Husky Huddle for April 6th 2011

Apr 6, 2011, 2:14 PM | Updated: 5:22 pm

Thomas declared for the NBA draft on Thursday. He spoke to the media on a conference call that I attended. Mynorthwest’s Jessamyn McIntyre and Brady Henderson wrote a solid wrap-up piece, which included comments from Thomas prior on the subject and comments from Romar after UW media released a statement earlier that day.

Thomas asserted that he will not hire an agent, leaving the door open for his return to Washington, but that he was definitely finished as a Husky player. It sounded to me that Isaiah has gotten some marginal advise, when he explained why he made that decision.

“I feel like with the guards coming out this year, I have a really, really good chance of going high in this draft. I feel like I can showcase my talents. Like I said, I don’t feel like it’s a real strong draft class with the point guards this year.”

Going way back to the late 60’s when I started watching hoops seriously and studying the game, there have been around a dozen players Thomas’ size that have made it in the NBA. He has the potential to do that, but it will take a lot of luck, as well as much more hard work than the ultra-hard working Thomas has already put in.

Unless he has already gotten a solid guarantee from an NBA GM that he is a 1st round pick, why would he not take the time to get his game improved more by another year in D1 hoops. He would certainly be one of the top players in the country, regardless to east coast bias. He would certainly be one of, if not the top players in the new Pac-12.

Who would be better than “IT”? If Thompson stays, maybe Klay, but Isaiah will be on a better team so advantage Thomas in winning the 2012 Player of the Year award. Malcolm Lee? No way. Arizona has a great chance to repeat as champs with their outstanding freshman class, though replacing a guy like Williams will not be easy.

Who on ‘Zona has a better chance than Thomas for POY? Advantage Thomas. Nationally the picture is also bright for him to shine next year. UConn’s Kemba Walker is going to go pro, while this year’s POY Jimmer Fredette of BYU was a senior. Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving of ESPN favorite Duke, who flamed out anyway in the NCAA’s, are both gone.

Thomas’ main competition will be freshmen and bigger guards that he has a great shot to be seen as much better than. If Thomas is that intimidated by the likes of incoming freshmen like Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook who will play at Duke, what business does he have to go up against the NBA’s best.

I feel that he has a strong chance of being next season’s Walker, while adding a great story line to keep him names in the headlines nationally, as he shatters a ton of all-time UW records and even some major conference milestones. That has got to help his ability to bring value to his brand in the NBA.

What about his life after basketball. How long can Thomas play in the NBA, even if he makes it. The guy who he would surely break the all-time UW assists record is Will Conroy, who has yet to get a one year contract with an NBA team despite being all-everything in the minor leagues.

Even if Thomas gets drafted in the 1st round, what does that really mean? If he does stick around the league and make a ton of money then all is great, but he may regret someday regret not breaking all of those records and establishing his jersey in the rafters of Hec-Ed, where only Bob Houbregs and Brandon Roy currently sit.

He’s have to be considered for that type of honor. Isaiah would more than likely break the scoring record, the assist record, the steals record and a number of others including the all-time winning player in any sport male or female.

They don’t give out money for those awards, like they do NBA contracts, but I would think that leaving a legacy like that in your home town is worth something. Thomas would then always be talked about as the greatest Husky ever regardless to what happens at the next level.

I guess this year is a better year to get drafted in the 1st round where the money is guaranteed, but the NBA is all about size. They covet it to the point of greed. It was probably the single most important reason that the NBA is no longer in Seattle, as the Sonics made on blunder after another trying to land a sleeper seven-footer that never worked.

Thomas needs to work on his shooting, his decision making and as will always be the case for a small man, his defense and rebounding. He is a great defender and rebounder for his size. If he were taller, his shooting and decision making wouldn’t be that much of a problem in the NBA, as those skills are things that can be taught, but you can’t teach height.

The pre-draft workouts always yield some tall foreign player, a sleeper seven-footer or a small college kid with size that gets into the 1st round at the expense of very talented players with much bigger names. This is a risky decision should Thomas stick with it. I will support him and root for him anyway, regardless, but I disagree with it.

If he were a lock to make the first round, like former Dawg Nate Robinson was with his incredible shrinking man athleticism, I would say go for it. I don’t think it is a great idea at this point, considering all that he could accomplish in one more year of school.

UW has built a cadre of elite level NBA prospects at the rate of about one per year. Thomas is one of them, junior to be Abdul Gaddy is another. Sophomore’s to be Ross and Wilcox break the mold at two for this year. Tony Wroten Jr. is the freshman model.

Having five guards, plus a solid senior with pro potential in Scott Suggs next year is going to make Thomas look good.

