but the outlook for 2013 and 2014 in the area appears to be trending upwards again, as this new mecca for hoops talent appears to be a permanent arrangement. The Seattle Times Claudia Rowe did a story on Saturday attempting to explain why this happened all of a sudden in this town. Watts, who has worked as a trainer and high school coach since his playing days were cut short by chronic fatigue syndrome while at UW, told Rowe that the success is starting to change kids coming up for the worse.

“It’s so goal-oriented now. It’s not really about the love of basketball. You see these kids get rated nationally on websites, but as individuals, when basketball is a team sport. So it’s not quite the tight community here that it used to be, and I think that’s going to have a negative effect on the people coming up.”

Watts came up prior to the rise of the big AAU teams in the area, notably Friends of Hoop, Rotary Style and NW Panthers. Former Mercer Island coach Ed Pepple (who was referenced in the article) had a traveling team back in Donald’s time, but
other than that there was almost no others that did the “summer circuit”. Rowe painted an accurate picture of the kind of competition that currently exists to get involved with those elite AAU squads and the expectations of big-time college interest and even NBA dreams that are part of the psyche of local parents
and kids. The love for the game and the dedication to teaching kids the right way that inspired former Sonic coach George Karl, former Sonic Jim Marsh and others to form FOH in the mid-90’s seems to have been replaced by a more business-like attitude.

I’ve spoken at length about the corruption that exists in college and youth basketball. With agents, boosters and “runners” holding court at these AAU events, there’s no question that there is money involved, but like anything else that goes
from inspired amateurism to major financial success or fame, the game and unfortunately people change drastically. Romar is known as a person with high ideals and morals and I believe that this is a well founded opinion. As the local BB scene has become much more about the do-re-mi, in the back of my mind I wonder if even Lorenzo could change his story. If everyone else is out for themselves and the money, what would stop Romar from going for the NBA or a “bigger” college job like UCLA.

There is certainly interest and UW fans got another scare this past week when former Arizona star Derrick Williams said on 110sportspodcast.com last Tuesday that he is hearing that Romar is a serious candidate for the Minnesota Timberwolves job. 110 Sports is based in Arizona and is a podcast site. The UW Athletic Department deflected that report as rumor and that Williams was probably going on the rumor that Romar had denied emphatically when it was first reported last month. My gut tells me they are right. One reason I doubt that Romar would leave is because he is already well paid and that the school is likely to raise his pay if needed to keep him. That said, there is always more opportunity ultimately in the NBA and Romar could look at it as another level to conquer. I doubt it somehow (based on my read of Lorenzo’s personality), but it seems to me that the rest of the local hoops world is looking at hoops as less dream/more job then 10 years ago, when the new wave of local talent started kicking in. Regardless to that situation, the Husky program is in great shape, in comparison to it’s history.

No where is that more evident than at the NCAA sanctioned summer league at NSCC, which wrapped up it’s season last Wednesday. Normally on Monday nights, the league had it’s regular slate of games on the 15th, then it’s championship on August 17th. On August 15th Scott Suggs was back in town from a visit home to St. Louis MO and looked great. Percy Allen of the Seattle Times talked about Suggs as well as impressive play from the former Husky and current Seattle U wing Trent. Allen also spoke favorably of Husky freshman posts Desmond Simmons and Martin Breunig.

“Suggs was just as good as ever. He ran the offense at times, sank a couple of step-back three-pointers and powered in a handful of dunks in transition. Still, he wasn’t the best player on the court. Those honors go to Trent, who was extremely active on both ends of the floor.”

The 2nd game involved Husky star sophomore wing Terrence Ross and the return of former Dawg guard, the embattled Venoy Overton. Apparently that combination didn’t do well for the 3rd straight Monday, despite what appears to be superior
talent in Ross and in the past two weeks Wroten, who was conspicuous by his absence Monday. Overton attempted to run the team, but despite Ross shooting them back in the game, after his cold shooting had taken them out of it, they lost again. According to Allen, Ross was visibly upset that he didn’t get the ball ion the last seconds. Overton had missed a chance to put the game away in regulation, but missed two free throws.

“In the 2-minute extra period, Ross’ team fell behind early. They trailed 56-53 with 6.1 seconds left and had possession. Ross worked hard to free himself from his defender and barked for the ball, but his team never got off a shot as time expired. After the game, Ross was visibly upset and appeared to verbally lash out at teammates.”

A Youtube highlight reel of both games gives a better indication as to the atmosphere at NSCC. After Ross tweeted on Monday night to Wroten that he was done with the league, Terrence and Tony decided to give it one more go on Wednesday. While Wroten played carefully, as if he was being extra careful not to get hurt, Ross played really aggressively and showed most of his impressive athleticism to the crowd of mostly UW fans.Allen also was there on Wednesday and spoke glowingly of Ross, as well as Breunig and Moore, who reportedly looks great going into his junior year at WSU.

