It's not by design, Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar said, that the Huskies possess just three players taller than 6-foot-6 on their roster. Coming off a 26-10 season season in 2009-10, Washington isn't going to wow anyone as they walk into, say, the Lahaina Civic Center, but the Huskies (2-0) are plenty capable of imposing their will on their opponent once they step on the court.
When Virginia takes on Washington Monday night in the opening round of the Maui Invitational, the Cavaliers will face far greater ball pressure than anything they experienced in their first three games this season. Coach Tony Bennett said following Thursday night's 81-60 loss at Stanford that Virginia remains in search of a "steadying hand." Such a component certainly would come in handy tonight.
On offense, Washington won't be timid shooting from the three-point line. The Huskies have made 63 three-point attempts in their first two games. After making 3 of 20 three-point attempts last season, sophomore guard Abdul Gaddy (6-foot-3, 195 lbs.) has made 4 of 6 shots from beyond the arc in Washington's first two games. In those two contests, Gaddy averaged 11.5 points; he averaged 3.9 ppg last season. Granted, the Huskies' first two opponents this year were McNeese State and Eastern Washington, but Romar believes Gaddy will be a larger offensive factor for the team this season.
Gaddy "made three all year last year," Romar said in a recent telephone interview. "He made three in our second game this year. He spent a lot of time working on his outside shot this summer, and you can already see the fruit of that work right now."
Junior guard Isaiah Thomas (5-foot-9, 185 lbs.) will start alongside Gaddy in Washington's backcourt. Thomas recently was added to the Naismith Award watch list, and Romar said Thomas is a "very underappreciated winner." Thomas averaged 16.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game last season.
"You can’t be as effective as he has been and will be if you don’t have a big heart, if you’re not a warrior," Romar said. "He’s a very underappreciated winner. In two years, not only has he scored more points than anyone in the school’s history in a two-year period, but he’s also won 52 games during that time, a Pac-10 championship, a Pac-10 tournament championship, going to the Sweet 16. He goes out there, and he wins. He can score it, but he also plays defense. He gets on the floor for loose balls. He’s just a guy that won’t be denied. At 5-foot-9, he has that type of warrior mentality that enables him to get things done that a taller person may be able to get done."
The Huskies possess a host of reserve options in the backcourt. Freshman guard Terrence Ross (6-foot-6, 190 lbs.) has chipped in a combined 15 points in 28 minutes of play thus far.
"He’s probably our most talented player," Romar said. "He’s probably our best athlete. He’s going through the process now of just learning like freshmen do. But he’s going to be an outstanding player. He’ll probably be a star for us in this program ... In his second game he came out and we were being zoned and were really exposed in the first half. He came in just for a little while and kind of carried us offensively. He scored nine points in about six minutes. He scores quickly, and we’ve seen him do that in a game already as a freshman."
Other three-point shooting threats include junior guard Scott Suggs (6-foot-6, 195 lbs.) and redshirt freshman guard C.J. Wilcox (6-foot-5, 190 lbs.).
Washington's frontcourt efforts are led by senior forward Matt Bryan-Amaning (6-foot-9, 240 lbs.), who averaged 8.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game last season. He also tallied 54 blocks. Washington has led the Pac-10 in rebound the past two seasons and has averaged 52 rebounds in two games so far this season.
"The last 14 games last year (Bryan-Amaning) started to really do the things that we had recruited him for," Romar said. "He’s not just a post player; he’s very agile. This year he’s been getting the ball up the floor a couple times and bringing it in transition for us. He’s versatile defensively in that he can guard the post, but then he can go out and help put out fires on the perimeter, as well."
Senior forward Justin Holiday (6-foot-6, 185 lbs.) and junior forward Darnell Gant (6-foot-8, 225 lbs.) bolster Washington's frontcourt play. Holiday has gotten off to a solid offensive start this season, while Gant has struggled to gain footing.
The Huskies also will bring sophomore center Aziz N'Diaye (7-foot-0, 260 lbs.) off the bench. He redshirted last season after tearing an ACL and then transferred to Washington from the College of Southern Idaho. Consistency and foul trouble might be N'Diaye's biggest issues. After tallying 13 points and 15 rebounds (and two personal fouls) in Washington's season-opening win over McNeese State, he recorded five points and two rebounds (and four personal fouls) in a win over Eastern Washington.
N'Diaye "could be a starter for us," Romar said. "He’s a really good rebounder and a presence inside. We haven’t had someone of that size with that type of a presence on the defensive end, someone who can mix it up like that. That combination is just not something that we’ve had. He gives us something that is a little different and unique that we’ve had in other previous years."
| November 22, 2010; 11:51 AM ET
Categories: Men's Basketball
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