Oct. 27, 2009
GoHuskies.com starts its two-day preview of the upcoming Washington men's basketball season by introducing the Husky backcourt. Return tomorrow for a look at the forwards.
The graduation of All-Pac-10 players like Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon would leave a gaping hole in any basketball team's lineup. The duo accounted for over 3,200 career points and undeniable leadership during their four-year Washington Husky basketball careers. Brockman alone was worth a team-record 1,293 career rebounds.
Despite the loss of Brockman, Dentmon, Artem Wallace and Joe Wolfinger, the 2009-2010 version of Washington is still expecting big things. The defending Pac-10 champs -- the UW's first outright title since 1953 -- return 61 percent of their scoring and 64 percent of their rebounding. What they lose in experience, scoring and brute rebounding force, they replace with emerging young talent, several eagle-eye shooters, off-the-charts athleticism and a group that will rebound by committee.
The trick for Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar is to not let his highly-touted team get complacent with their status as reigning top dog in the Pac-10.
"This is an entirely new year," said Romar, who enters his eighth season as the Huskies' head coach. "As far as we're concerned, we're not going out there approaching anything as if something is going to be handed to us. We are going to have to start from scratch."
While the latest group of Huskies will forge their own identity over time, it will be hard for them to avoid early comparisons to the 2005 and 2006 squads, which relied on speedy guard play and stellar role players. Head coach Lorenzo Romar took those teams on repeat NCAA trips to the Sweet 16. He's hoping he can lead this year's squad to a repeat Pac-10 Championship and to unprecedented heights in the NCAA Tournament.
If the Huskies are to accomplish lofty goals in 2009-10, here is the cast of characters who will lead them there:
In 2008-09, the guard play of Dentmon surprised many - enough so to earn him the Pac-10 Most Improved Player award. This year, don't expect Washington's talented backcourt to sneak up on anyone. The Huskies are deep in speed, athleticism, toughness and shooting from the guard group.
Isaiah Thomas, the 2009 Pac-10 Freshman of the year and the Huskies' all-time leading freshman scorer (541 pts, 15.5 ppg), is back for his sophomore campaign. The 5-foot-8 dynamo stormed onto the scene and not only led all UW scorers, but also accumulated a team-high 91 assists and was second with 39 three-point field goals. Thomas will still handle taking the ball up court, but he will also assume a larger role of playing off the ball.
The return of junior Venoy Overton and the addition of ubër-talented freshman Abdul Gaddy will allow Romar to spell Thomas of point guard duties at times. Overton has made 27 career starts at the point, but only made one last season as a sophomore. He proved to be a valuable commodity off the bench and earned a reputation as one of the toughest lock-down defenders in not only the Pac-10, but the nation.
Gaddy, who like Thomas hails from Tacoma, Wash., arrived on the UW campus as perhaps the most highly-touted guard recruit in team history. He was a McDonald's All-American after his senior year at Bellarmine Prep and was rated by Scout.com as the No. 2 point guard prospect in the nation - setting the bar pretty lofty for a 17-year-old. Gaddy's age belies him though, and his court smarts and ability to lead a team will make him fit right into the backcourt.
"Whichever one of those three doesn't start," says Romar about his trio of point guards, "will be considered a starter -- they just won't have their named called at introductions."
With Thomas, Overton and Gaddy quarterbacking the offense, Romar is hoping another trio of guards will be the benefactors of all the attention the little guys will receive from sagging defenses. Sophomores Scott Suggs and Elston Turner and freshman C.J. Wilcox are all competing to fill the role of shooting specialist. Turner, who was fourth in scoring during the Huskies two NCAA Tournament games, and Wilcox have been duking it out during the summer and fall camp to see who the best shooter is. Either way, Romar will be able to plug a capable sharpshooter into the lineup.
Suggs can also jack it up from outside, but also has the ability to slash to the bucket and hit the pull-up jumper. The former Mr. Basketball from the state of Missouri played a limited role as a freshman, but should be able to use his 6-foot-6 frame to carve a role out for himself as a sophomore.
Returning Guards (stats are from 2008-09 season)