Top 68 Team Previews: #23 Washington Huskies
Abdul Gaddy returns from an ACL injury to lead the Huskies. (Icon SMI)
By Keith Levinsky
Tuesday, October 04, 2011
Last Season: 24-11 (11-7)
Key Losses: Isaiah Thomas, Matt Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton
Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Abdul Gaddy 6-3 Jr.
SG: Tony Wroten, Jr. 6-4 Fr.
SF: Terrence Ross 6-6 So.
PF: Darnell Gant 6-8 Sr.
C: Aziz N'Diaye 7-0 Jr.
Key Reserves: Desmond Simmons 6-7 Fr. SF, Jernard Jarreau 6-10 Fr. PF, Hikeem Stewart 6-2 Fr. SG, Martin Breunig 6-9 Fr. PF, C.J. Wilcox 6-5 So. SG, Scott Suggs 6-6 Sr. SF
After an up-and-down year, Washington was able to claim the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) Tournament Championship and upset Arizona in the championship game. The Huskies appeared to peaking exactly at the right time of the year, but they ran into the talented North Carolina Tar Heels in the round of 32 and their season was over. Unfortunately for the Huskies, this year they will have to cope with losing their top three scorers from that team that was third in the nation in points per game. The most devastating departure is Isaiah Thomas, who left for the NBA as Washington's sixth all-time leading scorer and third all-time in assists.
Even without Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holliday, though, the Huskies have a solid core of experienced returners and an impressive group of new freshmen. Just like last year, Washington's strength will be its backcourt where the Huskies will have significant talent and youth. Before tearing his ACL on January 4, Abdul Gaddy showed promise in 13 starts as a sophomore. He finished fourth on the team in scoring (8.1 points per game) and second in assists (3.8 assists per game). Gaddy, once considered one of the top point guard recruits in the country, will have to take over as Washington's primary ball-handler with Thomas gone. The Huskies ranked 8th in the nation in assists per game last year.
C.J. Wilcox will look to improve on a very strong freshman year in which he was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team. Wilcox should be one of Washington's top 3-point shooter as he set a Washington freshman record by knocking down 63 shots from long range last year. Sinking 40.1 percent of his 3-pointers, he was eighth in the Pac-10 in 3-point field goal percentage and was fifth on Washington in scoring with just over eight points per game. The only Washington player who can shoot better than Wilcox from beyond the arc is Scott Suggs. Suggs was third in the Pac-10 in 3-point field goal percentage (45 percent) and also averaged 7.4 points per game last year.
Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Jr. are a pair of young, promising stars for the Huskies. Both of them will likely start, whether it's on Day One or later in the season. Ross scored 8.0 points per game last year and started four games. He is a long, athletic wing player who can stroke it from deep range.
Wroten is a big, strong lefty guard with exceptional court vision and ball-handling skills. The 6-foot-4 freshman is a pure point guard and knows how to get to the basket and finish. His weakness is his outside shooting, which needs a lot of work. But for now, he can use his size to score inside and create for others.
With Gaddy and Wroten likely starting together in the backcourt, the Huskies will continue their tradition over the past few years of starting two point guards together. It has worked out nicely, as the Huskies have enjoyed multiple trips to the NCAA tournament, so there's no reason Romar should stop that trend now, especially with the talents of Gaddy and Wroten.
While there is an abundance of options in the backcourt, Washington sorely lacks depth in the paint. The Huskies will have the experience of Darnell Gant and Aziz N'Diaye, but not many options to back them up. N'Diaye was Washington's second best rebounder (5.7 rebounds per game) and shot blocker (39 total blocks) in 2010-11. The 7-footer also added 4.6 points per game. Gant was fourth on the team in rebounds (3.8 rpg) and scored 5.2 points per game.
Outside of Gant and N'Diaye, Desmond Simmons will have an opportunity to make an impact after sitting out last year as a redshirt. Simmons was the No. 25-ranked power forward in the nation by Scout.com, the No. 44-ranked small forward by ESPN.com, and the No. 78 overall player by Basketball Times' Hoop Scoop. According to ESPN.com, Jernard Jarreau is a three-star recruit and the No. 23 power forward in the country. Martin Breunig is ranked as the 137th best recruit in the class of 2011 by Rivals. Romar is hoping that Jarreau and Breunig can both factor into the frontcourt rotation as freshmen.
Washington lost a lot of talent and experience, but the Huskies still have a solid group of players remaining in Seattle. Now that the Pac-12 has expanded to 12 teams, it will be challenging for the Huskies to repeat as Pac-12 Tournament champions but still very possible. Exactly how successful the Huskies are this season will come down to the level of production from their talented backcourt.