Washington Husky Huddle for July 31st 2011 (Part One)

Jul 31, 2011, 1:41 PM | Updated: 8:15 pm

Lorenzo Romar was mentioned in an article for sbnation.com last Thursday by Kevin Cacabelos on New Mexico coach Steve Alford banning twitter for his team, as the guy who gets it, where Alford does not.

“Washington Huskies Head Coach Lorenzo Romar treated Thomas like an adult and acted as a mentor. He sat down with him one on one and discussed his problems with what Thomas was posting. Keep in mind that Thomas’ Twitter account was one of the most popular in all of college basketball at the time.”

“Alford’s choice to ban Twitter not only restricts his player’s social lives, but it clearly shows a lack of trust he has for his team. This draconian policy prevents him from doing his job: coaching and mentoring his players on and off the court.”

I agree with this, though I find these kids twitter habits to be obnoxious on a regular basis, as I try to follow them to see if there is anything news worthy going on. The problem is that they do post newsworthy info and links along with many more stupid jokes than good ones and personal anecdotes that should not be broadcast all over the world.

Still I like Romar’s way of handling it better than Alford’s. Helping a guy make the right decision for himself is always better than forcing them to do it because you feel it is wrong, no matter how right you are. Romar was also featured by CBS Sports on Thursday, as Jeff Goodman attempted to explain why Lorenzo will never likely take an NBA job. This quote from Romar I felt was meaningful.

“The time from 17 to 22 is a pivotal time in kids’ lives. To be in a position to impact them in that time is important to me.”

The article went to on to talk about Romar’s experience with Athletes in Action where Lorenzo told Goodman, “Basketball was used as a platform to serve the gospel” adding “It gave us a chance to subtly share the gospel without it being

Many observers have spoken about how Husky star freshman Tony Wroten has too much ego on the court and could be a problem for a coach. Many wondered, before Isaiah Thomas left for the NBA, if there would be enough basketballs to go around for the two of them, or if natural point guard Abdul Gaddy would be affected by Wroten’s personal quests to be an NBA PG.

Cacabelos on Friday in seattle.sbnation.com made a convincing argument that Romar was the perfect guy to manage Tony and get the most out his talents, while putting the team first. I think that’s true and I believe that behind the bravado and twitter madness, Tony is also grounded by his faith and Lorenzo can help him best use that to his advantage.

“Here’s what it comes down to: Wroten will do what Romar wants him to do, or he won’t play. It’s not like the Huskies will suffer greatly if Wroten is not playing. They already have an established starting point guard in Abdul Gaddy, and sufficient guard depth to carry the season. However, Wroten makes this team much better when he’s on the court. And he’ll soon realize he will have to make adjustments, both off the court and on it, to play minutes.”

I think that this opinion is well founded and I’m surprised that Cacabelos didn’t tie the two together, but Kevin skipped one major factor that was brought up in the Alford/Twitter issue. Romar will likely do it in a way that helps Tony see that it is in his best interest to make the right choice, rather than only by a system of punishment/reward.

North Seattle Community College has been the site of an NCAA sanctioned summer league on Monday nights, which have included teams made up of most of the current UW players. The schedule is on an official site for the events, for Husky fans who would like a sneak peek at next year’s team including all seven new players.

Montlake Madness’ Griffin Bennett on July 18th did a breakdown of every UW guy that participated that week, which was very positive and perhaps a bit optimistic, based on the competition there. Sometimes the Dawgs players are matched up with Seattle U guys, sometimes JC, CC and even high school players, so these games are not always a great way to judge guys.

This time the UW guys were matched up against other UW guys, but summer ball is not about team play anyway and thus not a great place to form a strong opinion. Bennett was very impressed with UW frosh post Martin Breunig, but failed to point
out who it was that he was matched up against.

“He repeatedly beat his guy to the basket for dunks and impressive contested layups. His shot looks very advanced for his age and is willing to battle for rebounds. If that wasn’t enough, he is very athletic and can dunk with authority.
Afterward Craig (Yamada) texted me and said ‘Breunig is a starter’. He could be right.”

I saw Breunig on Tuesday running open gym. Though I felt that he looks big enough to hold his ground physically with some Pac-12 posts, starting over senior Darnell Gant or junior Aziz N’Diaye never crossed my mind. I see Breunig as the 5th
post who could see some reserve minutes behind Gant, when the much more defensive minded Simmons is perhaps a bit small.