“Midway in the second half the young German flushed a windmill dunk in traffic, which drew several oohs and ahhs. On the next possession, he weaved the ball between his legs before flushing another windmill that drew a loud ovation from the
crowd.”

Again Ross, Wroten and Husky frosh post Shawn Kemp Jr’s team lost. It may be that this is more of an opportunity for guys with likely NBA futures in Ross and Wroten to just do their thing and not play great team ball on either end, but Simmons told Allen on Wednesday that this is definitely not the case for him.

“If we’re keeping score, then I’m playing to win. It doesn’t matter what it is. In this type of setting where there’s refs and fans, then yeah you want to put on a good show and you want that win. Of course, no one wants to get hurt. You put that above everything else, but for me, every time I step on the court I’m trying to win.”

There wasn’t a highlight film on the net for Wednesday, but there was a short YouTube clip of a couple of Breunig’s more entertaining dunks. The lack of defense that marked the entire league and inconsistency of talent level is hugely evident

on the clip. It all seemed to be for fun in the end and the UW guys tweeted about it after the games, as if it was more of a Sunday picnic than a real contest. Husky Haul ran a piece which used tweets as it’s centerpiece as they wrapped up the final games last Thursday. We know that Romar will not put up with Swiss cheese defense and showboat play. This year’s Dawgs will be a much more serious theatrical event. Junior post Aziz N’Diaye was not there in the final week. N’Diaye, who was responsible for putting Tony on the deck the previous week, possibly contributing to Wroten no-showing on the 15th, decided to call it off.

He probably felt that he could not play with the kind of intensity that he should in real games, so he did not want to develop the bad habit of playing with less intensity and physicality. N’Diaye from all reports will be a huge impediment to opposing teams in the paint and the Huskies success will depend largely on keeping him in games. With Matthew Bryan-Amaning moving to the pros, Aziz should get a lot more minutes. with his improved techniques, N’Diaye is likely to put up impressive rebounding and blocked shot numbers this season, plus better scoring as well, with his improved touch around the hoop (especially his hook shot). N’Diaye does have a sense of humor though, as a feature about him shaving his name on the back of his head in sbnation.com showed on August 16th showed.

Ross will likely be all business, though his play over the summer showed a tendency to settle for J’s and not play D. I’m sure the UW coaches will be after Ross to use his superior skills and athleticism to it’s best advantage this year. If he does, he could play himself into the NBA lottery. If he falls short, hopefully he’ll do it in 2012-13. The good news for Ross and UW fans is that everyone who has seen him against serious competition is convinced that he’s already got it. Diamond Leung of ESPN echoed that general scuttlebutt on Terrence on August 12, as the ESPN staff looked at various questions going into next season nationally.

“Washington guard Terrence Ross might have been known as ‘the other Terrence’ after having attended the same high school as Terrence Jones, but he now appears ready to grab the spotlight. The Huskies lost their top scorer when Isaiah Thomas left for the NBA draft, and Ross figures to be relied upon to fill the void after showing flashes of potential while scoring eight points per game in primarily a reserve role. He scored 19 in Washington’s season-ending loss in the NCAA tournament and has impressed in off season workouts.”

Ross was also included as one of the top “Impact sophomores” by swooshnation.com on August 15th.

“With Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday all gone, Ross will have the opportunity to step in fill some of the scoring void these 3 will leave behind. A big, athletic guard with a good understanding of the game, Ross was
able to show by the end of last season that he could score in a variety of ways. CJ Wilcox and Abdul Gaddy will provide some help in the back court, but Ross has the real ability to become a game-changing scorer. If he doesn’t, the Huskies could be in a for a really long transition year.”

I think that there will be some transition for the Dawgs, with the loss of all of that veteran talent. The good news for UW fans is that if Wroten or Ross don’t step it up to a level that I know they have available, the guys behind them are ready to step right in and be very effective. Suggs is a veteran and a heck of a shooter who has improved his handles. Wilcox is ready to shoot lights and has also improved his overall game, per reports. Gaddy will return and his ability to run a team, as well as improvements in his shooting could be a major story. Frosh guard Andrew Andrews is so good that a number of people have talked about him possibly beating out Wroten and Gaddy, if they aren’t focused this fall.

Stewart and Jernard Jarreau have shown promise as well, but both have seemed a little behind the others, according to most observers. My impression of both of them was good when I saw them, but when the lights are on there is not much room for guys to take their time learning and growing. Stewart has all of the tools to become a strong Pac-12 level guard. Jarreau has a huge upside, but is getting a better idea as to what he’s up against as a 6-foot-10 195 lb. freshman. Allen did a nice Q+A in the Times on Tuesday that showed Jernard to have evolved from earlier interviews when he said that his goal was to start.

“My goal is to play. I’m not really focused on starting anymore. They probably already had a starting five for next year anyway. I just want to come in and play a good role. Just try to give it my all.”

