COLLEGE HOOPS

Washington Husky Huddle for June 14th 2011

Jun 14, 2011, 8:01 PM

With the NBA Draft coming up up on June 23rd, there is a lot of chatter (but few facts) as to who the league’s GM’s will be selecting and where. Nothing is guaranteed, at least legally, but the speculation continues regardless. Swishscout
did a ranking by position of the top prospects and ranked UW’s Isaiah Thomas as seventh best shooting guard. Fellow Dawg Justin Holiday made the top-15 list at small forward at 15th, while Bryan-Amaning did a bit better as 12th best power forward.

From what I’ve heard Thomas has shot much better than expected. I don’t know about him playing SG in the NBA, but with the way he played the point, defended and rebounded for his size last year, if his shot keeps falling he could carve out an NBA career as a point guard. Matt seems like a player that could be drafted, as he continues doing the workout circuit with apparent success. He could also be an undrafted free agent that may land and NBA contract or also could be a great candidate for a European contract with his UK passport.

European pro leagues often have limits on US players and “MBA” should be able to get a nice contract if his NBA aspirations fall short. Last Monday Matt worked out for Portland and seemed positive about his ability to show his skills with former team mate Thomas also working out. On Friday swishscout did a full break down of Matt as an NBA prospect. Also on Monday Matt did a workout with Sacramento that seemed to be solid success to him. In a Monday tweet from Bryan-Amaning, he talked about being on a dominant three on three team with a couple of familiar names.

“Man jus got done wid this Kings workout here in Sacramento..me, @kembawalker and my guy Nik(ola Vucevic) from USC went undefeated in 3on3 it wasn’t fair!”

Kings.com did a video clip of some of the drills and three on three action on Monday. Holiday appears to not being doing as well as Matt, but looks can be deceiving. Because of his ability to defend guards and small forwards, Holiday has a specialized skill that could find him a great fit for the right system. With the hand
checking rules in the NBA, guys aren’t as able to use their upper body to keep guys in front of them, which helps him. No word on what fellow senior Venoy Overton is doing after school, but all four members of the 2007 class, Justin, Matt, Venoy and senior to be Darnell Gant graduated on Friday with four year degrees.

Next year the Dawgs will have Gant (who is looking great in off-season workouts) and the rest, but must replace the other three, plus Thomas. Washington under Romar is known as an exciting, up-tempo team that puts up points. On Monday Bleacher Report ran a feature, “Predicting the Top 16 Offensive Teams in the Country” and chose UW 4th.

“The Huskies were one of the best offensive teams in the country last season. They were third in scoring per game (83.8), fifth in total scoring, 12th in rebounds with 39.3 per game, and eighth in assists with 17.2 per game. Also, they were 25th in field goal percentage with 47.1 percent.”

To keep up that type of performance, UW is going to have to be efficient on both ends of the floor with new guys in key roles. Sophomore guards Terrence Ross and C.J. Wilcox and senior guard Scott Suggs will need to provide a lot fo scoring, but also play enough defense to legitimize their extended minutes.

Without Holiday as the “Fireman”, will the Dawgs were able to win games on the defensive end or will UW give up season highs night after night to the top scorers in the Pac-12, as was common in 2006-2007 pre-Justin and after legendary star stopper Bobby Jones?

On offense, the loss of Thomas, who was a steady presence three years running has got to hurt, but perhaps a steady-eddie on both ends could be there in freshman Tony Wroten. It is scary though to put so much on a freshman. Wroten could be the new Holiday, as his on ball defense showed to be world class last summer for Team USA.

Tony rarely was held back from scoring too in his prep career, so he could be that natural replacement for Thomas too, but it sounds too good to be true. It would be nice if Wroten can work his way in as a freshman, rather than be forced to be coach Lorenzo Romar’s answer to any and all questions on the perimeter.

One question that is the 800-pound gorillla in the room is, ‘What can we expect from Abdul Gaddy?’. Coming back from a knee injury is a wild card and you never know how it will go or how long it will take to get there. If Gaddy comes back strong, I see reason for true optimism. If he takes until Pac-12 play to get back out there, it could be a tough year.

Bleacher Report on Wednesday did a “Stock report” feature on the top-50 teams in which there assessed whether teams would improve or decrease their level of play and they chose the Dawgs to decrease. I like the Dawgs as an underdog, so this
type of off-season coverage gives me optimism for how they will prepare in the off-season, but their point is right on.

“Isaiah Thomas’ decision to enter the NBA draft was questionable at best. Luckily, the Huskies are bringing in yet another top notch guard in Tony Wroten Jr. Abdul Gaddy will be back from injury, so the back court should be fine. Still, the Huskies lose their top three scorers, so both players will need to produce at a high level.”

The question is, do they really bring Gaddy back to the level he was when he went down in early January? Whether Abdul is effective or not, he will be a team leader, as the Seattle Times reported that Gaddy, Gant and Suggs were named team
captains on Friday.