Freshman Shawn Kemp Jr. is big enough to be an option, other than Gant in backing up the center spot for N’Diaye and I would see Breunig as the 4th option there at best. One thing summer hoops is good for is highlight plays and offense and frosh guard Tony Wroten didn’t disappoint, as a YouTube clips demonstrates.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the optimism that Bennett and Yamada are showing in regards to the UW team and much of it is well founded. I hosted “Talkin’ Hoops” for two straight weeks on Monday July 18th and Monday July 25th with Griffin and
Craig talking about the team, as they watched them at NSCC.

These guys from MM know their hoops, but I do feel that the individual skills that players can show in settings like this don’t always translate to Pac-12 play. Dustin Lagos did a fan’s perspective analysis of the July 18th NSCC event in Husky Haul on July 20th and was equally positive. Lagos gave frosh guard Andrew Andrews a good review.

“Very surprised by this guy. Smart with the ball, fearless in the lane and has a great first step. It’s almost getting repetitive to say it, but the shot looks good as well. This whole team minus a certain 7 footer, seem to be threatening from the mid-range. Andrews seems like a pure point that can score when needed, but seems more comfortable as a floor general. Nothing too flashy, but dependable. He could contribute immediately, but the depth at point guard will likely force Andrews or Hikeem Stewart into a red-shirt season.”

Andrews is that good, as I saw on Tuesday down at Hec Ed. He has all of the intangibles when it comes to protecting the rock that you look for from a point guard, plus strong shooting skills and toughness on defense. The problem is and it’s
a nice one to have is that freshman Tony Wroten Jr. is just too good and junior Abdul Gaddy is also ahead of him.

Wroten is as dynamic of an offensive penetrator, a passer and a defensive player as any I have seen come in as a freshman in this conference since Gary Payton and Jason Kidd. The only problem with Tony, and it’s a good one if you are a Husky
fan, is that he is an inconsistent shooter. When he’s hot from outside he’s murder, but like on Tuesday, when he’s not…

Wroten will more than likely be smart enough to stick around UW long enough to become an consistent shooter and when he does in a year or two, watch out world. Wroten is the best new player in the Pac-12, if you discount his shooting, but no conference coaching staff will prepare for UW without that in mind. How Tony reacts to that is a huge key for UW’s year.

On Friday the Seattle Times Percy Allen was also optimistic about the run at NSCC on Monday. Normally a fairly hard to hype hoops analyst, Allen’s optimism when it comes to Breunig was encouraging.

“Breunig powered in two one-step dunks beneath the rim. It doesn’t take long for him to get off the ground and when he goes up, he’s looking to dunk.”

I respect Percy, Griffin and Craig’s opinions when it comes to hoops and player evaluation, but I have to go with my own two eyes on what I saw Tuesday. Even if Breunig was having an off day when I saw him, knowing Romar’s style, I believe that Simmons will play more often based on defense and intangibles.

Were that not the case, Ross would have played many more minutes last season and Justin Holiday much less. Just impressive size, athleticism and ball skills are not enough. Defensive focus and rebounding are a huge part of Lorenzo’s belief system.

I see Breunig as the freshman Drew Gordon at UCLA (at best), who would come off the bench for some great segments, but be schooled by veterans like Jon Brockman, Jeff Pendergraph and Jordan Hill as Drew was. That should be taken by Martin and his fans as a huge compliment, as Gordon is being penciled in as the MWC preseason player of the year.

That is only my opinion though and who am I compared to ESPN? Breunig’s raves by Montlake Madness and others were not ignored on a national scale as ESPN talked about Yamada’s evaluation that Martin could start this season. Good for both Yamada and Bennett to get the exposure and for ESPN to have the sense to follow local guys who really watch this stuff.

A lot of the analysis and projections that you read in the national media is based on hearsay and sound bytes and not actual first hand accounts.

On Monday Yamada tried his hand at evaluating the Dawgs at the NSCC event and was very complimentary as well, though he admitted that the Dawgs big guns like Wroten and Ross were going up against some very average players. Yamada felt that Stewart showed himself much better on Monday.

“When in rhythm, his stroke is amazing. He finished with 13 points tonight which was good for third on the team for scoring tonight. He has the vision and handles of PG. With Andrews likely to red-shirt (via Percy Allen), Stewart could find some time as the third PG. He has the vision and the quickness on defense to carve some time out for himself. Countless times tonight I caught him jamming up passing lanes as he has a real nose for the ball on the defensive end.”

