This is a guest post by long time Husky fan and Husky Haul reader, Sean LeRoy. He wants to offer his perspective on what the Husky basketball team will look like next season.
It’s no surprise – the Huskies never seem to be the media’s darling. They’re not on this pre-season’s “Top 40 List” or that 2012/13 “Tournament List”. Nonetheless, I remain confident that the Huskies, flying under the radar as they often do, will be more than competitive next season. Here are the reasons:
In today’s game bigs are a necessity, but guards win you games. Ultimately because they control tempo, run the offense and guard the perimeter. Our guards next year will be long and versatile, allowing them to function – if necessary – like interchangeable parts, not only in terms of running the offense, but more particularly on the perimeter defensively. At their best last year, the Huskies were after it, applying ball pressure, disrupting passing lanes and proving the maxim that offensive starts with good defense.
Look for the emergence of Andrew Andrews. I’ve watched as much film on him as possible and watched him in last year’s summer league, and I expect him to be a solid contributor. He’s competitive and has a great motor and as long as he can run that motor on the defensive end, he will find time.
In last year’s ebb and flow, it was lost on much of Husky nation, just how crucial the loss of Scott Suggs was. Just go down the line – senior, athletic, leader, co-captain, calming influence and the team’s top 3-point shooter in terms of percentage (45% in 2010/11). Well, the Huskies will reap all those benefits and more in Suggs as he returns for his final year as a 5th year senior. His game is well rounded and with his maturity, he doesn’t present a liability on either end of the floor. At 6’6”-6’7” he’s also long enough to move easily between the 2 and 3, especially on defensive rotations.
The Huskies also return junior sharp-shooter CJ Wilcox, who arguably has one of, if not the prettiest jumpers in the nation. Last season, at the coaches’ urging, Wilcox also demonstrated an ability to get to the hole, using a variety of off the dribble moves, making use of each hand. Ironically, as any guard would tell you, each – the jump shot and the dribble penetration – complement each other and, though I could watch Wilcox shoot jumpers all day, hopefully we’ll see him make use of other elements in his game which further present matchup problems and create easy buckets for the Husky big men.
As fans were lamenting the depressing news of landing (or not!) 2012 recruits, the Huskies received a commitment and eventual letter of intent from Junior College stand-out Mark McLaughlin. His story has been well-chronicled and much publicized, bouncing around from program to program and learning, as we all do, life’s lessons sometimes the hard way. Undeniable is his basketball skill, though. McLaughlin helped the Titans of Tacoma Community College to a league championship and at 28.4 points a game, he can fill it up. While the attention on recruits typically falls on in-coming freshman and national rankings (ESPN, Rivals, Scout), one cannot discount McLaughlin’s prowess on the offensive end. McLaughlin will help himself, most, however, with intensity on the defensive end, something that in a recent radio interview he articulated a desire to.
Finally, and most importantly, expect Gaddy to have a great senior campaign. He’s matured as a leader, has the respect of his coaches and his teammates. No question – it’s his team and he’ll be ready for the opportunity. In his first three years (or 2 ½ with injury), he started at point guard, he shared the floor with a second point guard – first I.T., then Tone. Not so next year. The offense will rest on his shoulders and we can expect Romar to let him do what he does best – run the offense, lead and distribute. Though he doesn’t need to score, based on what he showed later in the year especially, expect him to be more aggressive offensively, where and when he needs to be. In an era of the scoring point guard, it’s easy to look past a “pass-first” point guard who manages – the clock, the tempo, the ball. Gaddy will manage the floor and manage it well.
While the Dawgs’ bigs might not be as talented offensively as in years past, they are, arguably, deeper. In a whirlwind of recruiting events, Romar added three bigs last year – Jarreau, Kemp Jr. and Breunig – with a fourth coming after the football season in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Jarreau redshirted and Kemp Jr. and Breunig saw sparing minutes, as they largely learned “on the job” as it were. ASJ earned minutes because of his hustle and physicality, primarily; a welcomed addition for sure. Desmond Simmons, the redshirt freshman from California, demonstrated a willingness to do the little things – rebound, defend, pressure and hustle; things which typically ignite bigger things.
If off-season improvements can be made (as to be expected) by the Husky bigs, and Romar can “plug and play” each one with Aziz, the Huskies will be deep enough to compete with the bigger teams in the Pac 12. No doubt, the Huskies will rely on Aziz to be the anchor and with a deep bench and minutes to be had, he will be freed up to do what he does best – intimidate. The key, it’s no mystery, will be keeping the ball out of the paint defensively and rebounding, a total defensive buy-in, something that unfortunately proved elusive last year.
Under the Radar
Will the Huskies ever get the respect they deserve? Who knows. They were picked middle of the pack last year and they turned around and won the conference, though the prize, a chance to dance, slipped through their fingers. With the sting of last year’s disappointments still lingering, there’s much to look forward to next year, however. Expect the Huskies to be propelled by skilled guard play and anchored by tough-minded defense from their front court. Now, can we just at least fast-forward to summer ball? I’m ready.