Yes, the point guard position is full and he would likely go back to playing off of another point guard, as he did before Abdul went down, but NBA scouts have seen what he can do when he is the point guard of note, both as a freshman and in the last half of this past season. Washington plays two PG’s and does best with that configuration.

To summarize the negative argument for Thomas’ leaving early, I think that he would stand a very good chance of gaining a bigger share of the national limelight, a la Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette this season. More importantly, I think he would be a leading candidate for Pac-12 POY. Very few of those, except Cal’s Jerome Randle have not been 1st round picks.

Thirdly, I think he would get better at shooting, which I believe will help him with NBA GM’s. Fourthly, this draft will be easier than the next, if he’s looking for a guarantee of a 1st round pick. There will always be the chance that an NBA team will go with size over substance. He would do best to take advantage of building a more impressive resume anyway.

The 5th reason probably doesn’t register in his mind. One person close to Isaiah told me that he felt that the legacy of leaving the school as it’s all-time leader in so many areas doesn’t mean much now. It would mean more when he’s “45 or 50”. That may be, but it can’t hurt when talking about his value as a personality, especially in the NW.

Public appearances and the value of his name will matter to him sooner than he may realize right now. On the positive side though, I can understand some of his reasoning when he spoke to the media on Thursday.

“When I made this decision, whether it was to come back to school or leave to go to the NBA, I wanted to take it on with a full head of steam and just have my focus on whatever it was that was at hand and that’s making my dream come true and playing basketball in the NBA.”

Thomas needs to feel that it is him against the world. He performs better with the world on his back, or at least he feels that he does. He wants to believe that this is his chance, because it is the way that he feels that he is going to do best when the NBA guys are watching.

Thomas has incredible heart and has given so much to UW fans. I want him to succeed, whether or not he is making the wrong decision, probably more than any player ever. He is a great competitor and if he can sell himself to an NBA team as a guaranteed 1st round pick, then he needs to go to the draft. I just hope he doesn’t go, if that is not the case.

Thomas also gave more insight into his mindset on Thursday.

“I’m going to do whatever it takes to get to the NBA, be really focused and have no distractions.”

It seems to me that he feels that if it is do or die that he will do it. I say good luck man, but don’t listen to people who stand to make a buck off of you, listen more to the people who were know something about this and are not gaining anything. Listen to your old friends, not your new ones.

Thomas also seemed to say that this draft would be easier than a lot drafts for PG’s.

“I feel like with the guards coming out this year, I have a really good chance of going high in this draft. I feel like I can showcase my talent and I don’t feel it’s a really strong draft class with the point guards this year.”

This draft has a lot of PG’s and most people are going to look at Thomas as a big risk. Draftexpress.com has Thomas as the 25th pick in the 2nd round, the last PG picked of 15 listed. He is also at least three inches shorter than the shortest. NBADraft.net lists 17 PG’s chosen and none of them Isaiah.

Out of 60 picks, even 15 PG’s is a PG heavy draft. Next year will be lighter in my opinion. NBADraft.net has 14 PG’s, including Thomas at 21st in thew 2nd round in 2012, while draftexpress.com has 15 chosen including “IT” at 14th in the 2nd round. It seems as if the mocks don’t buy Thomas’ story.

Gohuskies did a nice feature on the whole Thomas draft affair, including both Isaiah’s and Lorenzo’s teleconference’s explaining the decision, along with his original press release and some analysis as to how the team will look without him.

On Thursday on 710-ESPN, Kevin Calabro and Jim Moore gave their initial opinions on Thomas’ decision, stating that they both strongly disagreed with it. Calabro mentioned six-foot-four Darius Morris of Michigan as typical of the kind of guy that will likely be picked over Thomas and after watching a lot of drafts going back to 1970, I agree with him.

Morris is an example of a number of guys that are likely to get picked by NBA GM’s with tunnel vision when it comes to size.

Mike Miller of NBC Sports called Thomas’ decision a “Bold/dumb leap”.

“He’s quick with the ball, but not overly fast. He’s aggressive and thrives at getting into the lane, but is inconsistent at finishing his shot. He’s a gamer, but can be selfish with the ball. But there’s no arguing his production – he’s sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list and third in assists – and his ability to make an instant impact.”

I think that the intangibles are what Thomas has to offer an NBA club, not unlike former Dawg post Jon Brockman. I still feel that staying another year is a good idea, but the argument can be made that it won’t matter that much as to where he is drafted. It’ll probably be in the 2nd round, but what is more important is if he is ready for pro ball.

I feel that another year makes him more ready and more desirable as a marketable name long term. One observer who knows “IT” well told me that he feels that Thomas ceiling isn’t that high, as to what he can do to improve his game by next year.

