April 7, 2010
SEATTLE - Looking ahead to next season, there is no questioning the depth of the Washington Husky men's basketball team at the guard and the wing positions. The "little guys" accounted for 81 percent of the Huskies' scoring this past season and all but Quincy Pondexter - who considered himself a guard, but played like a big man by grabbing a team-high 7.4 rebounds per game - returns next season.
Where the Huskies need to develop their depth is in the post. The good: Washington led the Pac-10 Conference with 37.9 total rebounds and 13.2 offensive rebounds per game. Halfway through the season Matthew Bryan-Amaning (MBA) emerged as a force to be reckoned with down low. But the big guys behind him still need to be more consistent and emerge as bigger contributors in the stat sheets. And even MBA will be asked to increase his numbers. As a collective group - that consists of Darnell Gant, Tyreese Breshers and Clarence Trent besides MBA - they provide solid defense, but will be asked to pick up the rebounding numbers that leave with Pondexter's graduation.
Having an effective post presence is a key to having success in the NCAA Tournament - as the Huskies especially found out when they ran up against the taller West Virginia Mountaineers in the Sweet Sixteen. A return to the Sweet Sixteen or beyond may rest in the improvements that the post players make.
Each of the four showed glimpses of what kind of players they can be this past season. Bryan-Amaning, the emerging star, showcased his scoring and shot blocking abilities. Breshers is a strong physical force inside and his big stature and broad shoulders are reminiscent of Jon Brockman. Gant brings the intangibles that won't always be recognized in the box scores and he has the ability to pop the open shot. Trent has highlight-reel athleticism and raw talent that could make him something special on both ends of the floor. Each player had a vital role in the success of the team this year by coming through at different times in the clutch.
MBA's play in the latter part of the season made him a viable option as the third scorer that the Huskies had so desperately needed. The former U-19 British National Team member averaged 8.8 points and 6 rebounds per game in 22.8 minutes of play per game. He led the team in field goal percentage at 54% (134-248) and had a team-high 54 blocks (1.5 bpg), which ranked him third in the Pac-10 Conference. He was even better during Washington's end-of-season nine-game win streak with averages of 12.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.67 bpg and 63% shooting from the field.
"Mathew Bryan-Amaning, who finished the year on a very high note, I can imagine will be really highly motivated - especially as a senior," said UW coach Lorenzo Romar of his improving junior.
Toward the end of the season you could see an improvement in Bryan-Amaning's game by his consistent scoring and defensive efforts. But, MBA recently said he'd like to add a mid-range jump shot to his repertoire. With his quickness and agility, a jump shot would make MBA nearly unstoppable in the post.
"Mathew is going to participate with the Great Britain National team this year," said Romar, further showing Bryan-Amaning's growing skill set. "It's not the junior team; it is the main team this year."
Breshers, who often relieved MBA, was a workhorse down low. Coming off of his redshirt season, he was asked to help fill a rebounding void that was left by the departure of Brockman. His 6-7, 255 pound frame clogged the opposing team's penetration and he blocked 26 shots, which was second on the team, as well as grabbed 2.6 rebounds per game. He did all that while still working himself into playing shape. With one season under his belt, plus off-season conditioning, Breshers should return a new man next season.
"I anticipate him being a new face," stated Romar of his sophomore-to-be from Los Angeles. "What I mean, in a sense is that he will be an entirely new player."
Before this season, Breshers had not played in a game for two years due to injuries and red-shirting as a freshman. Romar envisions that he will be able to get himself in better game shape and improve his footwork to play aggressive defense without fouling. On the offensive end, he must continue to work on his hands and catching the ball, as well as using his big frame to back down smaller opponents and be a back-to-the-basket scorer.
Gant is a player that will do all the little things a team needs to win. The 6-8 forward used his athleticism and length to guard not only smaller players, but taller and bigger guys. When open, he has shown the ability to knock down the mid-range jump shot and be smart with the ball, as he had a team-low seven turnovers. However, he must consistently drain the jumper and rebound the ball better to be more of a contributor. Each year, he continues to improve on different facets of his game. He will be a fourth-year junior next season, so Romar is hoping that we'll see his biggest jump in improvement next year.
Trent is undersized, but is arguably the most athletic player on the team. Standing 6-5, he has the uncanny ability to guard and rebound those bigger and stronger than him due to his quickness and leaping ability. Although he is a very raw, he has the tools to become an effective basketball player. Trent needs to continue to learn Romar's defensive and offensive system, plus improve his shot and basketball smarts.
The foursome that the Huskies will count on next year down low is a talented bunch. They may lack ideal experience, not have tons of height or score enough points, but they did build a nice foundation and were able to help push Washington into the Sweet 16. If they can continue to improve and become more consistent, the sky is the limit for this Husky team that hopes to reach new heights - the Elite Eight and Final Four.