Jarreau talked about getting stronger and using his skills to his advantage. Jernard has impressive ball skills, as he started his career as a PG, but then grew 8-9 inches during the course of his high school career. Is Jarreau ready to challenge guys like Gant and Simmons at the power forward spot or Ross, Suggs and Wilcox on the wing? I’m not sure, but if he can get strong enough to handle the PF’s and quick and skilled enough to do battle with the SF’s, at his size the NBA scouts will come running. It will be very interesting to watch as Jernard develops as a player at UW. Another impressive new face that has UW fans very hopeful is Breunig. On August 14th gohuskies.com did a nice Q+A with Martin that revealed him to have a great attitude about his role on the team right off the bat.

“My goals are to be in good shape and to do what the team needs. If they need a rebounder, I will rebound. If they need a good defender, I will defend. It depends on what the coach expects on the court.”

Breunig looks to be the kind of player that can help in just that way if needed as a freshman, with his already developed physique and athleticism. It may be hard for him to get into the main rotation when the chips are down and it needs to shrink for conference play. I could see the Dawgs running Aziz, Darnell, Simmons and Kemp at the two post positions with, Ross, Suggs and Wilcox on the wing. Wroten, Gaddy and actually Andrews could share time at guard, while literally all three of Breunig, Jarreau and Stewart either sit on the bench and provide depth or red-shirt. Simmons spoke to the Seattle Times Percy Allen, at the NSCC game on Monday the 15th, which ran on the 22nd. In a very positive sounding piece for UW fans, Simmons touched on his health, which is excellent after the knee problems last year, plus a lot about the upcoming season. Dez also mentioned that Romar worked with him a lot in his rehab. Simmons talked about where he sees his role on the team.

“I think I fit in doing some of the things that Darnell does. Shooting an open jump shot. I feel like I fit in as far as being that toughness guy. That guy that when you see me diving on the floor for loose balls or scrapping or saving balls and throwing it off the other teams body or stuff like that. I think I provide that edge for the team.”

Desmond also talked about this year’s team overcoming so many new faces.

“I think we’ll be good. Our freshmen, they seem real hungry. They don’t have any kind of swag or act like we’re the stuff. They seem hungry and they listen to us when we talk to them. I think we’ll be pretty good. I think we’ll be a scrappy team.”

Gaddy was the subject of a huge feature on the national college hoops page at Yahoo on Thursday by David Fox. Romar was quoted in the piece as saying that Gaddy is ready to play now, but they are still waiting a bit just to be on the safe side.

“If we had a big game tonight and he wanted to play, he’d play in that game. He’s strong enough to go out and compete.”

Gaddy also talked about the team adjusting to life after the three seniors and Thomas and in doing so gave due credit to a Husky great.

“Those guys did whatever it took, whether it was diving on the floor or playing defense full court. Coming in as a freshman, that’s the main thing you have to learn — to play the blue-collar way like Isaiah did. They got it from Jon Brockman.”

I think Abdul hit it on the head. This UW team will need to learn to bring that type of effort to sustain the legacy of that group who won three straight Pac-10 championships, one out right and two conference tournament titles. Players like
Gaddy, Aziz (who also plays a lot like Brockman), Gant and Suggs are going to have to literally replace those four. I don’t see it happening that easily. This team will be much different, but the more that those four play like the guys who left, the better the 2011-12 team will do. I don’t see Suggs playing defense like Holiday, but I do see Scott scoring more efficiently. I don’t see Aziz or Gant scoring inside as well as Matt, but I see them rebounding and defending well. I don’t see Abdul hustling on defense or penetrating like Thomas and Overton, but I see him making great plays with the ball in his hands like Isaiah. Someone is going to have to replace that ability to penetrate and dish or draw fouls, like IT and VO (when he was healthy and not distracted by his legal troubles).

Wroten is likely to be that guy, but another freshman looks as if he may be a lot better than people thought going into the summer. Andrews is quietly getting a lot of talk about forgetting about the red-shirt for the good of the team. Will Romar sacrifice an obvious team need for a red-shirt, as he may have done with Wilcox in 2009-10, when outside shooting was a team shortcoming? I know that all of the talk, including straight from Andrews’ mouth, is that Andrew will sit, but from what I’m hearing he is just too good. With those 10 running a high pressure rotation, that’s plenty of depth and balance to the line-up to do a lot of things well. Low post scoring seems like the short suit. If that is addressed somehow through a combination of Ross, Wroten and improved play inside by Gant and N’Diaye and the addition of Simmons and Kemp, this UW team will be very good. There really isn’t a lot of room for the freshmen, other than Wroten, the red-shirt Simmons and Andrews. I doubt that Jernard, Martin and Hikeem will all red-shirt, but if that happened it wouldn’t be that bad of a situation. With walk-ons Brendan Sherrer and Alex Wegner on the roster, the Dawgs can still bring in someone when the game is not contested. Perhaps more walk-ons would be a good idea, to deal with the times in practices when someone is sick or injured.

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Washington Husky Huddle for August 25th 2011 (Part One)