Gaddy will likely be the starter along with Wroten and Ross at the guards, but should his knee take some time before league play, perhaps giving Tony a chance to do it on his own with another veteran like Suggs or perhaps Wilcox starting,
would be a nice rotation.

Gaddy could then come off the bench when needed to settle the team into a more organized look, if Wroten gets a little too creative/erratic. Giving Tony more time against weaker non-conference foes will pay dividends in Pac-12 play if he has a decent learning curve.

Ultimately I feel that Gaddy should be a starter, if healthy, but remember that Brandon Roy came off the bench as a junior on a team that ultimately was a one seed. Perhaps Gaddy’s influence in light of his knee rehab would be better off the bench where he can affect games late and be used when needed rather than as the default PG.

That would also open things up for Suggs to start as a senior, if he is as improved as some see him becoming. On Tuesday Abdul was chosen by Rivals as one of the “Comeback Kids” or players that are coming back from injury of nation importance.

“This former five-star prospect was delivering a solid sophomore season until he tore the ACL in his left knee in early January. He had averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds through the first 13 games of the season, and had more than three times as many assists as turnovers. Gaddy should be ready for the start of the season and could help the Huskies make up for the loss of star guard Isaiah Thomas, selected by the Sacramento Kings with the final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. Gaddy was the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2009 recruiting class.”

Another junior, post Aziz N’Diaye, is starting to be noticed nationally as well. On July 20th N’Diaye was chosen by Bleacher Report at the 7th best returning rebounder in the nation and on Monday Aziz was chosen by Bleacher Report again as one of the “40 Breakthrough Players for the 2011-12 Season”.

“With Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday exhausting their eligibility, N’Diaye could see upwards of 30 minutes of action per game next season as the anchor of Washington’s thin front court. If you project his scoring and rebounding production for that amount of time, the sophomore center would average nearly a double-double.”

It is always problematic to project minutes and production like that, but it is safe to say that if he plays longer minutes N’Diaye will raise his stats in some way. Saying that UW’s front court is thin is not true with the addition of Kemp, Breunig, Simmons and Jarreau, but I would say that UW’s front court is thin on interior offense.

UW needs a guy who can score in a variety of ways, including one or two bread and butter moves. I felt that Aziz looked improved in executing his hook shot in close. If that move becomes solid, he may benefit from working on a 5-8 foot bank
shot to counter to defenders who stop him from going to the middle.

A banker is also going to help N’Diaye with his general shot form which will help with free throws and works from both sides of the key, if he is struggling with his off hand with the hook. The key for Aziz is to keep the ball high and avoid much if any dribbling.

Ross is not struggling with his off hand, handles or much in his offensive game. On July 20th swooshnation.com chose Ross as one of the “Breakout Prospects in College Hoops”.

“Word out of Chicago was that Ross and Harrison Barnes stood out most at Kevin Durant’s Skills Academy. Ross is dangerous from outside, where he sports a clean release and sweet rhythm in catch and shoot opportunities. A smooth wing with NBA athleticism, Ross does an excellent job at stretching the floor by recognizing and occupying open space. He moves well without the ball and shows deceptive quickness with it, allowing him to get to the rim despite a shaky handle. Moving
forward, Ross should get more reps without Isiah Thomas and Matthew Bryan-Amaning in the lineup, and should have extra possessions to expand and polish his offensive game. Ross has shown glimpses of first round talent, and will have the
opportunity as a sophomore to transform these flashes into lengthy stretches of high-level play.”

I agree with this assessment after watching Terrence on Tuesday, but I must add that Ross must become an elite level defender as well, like Roy. I think that Terrence would benefit from a solid year of focusing on his defensive game as much as he has been able to develop his offense this past year.

Ross could get drafted this coming June in my opinion, but another year in a system like UW’s (where defense is king) could put him in the top-5. Either way Ross needs to work on that area of his game between now and the fall, but it is a
true statement that he has the offensive package of an NBA two guard prospect.

In a Wednesday tweet from Jeff Eisenberg, the Yahoo blogger confirmed with Romar the kind of confidence and focus that Terrence possesses.