Even if that is the case, I still think that staying another year and getting more hype behind your name would be good, but I’m not Thomas. I’m not in his shoes, but I really want him to succeed. I’m not alone. He’s the little and the underdog. I’m sure that Romar really wants Isaiah to succeed too.

This photo on Facebook from the Pac-10 Tournament tells you all you need to know about how proud and how much respect Romar has for Thomas as a person, not just as a player.

Romar told Don Ruiz of the Morning News-Tribune on Friday that Thomas has always been loyal and respectful of him. It’s no wonder that Romar is on his side now.

“He’s never talked back to me one time. There were times when he wanted to throw something at me – I know. But never talked back to me one time. He’s been very respectful. And yeah, he has an edge to him, but he’s been great.”

Also in the piece Isaiah’s dad talked about how each step in the process, Thomas has stepped up to the challenge.

“I’m proud of the man that he’s become. As far as growing up, over the past three years, not just me, everybody has watched Isaiah grow up. He’s been able to step on any stage that’s been thrown at him.”

I agree with Keith Thomas, but if Isaiah is going to react well to the biggest challenge of his career, why not give himself every advantage? Why leave his resume short, when the challenge is so great. This not like the previous challenges of his career, from Curtis High to South Kent to the Pac-10. This is the big one.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times also disagreed with Thomas’ decision. I’ve been critical of Kelley’s commentary in the past, but this column was well thought out I felt.

Kelley did say some very complimentary things about Thomas’ heart, which I feel is the key to his future success, though his mind may be just as important.

“In his favor, scouts don’t yet know about the size of Thomas’ heart. They don’t know about the indomitability of his spirit. They don’t know that when Thomas gets knocked to the floor, he doesn’t stay on the floor. He pops up immediately. They don’t know that, at every level,

Thomas has found a way to overcome his size. He likes being told what he can’t do, and then doing it.”

The balance between having a brave heart and like Miller said making a dumb decision is the key concept for Thomas to think a little bit harder on.

Moore on his blog Friday shared his recent experiences with Thomas and wondered out loud if maybe he might just change his mind again.

“Last week while I was pinch-hitting for Calabro, I spoke to Thomas, and he said over and over again that he was going to return to Washington for his senior year. In a span of 10 days, he changed his mind, which is fine, we all change our minds all the time. But it gives me hope that Thomas could change his mind and reverse course again and end up back at Washington next year.”

Percy Allen of the Seattle Times did a great blog post on Friday where he quoted seven anonymous people with NBA resume’s. Each person broke down the pros and cons of Thomas’ decision. Most of it was negative towards the decision, but there was also a lot of positive things said about Isaiah.

If Thomas is really pulling one over on UW fans and NBA people for dramatic effect, he must have help, because the Oregonian’s Nick Daschel tweeted after the Washington-Oregon All-Star game about a UW 2011 signee that was headed to prep school and 5th year because of the log jam at guard for the Dawgs.

“Andrew Andrews said after the game that because of Isaiah Thomas’ decision to go pro, he’ll head straight for UW rather than do prep school.”

Romar had mentioned on Thursday that Thomas leaving would likely mean that Andrews would come in a year ahead of time.

Thomas meanwhile is doing the draft dance to the hilt, in tinsel town of all places, as NBA draft rumor geek Marc J. Spears tweeted that “IT” was being wined and dined by an agent there along with the Morris Twins of Kansas and then corrected himself.

“Correction: Washington’s Isiah Thomas was at Eden last night, but wasn’t being entertained with Morris twins by agent Jason Martin.”

It looks like whoever is helping Thomas is at least doing a complete job of making sure that he can come back to UW if he changes his mind.

Good news for UW graduating senior guard Venoy Overton. On Thursday it was reported in the Seattle Times that charges would be dismissed if he stays out of trouble for a year. According to the report, “Overton did not plead guilty, but as a condition of the continuance he gave up his right to a trial”.

So where is the outcry of support for Overton? Much like Thomas he has given his life to the game of hoops. He may have never talked back to Romar either, we’ll never know. All we have heard is a bunch of judgmental, holier than thou media analysis.

Yes, he may have been out with some girls and the 22 year old may have had some beer. Is that a crime or even a surprise? The local media didn’t do anything to counter all of the bad press that Venoy and his family had to endure in their home town based on speculation and a media feeding frenzy.

Where are the retractions of statements about his character and the long message board posts calling out posters who expressed so much disdain for his “alleged actions”? I guess good news travels fast and bad news travels faster, but Venoy deserved a lot better senior year than this one, regardless to this insane incident.

I’m here to say to you Venoy, good luck and you are one of the best players ever from UW. When I saw you playing for Rotary against Thomas for Friends of Hoop numerous times, you were brilliant and right behind Isaiah as the 2nd best PG in a talented pool of in-state kids back then.