The signing of Martin Breunig created a lot of optimism for Husky fans, as this UW program is very talented up and down the roster, but without an experienced PG, the Dawgs will likely struggle. Wroten has never been known as a pure PG, but if he proves doubters wrong about his quarterbacking skills, as Thomas did during his career at UW, the Dawgs will win.

If he has problems adjusting and Gaddy is not ready to take that lead PG role, allowing Romar to pick and choose Tony’s spots for him, the Dawgs could start looking pretty sloppy. Wroten is known for his fancy passing, but turnover city
could be the destination for the 2011-2012 Dawgs until he and the team adjust to his style.

The Dawgs still have a scholarship spot open, so the possibility exists still that Romar could find a PG to take the heat off of Gaddy and Wroten. Freshman Andrew Andrews is a solid prospect, but also a freshman with more of the same concerns
as Wroten.

The concern for post depth and interior scoring up front obviously trumped this need on the recruiting trail, but if a great guard could come into camp this fall a lot of problems would be solved. One good answer would be a guy like Bell, who Husky Digest reported was considering a transfer to Washington well over a year ago.

Bell would be perfect fit for UW’s greatest concerns. He is a senior and a proven veteran, with the kind of athleticism that would fit well with Romar’s style. The Huskies loss would be Oregon’s gain, if the Ducks can snare Bell from Mizzou or Texas A+M. Oregon will be weak at guard before Joseph becomes available in late December.

What if Gaddy doesn’t get back from his knee rehab until then? What if Abdul would do better with a full red-shirt year? Bell could provide a lot of insurance, but it seems as if UW is not in the mix, despite what I believe was solid interest at one time by Keion.

As I mentioned, Adding Breunig made UW’s front court much better from the standpoint of depth and versatility. Romar talked about Martin in a Q+A with Percy Allen on Friday. Adding a PG would be a major plus for UW with the last spot. Whether it is too late or not remains to be seen, but the fact that players can now transfer without penalty when they graduate lends hope.

The Dawgs are looking great, as we cast a hopeful eye into the future. The classes of 2012 and 2013 look very promising and off-season runs with UW NBA successes like Spencer Hawes, Brandon Roy, Jon Brockman, Quincy Pondexter and Nate
Robinson do nothing to hurt the Dawgs’ chances of landing players that unofficially show up to check out the scene.

According to the Seattle Times, Hawes, Roy, Thomas and other local names have been scheduled to play an exhibition game at Key Arena to promote the idea of pro basketball in Seattle and raise money for charity later this summer.

“Seattle-area basketball stars Brandon Roy, Aaron Brooks, Martell Webster, Isaiah Thomas, Michael Dickerson and Hawes have committed to play in the H206 Charity Basketball Classic, an NBA-sanctioned exhibition game at 3:30 p.m. July 23 at Key Arena.”

Basketball is a big deal in the Puget Sound area and it makes little sense for there to be no NBA franchise here. The great legacy of the Sonics and local hoops icons like Marv Harshman, Lenny Wilkens, Detlef Scrempf, George Karl, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp are not fading, but in fact gaining steam with every passing year. The town is hoops driven and loyal to it’s heroes.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times did an important feature on Harshman on Saturday, which talked about the great coach’s talent as a teacher of the game, as well as his untarnished character. Marv talked about who he is and what he stood for.

“I always thought my strongest area was teaching. I thought I knew everything there was to know in the game, but I wanted my players to know everything in the game that they might run up against. But I was always proudest, I think, of the fact that I never did anything that was illegal in the game.”

People like Harshman, protegee Romar and former Sonic and Friends of Hoop AAU coach Jim Marsh are what make this game great and their stories need to be told. Not all success in the college game is based on cheaters who use boosters, agents and shady AAU contacts to build superior talent that sometimes also fudge academics.

The game is mostly made up of good people that do things the right way and set a good example to the kids coming up, but unfortunately the bad deeds of a small but increasingly successful and cavalier minority have sullied the perception of those that choose the game as their career.

Basketball will not be stopped in the NW, just as right and wrong in the game will be identified over time. It has taken a little time, but the game just got that much bigger in Seattle, despite the unexcused absence of the NBA in Key Arena, as Seattle U officially joined the Western Athletic Conference on Tuesday.

According to the Seattle Times, the Redhawks will start competing in the WAC in 2012-2013, after one final year as an Independent. Seattle U should be in great shape by the fall of 2012, with the continued work of an indirect descendent of
Harshman, notable protegee of Romar, Cameron Dollar.

“Seattle University will join the WAC in 17 sports beginning in the 2012-13 academic year, which will also be the first year the basketball programs will be eligible for the NCAA tournament.”

With two D1 programs in a market that on points is one of the most desirable for a new NBA franchise, the future is bright, even on a not surprisingly overcast June afternoon. The Redhawks may not be a recruiting threat to the Dawgs yet, but another full slate of college games, a conference race and the dreams of March Madness in town is a steep step up.

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Washington Husky Huddle for June 14th 2011