Nov. 19, 2009
By Matt Winter
GoHuskies.com Staff Writer
"I'm excited for the season to start, because I just want to display what's happened to this team."
With three years, 66 starts (including 22 as a freshman and all 35 games last season), 31 games against ranked opponents, and 12 20-point games under his belt, you know Quincy Pondexter knows what he's talking about. As a freshman, he saw the Dawgs begin the 2006-07 season ranked #17 in the polls, start the season 10-1, then go cold and fall out of the top 25 two weeks later. As a junior last year, he saw the polar opposite --- a team unranked at the beginning of the season that went on to finish 26-9 and atop the Pac-10 standings, ranked 13th in the country.
What he and the rest of the Huskies put on "display" to start this season was a full-fledged talent showcase in the Athletes in Action Classic. During the Huskies' three victories, they averaged 93.6 points per game with an average margin of victory of 26.3, including a 56-point rout of Portland State in the event's final game. The Huskies had six 20-point individual performances and outrebounded their opponents 124-69.
Granted, none of their three opponents were from major conferences, but the Wright State, Belmont and Portland State have each been to the NCAA Tournament at least once in the last three years and combined for five appearances total. The Dawgs handled these three teams to do nothing but solidify their place in the preseason polls and give every other team on their schedule a taste of what's to come.
That's exactly the opening act the Huskies' lone senior was hoping for.
It's been a long time coming for the 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior from Fresno, Calif. Pondexter had a highly decorated high school career in which he averaged 23 points, 7 rebounds, and six assists during his senior year, earning him a first-team All-California selection and the Division IV Player of the Year. Not to mention that his teammates at San Joaquin Memorial High School were 7-foot twins Brook and Robin Lopez, who he later played against when they starred at Stanford.
Quincy's strong connection to basketball goes back further than his high school days. His father Roscoe and his uncle Cliff both played for Lute Olson at Long Beach state before going on to have NBA careers.
QP knows basketball. Pondexter knows that the 2009-10 Washington Huskies is his team. After the departure of Jon Brockman, whose status in this program is legendary, QP is the wisest, most experienced guy for the team to look to. The fact that he's the only senior not only makes the job more obvious, but also more weight-bearing. What's striking about Pondexter is not only his confidence and understanding of this role, but his enthusiasm for having it.
"I knew I was going to have to be a go-to guy this year," explains Pondexter, who is the only senior because his three recruiting classmates, Spencer Hawes (Sacramento Kings), Phil Nelson (Portland State), and Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) all opted to leave UW after one season. "On the court as a player, as well as a leadership role. I think I really matured a lot being one of the only guys in that position. I just want to be my best and improve my game as much as I can so I can help my team out."
If you want evidence of this maturity, just watch the next time the Husky starting lineup is announced. While the other four starters opt for a step or a dance when their names are called, Pondexter is all business. He runs out focused, confident, and ready to lead, with the face of Peyton Manning walking to the line on third and long.
"A lot of these guys are the same age as me, so it's not really that big of a difference," Pondexter says of his current teammates, "but it's been fun leading this team."
And make no mistake, Pondexter is leading this team. Through the three games in the AIA Classic, he averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 steals, as well as 63.9% from the floor and 95.2% from the line. His weekend was highlighted by a 29 point, 13 rebound performance against Portland State in which he shot 11-12 FG and 7-8 FT. He was the engine of the Huskies' offense, doing whatever was necessary and nothing that wasn't. His game isn't loud or explosive, it's just good basketball.
"I think the type of player I am is a utility player, a Reggie Bush-player," he explains of his all-around game. "You can put him as a wide receiver or you can put him at running back or at quarterback. Him being on the field is such an asset, and I think that's what I am to this team."
The unselfish attitude, the box-score filling playing style, and game-controlling mentality should remind Husky fans of their two most recent four-year stars --- Brandon Roy and Jon Brockman. After playing alongside Brockman for three years and watching Roy play for the UW and the Blazers, Pondexter has learned from the best.
While Roy was able to lead with the ball in his hands, the post-man Brockman had to make most of his impact without the ball: setting screens, crashing the boards, creating space. Pondexter's able to do both. At his size, Q has the quickness and ball skills to make things happen off the dribble, as well as the strength and athleticism to be a threat without the ball.
"I learned that you can't have any off days," Pondexter explains of what he learned from his predecessors. "People are always counting on you to play at a high level. You can't pout, you can't be mad, you can't get frustrated with your teammates as much because you have to be like another coach on the coaching staff. You need be an inspiration for other guys to play really well."
Staying for all four years was not always the plan for Pondexter. After a freshman year in which he started 22 games and averaged 10.7 points and 4 rebounds, he contemplated the NBA. Despite his NBA size and developing skills, he opted to stay at UW and has never looked back. It's paid off, too. Quincy states that he is "1000 times" times the basketball player now than when he arrived at UW.
"I think myself now would kick my butt a couple years ago," he jokes, but then gets serious. "It's some things that a lot of players take for granted, the learning experience of college basketball. I think everyone has to learn, and a lot of guys that go to the NBA early, they get exposed. I think it was a blessing in disguise, me getting to stay all four years and learn from the best."
While it's too early to tell with Brockman, the four years under Romar definitely helped Roy. Now, in his fourth year with the Blazers, Roy has looked anything but exposed.
A big part of that four-year college development has been the evolving relationship with the coaches. And as the lone senior and captain, the coaches will look to Pondexter first, not only to make the big play or to say the right thing, but to take responsibility for the team.
"[The Coaches] trust me a lot more," he states. "They give me a lot more free will to do a lot of things, because I've been through everything and they know I won't make bad mistakes. I think that's how it's changed, the trust is more of a bond."
Whatever it is that has changed in Pondexter this season, people are starting to notice. After the Wright State game, WSU coach Brad Brownell said, "Quincy Pondexter is a terrific player. He is the guy that really makes them go. He is the heart and soul of that team. He provides a lot of energy on both ends of the floor."
After the Belmont game, coach Rick Byrd stated, "Pondexter is awfully good all over the floor."
It goes further than opposing coaches. He and Isaiah Thomas were crowned co-MVPs of the AIA Classic, and Pondexter was named Pac-10 Player of the Week. And this is only the beginning of the season. After last season's disappointing second round loss to Purdue in the NCAA Tournament, Q and the Dawgs are ready for redemption.
"I'm incredibly hungry," says a determined Pondexter. "If we don't get back to winning the Pac-10 championship and getting to the position we were in last year, it's going to hurt. It's going to hurt because we saw how great it was, how much fun it was."