Go! Huskies Off And Running With 3 Opening Games
Nov. 11, 2011
By Gregg Bell
SEATTLE - The Huskies aren't exactly strolling into this season.
Not with three games in three days to start it. And not with the first one being against run-and-gun Georgia State Saturday at 2 p.m. inside Alaska Airlines Arena (GoHuskies.com has the live game chat and GameTracker, and 1150 AM in Seattle will carry it on radio).
"We better be nails in our transition defense in this game," Lorenzo Romar said of the eve of his 10th season as Washington's coach.
The Panthers from Atlanta play four seniors and a trapping defensive style. They are coming off an 11-19 season and a first-round loss in their Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
This is Washington's first meeting with Georgia State, which has a new coach, Ron Hunter. Hunter says "we are a work in progress" running his system for the first time.
The operative word is "running." Romar expects an up-and-down game, which is exactly how the Huskies love to play both offensively and defensively.
Saturday, for the first time since in 10-plus months, UW has its maestro directing their show.
Abdul Gaddy will play in his first games since New Year's Eve 2010 at UCLA this weekend when the Huskies host Georgia State, then Florida Atlantic Sunday at 5 p.m. and Portland Monday at 7 p.m. in the World Vision Classic. On Jan. 4, the smooth, calming point guard tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and the lateral collateral ligament on the outside of it.
Gaddy was smooth, explosive and efficient in last Friday in Washington's 77-60 exhibition win over Seattle Pacific. He had 15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and no turnovers in 29 confirming minutes.
"It doesn't really bother me at all now," said Gaddy, who has wowed Romar with how much quicker and smarter he has been in the preseason. "I feel great."
Dr. Chris Wahl of UW medicine grafted a new ACL and took a piece of Gaddy's hamstring to make a new LCL. Though Wahl has completed more than 250 successful ACL reconstructions, this one was particularly tricky because of the multi-ligament damage -- like the ones from which NFL players Carson Palmer and Willis McGahee have notably returned. The LCL tear meant Gaddy didn't have the stability outside the knee that most ACL patients have in early stages of rehabilitation.
Gaddy and the Huskies medical training staff had to rebuild both ligaments. It was a grueling, painful and tearful ordeal that lasted 9-plus months before the junior was cleared back onto the floor for full-go work in mid-September.
"It was tough - harder than I thought. But, I mean, as the trainer would tell me, `You are rebuilding your knee. They gave you a new ACL, so you've got to teach it how to work again,'" Gaddy said, referring to Huskies trainer Pat Jenkins. "That was the hard part, just realizing that, because I wanted success to come fast. Within a month, I wanted to be back. I wanted to push it, but I wasn't supposed to push it."
So, yes, whether it's Georgia State or Georgetown, Saturday is special for him.
Asked if he had a chip on his shoulder that people have forgotten the former McDonald's high school All-American out of Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, Wash., Gaddy said: "Yeah, a little bit. I am just trying to prove myself."
Saturday will also be the Huskies debut for six freshman. The most eagerly anticipated arrival is Tony Wroten's.
The star guard at Garfield High School in Seattle returned two weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery in the exhibition against Seattle Pacific and wowed the home crowd. The 6-foot-5 Wroten had four jaw-dropping assists to go with his 10 points and six rebounds in his third day on the floor since the knee scope.
Huskies fans are anxious to see Wroten and Gaddy in the backcourt together this season. And Romar sounds happy to oblige. He said that combination will play together often, after seeing how well it worked in preseason practices and scrimmages.
"It looks like they've been playing together for years," Romar said.
The Huskies will get Aziz N'Diaye back this weekend. The 7-foot junior center missed last week's exhibition after sustaining a concussion in practice at the start of that week. Romar has said N'Diaye is almost indispensible to the lineup, given his inside presence, shot blocking and rebounding.
DRIBBLERS: The Huskies play Florida Atlantic at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The Owls won the Sun Belt Conference regular-season title last season and made the National Invitation Tournament, losing to Miami in the first round. The Huskies may need perimeter defense in that one. Florida Atlantic's two leading scorers are preseason Sun Belt all-conference picks, Greg Gantt and Raymond Taylor. Each guard is closing in on 1,000 career points. ... The World Vision Classic ends Monday night with the Huskies hosting Portland. The Pilots were 20-12 last season, losing in the opening round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament to Hawai'i. The Huskies beat Portland 94-72 in Seattle last season and 89-54 in the 2009-10 season. But Romar still talks about how the Huskies went down to Portland on Nov. 15, 2008, and lost. It was a humbling start to a season that included Washington's first outright conference regular-season title in a half century. The Pilots are led by senior all-West Coast Conference guard Nemania Mitrovic. ... The Washington IMG College radio network will have Sunday's and Monday's games, as usual. ROOT Sports will provide the only television coverage of the World Vision Classic with UW-Portland Monday night.