April 4, 2010
SEATTLE - Husky men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar may have nightmares when he relives his team's Sweet 16 game versus West Virginia, but when it comes to the point guard situation next year, he should be able to sleep soundly. With Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy all underclassmen, Washington has its pick of dependable and experienced floor generals next season.
Thomas is the superstar mighty mite, Overton the heart-and-soul defensive stalwart and Gaddy the up-and-coming point guard trainee. Each brings something different to the table, but each played a vital role in UW's success this past season. Expect much of the same from Thomas and Overton next year, but Gaddy should take his training wheels off in his second season and have an even greater role in driving the ship.
That said, Gaddy was an important cog in 2009-10. He played in all 36 games and started the final 28 games of the season. The former McDonald's All-American averaged 3.9 points, 2.3 assists and 18.2 minutes per game in his inaugral campaign. Gaddy mostly gave way to Overton in the late stages of games, but still gained invaluable experience that most people his age could not even phathom.
Gaddy was the youngest player in the Pac-10 Conference (and perhaps the youngest in Division I basketball), having turned 18 on Jan. 26. His calming influence on the court belied his age as he led the three-headed point-guard monster with just 1.72 turnovers per game and a 1.31 assist to turnover ratio (81 assists/62 TO's).
"I thought it was a learning experience for Abdul," said Romar, when evaluating Gaddy's freshman season. "I think Abdul will no question have better seasons individually than he had this year. There is no doubt that he has to become a better shooter. I think he will do that."
But Romar is pleased with Gaddy's leadership skills and is confident he will flourish with more experience.
"The inate abilities that he has in terms of running a team, passing the basketball, understanding tempo -- those aren't things he needs to work on," said Romar. "Those things are on a high high level."
Perhaps Gaddy's expectations were raised at the beginning of the season because of the success Thomas displayed as a freshman in 2009. Thomas, who like Gaddy hails from Tacoma, was the Pac-10's top freshman in his first season and he did not suffer through a sophomore slump this past year.
Thomas averaged 16.9 points and a team-high 3.2 assists per game. He led the team in scoring and assists during post-season play in both the Pac-10 and NCAA Tournaments. Thomas also holds the distinction as scoring the most points by a UW player in their first two seasons with 1,134.
What Thomas also did down the stretch is show trust in his teammates. He penetrated the lane and dished out to the open man more often than not - evidenced by his 6.6 assists per game during the NCAA Tourney. He also put on display his leadership skills, which did not go unnoticed by his coach.
"Quincy [Pondexter] was our team captain this year, but I also think Isaiah Thomas was a leader in a lot of respects," said Romar. "By the end of the season he was playing at such a high level and rallying his teammates around him."
What Thomas is to scoring for the the point guards, Venoy Overton is to defense for the group. Overton is often assigned to harass the opposition's floor leader as they bring the ball up the court - which can appropriately be summed up by a new term: "Venoyance." His reputation earned him All-Pac-10 Defensive Team honors this past year.
Overton has accumulated 141 steals in three seasons, which places him fourth on the UW's all-time list, but is also is a great distributor of the ball. He had a career-high 112 assists and had the best offensive season of his career with 8.5 points per game - fourth on the team.
Perhaps one of the more underrated values of Overton was his willingness to come off the bench. Most players of his caliber would expect to start, but the guard from Seattle's Franklin HS knows that his role is just as important as the next guy.
"You can't win a National Championship with just the starting five," said Overton. "The fact that we have players who are capable of coming off the bench and gave us momentum that helped us go as far as we [did]."
To go even further, the Husky point guard trio will have to top what they did this season. Thomas, Overton and Gaddy are all capable of doing that, which could lead the Huskies to sweet dreams and a trip past the Sweet 16.