“Chatted briefly with Lorenzo Romar about next year’s team, and he had this to say about Terrence Ross emerging as Washington’s go-to scorer: ‘I don’t think he knows it any other way. If you put him in the NBA all-star game tomorrow, he
would feel like he’s the go-to guy.'”

Later that day in a Yahoo blog post Romar elaborated.

“He’s a guy with ice in his veins. He doesn’t get rattled. He goes out in attack mode offensively. That’s just how he plays. I don’t think he has to make many changes in how he plays to put up numbers.”

When I saw Ross on Tuesday it looked as if he settled for jumpers to often. He made them in grand style off the dribble and against good defenders, which was very impressive, but he showed an ability to also draw fouls with his quickness and
handles by taking his man to the cup.

Eisenberg said on Wednesday that Ross needed to do more of that, as well as improve his defense to be that All-Star that he believes he is.

“Where Romar would like to see Ross improve this summer is in other facets of his game besides scoring. The Washington coach has asked Ross to make a more consistent effort next season, to focus on his rotations in help defense and to work on getting to the foul line more often so he can attempt more than a mere 33 free throws. ‘If he’s doing those three things, he’ll be as good as anybody in the country,’ Romar said. ‘He’s a scorer. But to be one of the great ones, you have to do it all. And he has the ability to do it all’.”

I think that Lorenzo is right and that UW fans should look forward to watching a very special player come of age in the next year or two in Ross.Bleacher Report also named Ross, as well as N’Diaye as one of their 40 Breakthrough Players for the 2011-12 Season”. In a very scientific assessment by basketballprospectus.com on July 11th Ross was only chosen as the 79th best player in the nation, but pointed out that his ability to avoid turnovers was unusually high.

“Highly rated out of high school, Ross was outstanding in one area that can be difficult for scouts to catch: He rarely turned the ball over. There are prospects every year who are clearly terrible decision-makers, and they’re noted. In a
category like turnovers, though, where you can only demonstrate success by more and more possessions without failure, it’s extremely difficult to separate yourself from the gaggle of five thousand players scouts see. Ross’s 55 percent two-point shooting and respectable long-range performance are why he was rated highly. The added bonus of an 11 percent turnover rate is why he cracks my top 100 for 2012, even though he didn’t have a starting job in 2011.”

If Ross can be that work horse, that Rodney Stuckey of EWU or in the case of the Pac-10 James Harden of ASU or for that matter Roy as a senior at UW, who is able to stay in games with tremendous defense and be the go-to-guy on offense, the
Dawgs will be a major success given the players that they have around him.

That would be great as is, if Gaddy were not a question mark because of his health, but UW also has a potential NBA All-Star in the making in Wroten. Similarly to Ross, Wroten has a glaring need for work on a major part of his game in the shooting department. Wroten’s other shortcoming is his control, but part of that is that he is on a different level.

Wroten can deliver passes that you just don’t see in the Pac-12 from anyone other than the rarest of cases. I’m talking about Jason Kidd, Gary Payton and Baron Davis. That rare. Passing the ball is like being a great salesman. Part of making a sale is a great sales pitch. That is what Wroten has. The other part is making a pass that the recipient can use.

That is similar to qualifying your prospect in sales. It makes no sense to sell someone something that is not right for them and Tony needs to focus his game by understanding what the UW guys individually can handle from him. It will be the
same anywhere he goes, especially in the NBA, but there the options will certainly increase.

Wroten needs to tailor his passing to suit his team mates and improve his shooting. Ross needs to force his man to the rim and improve his team defensive techniques. Ross has the body and individual defensive skills to become a great on ball defender more easily than most, but he needs to focus on working better with his team mates on D.

If Ross and Wroten improve both of their short suits this UW back court, with a healthy Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs and even Simmons as a defensive specialist is as good as any in the nation and even has a look of a bunch of pros at times. That
said there is a lot of work to be done and cagey opposing coaches will devise traps for these unfinished stars.

The good news for Husky fans is that it will take a very complete effort to keep all of these Dawgs neutralized at the same time, so for the most part this year should be successful to some degree.

Again, keep in mind that they won’t be able to showboat like this against quality competition, but the potential is clear. Andrews will benefit greatly greatly from this type of guard competition and should he continue with his plan of a red-shirt year, come in in the fall of 2012 as a worth candidate for PG minutes himself.

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Washington Husky Huddle for July 31st 2011 (Part One)