You came to Washington when they really needed a player like you and did great as a freshman. As a sophomore and junior you came off the bench and yet were one of the top 2-3 players night in night out. Everyone is talking about Thomas’ great gifts, but you’re team first ethic was one of a kind.

Would Thomas have been happy in that role? We’ll never know, but you were a model citizen, as far as anyone knew until all of this crap smeared your good reputation. Yes, you were known as a tough guy, someone who uses your play ground psychology to your advantage, but you stayed in control, did your school work and stayed out of any hint of trouble.

What happened to you here was very difficult, but I hope that you can use it to become an ever better person. Good luck Venoy and you have my word that I will always defend you as a the great UW player that you were.

Rumors were swirling last Monday that a former Rotary team mate of Overton, Aaron Dotson was transferring out of LSU and hoping to land at UW. Husky Haul even did a feature on the subject that spurred a lot of talk on UW and LSU message boards.

According to the Advocate, Dotson’s mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This may allow him to come back to Seattle to play without having to sit out a year, as is normal for a transfer. This rule recently allowed Elliot Williams to transfer from Duke to Memphis without sitting out.

Obviously there are more important things than basketball involved here, but I hope that Aaron does well. He is a great player that looked like a million bucks against the Cougs in the Key Arena, as a freshman in late 2009. He’s had a bad year as a Tiger sophomore, but so have LSU, who are really having a hard time with former Stanford coach Trent Johnson.

I think that UW would be a great fit, if there were a scholarship available, as Dotson would be a good player that would fit UW’s system well. He might do better to sit out a year with all of the wings and be a nice candidate to take Suggs place in the fall of 2012.

If UW isn’t the right place right now, Seattle U would be a great choice, as would WSU. Whatever happens, it would be nice to see Dotson back on the local scene.

2011 UW guard signee Wroten was chosen to the 2nd team of Parade Magazine’s All-America team. Other players headed to Pac-12 schools chosen were post Angelo Chol and guard Jahii Carson, both also 2nd team selections.

Wroten was also chosen to the AP All-State 4A 1st team on Thursday.

Bryan-Amaning was chosen by netscoutsbasketball.com to the All-International 2nd team. Vucevic of ‘SC and Jorge Gutierrez of Cal were chosen to the 1st team, while Olu Ashaolu of Louisiana Tech, who Husky Digest reported is a possible UW transfer as a graduated senior, was awarded honorable mention.

Matt had a great senior year and his career at Washington ended well. As a junior he was a huge part of the success of that team, providing in the last half of the season a viable third option to Thomas and then senior Quincy Pondexter. Matt was a blast to watch, with all of his highlight dunks and unique back to the basket game.

“MBA” tweeted a photo of him “10 years ago” in the UK, when he met Gary Payton that I thought showed how much Matt loves the game and was certainly happy to be meeting one of his idols. I’m sure that through Payton’s associations with Thomas, Matt has had a chance to meet “GP”. Matt was a great UW player, highly underrated and I hope to see him play in the NBA.

Matt and fellow UW graduating senior Justin Holiday will appear at the Portsmouth Invitational in VA this Wednesday to Saturday. Other players with UW, local or Pac-12 ties appearing will be former Dawg Adrian Oliver of San Jose State, Luke Sikma of Portland and Bellevue WA, Steven Gray of Gonzaga and Bainbridge Island WA and Cory Higgins of Colorado.

Husky Walk-on Brendan Sherrer, aka the “Human Victory Cigar”, is more than just a good team player. He is also a great student who was awarded honorable mention by the Pac-10 All-Academic team.

Pondexter has had a solid, if not successful rookie year in the NBA with the New Orleans Hornets. Getting noticed means being used as a point of reference when talking about young promising players coming up the ranks. Reggie Rankin of ESPN compared Quincy to Memphis signee Adonis Thomas, when finding comparisons to each McDonald All-American.

Former UW head coach Tex Winter, who had a short but successful run with great teams in the late 60’s and early 70’s, was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Tex went on to be one of the greatest tacticians in the history of the game, devising the Triangle Offense for Phil Jackson and the Chicago Bulls and later with Jackson for the Lakers.

Winter served as an assistant to Jackson on too many championship teams to name (actually nine). Winter used the offense at Washington, where he called the “Triple post” according to former player Ray Price.

One news item on Tuesday was the hiring of former Alabama head coach and UCLA assistant Mark Gottfried. Gottfried served alongside Lorenzo Romar at UCLA under Jim Harrick in the mid-90’s. Husky Digest reported back in March of 2009 that Gottfried helped give UW some pointers on how to match-up with Mississippi State in the NCAA Tournament.

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Husky Huddle for April 6th 2011