April 16, 2010
SEATTLE -- If you have followed the changing landscape of Pac-10 Basketball rosters this off-season, you know that using ink to write down names as to who is playing on what team has not been a wise choice. Perhaps an etch-a-sketch is the most appropriate utensil -- or at the very least a pencil with a long eraser.
No fewer than 12 players have announced their intentions to leave Pac-10 schools this season. Even our hometown heroes at Washington have not been immune to a suprising player defection when Elston Turner let it be known on Thursday that he was taking his services elsewhere.
So where does that leave the Huskies as we look forward to the 2010-11 season? It still may be too early to tell as the April signing period is still in its infancy and who knows if someone on the current roster will come knocking on coach Lorenzo Romar's door asking for a fresh start at a different place. What we do know is that how the roster stands on Friday, April 16, the Huskies are looking pretty promising next year.
In a week where UW lost Turner, they also gained seven-foot center Aziz N'Diaye. The big man from Senegal will fill a need that Romar has desired since the original signing period in November began -- his team needed to get bigger. As the saying goes, you can't teach size, so N'Diaye will be a star pupil of that theory from the moment he steps foot on campus.
The Huskies learned first hand in the Sweet 16 at how size can affect a game. West Virginia trotted out a roster with eight players standing in the 6-foot-8 range and dominated the Huskies on the boards with a plus-20 rebounding differential. With Aziz joining the Huskies' frontcourt -- which already includes the team's most improved player Matthew Bryan-Amaning, do-anything Darnell Gant and broad-shouldered Tyreese Breshers -- Washington should be a beast around the glass next season. Add in long players like Justin Holiday and incoming freshman Desmond Simmons, and you can argue the Huskies will have one of their longest, most athletic frontcourts in team history.
Coach Romar would certainly agree with that assessment. "What we have now with our team, our bigs and inside guys are extremely versatile and can get out on the floor and cover and guard. I don't know if we've had a compliment of guys with this size that are this athletic. In fact, I know we haven't from top to bottom."
As good as the Dawgs may be down low, their strength might just be the guards and wing players. Isaiah Thomas will be the Huskies most proven scoring threat next season. He was already potent with his shooting and driving skills, but add in the fact that he will be able to attract double teams and dish to Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox on the outside or drop the ball into the waiting hand of MBA and N'Diaye in the post -- it's hard not to drool.
The aforementioned Wilcox may be the Huskies wildcard factor next season. He tantalized the coaches all season with his long-range shooting prowess during practice and stands to -- along with Suggs -- pick up a lot of minutes that were opened up by Turner's departure. If he is as good, or better, than advertised, the Huskies should not drop off an iota in the long-range game.
And don't forget about Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy. Overton has carved a niche out for himself as one of, if not the most pesky defenders in the nation. He causes opposing coaches and point guards to have sleepless nights. His offensive game isn't bad either, as like Thomas, he has an uncanny ability to get to the rack for a small guy. Gaddy oozes talent and as a freshman, staked claim to the starting point guard spot. With a year under his belt, fans can expect Gaddy 2.0 to be a heckuva player for Romar next season. He already has the running-the-team skills down, he just needs to add confidence and an improved shot to be an All-Pac-10-type of player.
While Washington has an already stacked roster, there is still room for one more player, as a scholarship spot is open. Whether or not another name is added to the roster, you can bet with the current stable in the barn, the Huskies are poised for another run at the Pac-10 title and NCAA Tournament. That, you can write down in ink.