Last week, I analyzed and ranked the Husky Men’s Basketball roster from #14 to #8. Today, I look at who I believe to be the seven most important players on the team. I thought I would recieve a lot of negative feedback regarding my placing of Mark McLaughlin at #8. But, instead most of it focused on Hikeem Stewart and the thoughts that he will be much better, especially on defense, than we may suspect. Several said he may be like another Venoy Overton, minus the “off court issues”, who is a solid and pesky defender brought in to bother the opposing point guard. Others say his awkwardness on offense was not typical of his play in high school and given a more definitive role on the team will give him a chance to show us what he’s got. For the sake of the Huskies, I definitely hope that is all true.
Anyways, let’s move onto the Top 7 on the roster in this analysis series. There are many different ways you could argue about the “value” of a player. You could look at it based on who scores the most points, who has the best overall statistics, who plays the most minutes, who has the best plus/minus ratio, and so forth. For this feature, I decided to use this criterion; If a player suffered a season-ending injury in the pre-season, which player would have the greatest impact on the team’s overall win/loss record through their absence.
While this is clearly a subjective measure, it is the offseason, so there is plenty of room for being subjective. So, let’s go ahead and look at the rankings and see if you agree.
#7 Andrew Andrews (PG)- The Huskies obviously need someone who can handle the ball and be a leader at the point guard position to spell Abdul Gaddy, especially if he were to suffer an injury. Gaddy averaged more than 34 minutes per game last year and in some games logged close to 40. The Huskies need a capable backup to give Gaddy a break. There are two primary backup point guards on the roster; Hikeem Stewart and Andrew Andrews. For some reason, the Oregon 5A player of the year decided well before the season began to redshirt last year, while Stewart did not. Many people felt going in that Andrews would have been a part of the rotation, while Stewart should have been the one to redshirt. But, I do suspect that Andrews saw Wroten coming in and knew he’d have a better chance to step right in and play a major role after Wroten moved on. Most people who have seen Andrews play say he will be the kind of player you can’t keep off the floor. He is not just a PG, since he can also score (averaging 24 ppg at Benson Tech) and he could turn out to be a very good compliment to a three guard line up with CJ Wilcox, Scott Suggs, and Mark McLaughlin in various up-tempo combinations.
#6 Shawn Kemp Jr. (PF)- The son of the Sonics legend was a bit underwhelming last year. Granted, he had been away from organized basketball for two years while he got his academic situation in order, so he had a lot of work to do just to get back into basketball shape and learning Romar’s system on both offense and defense. Kemp was mostly ineffective in spelling Aziz N’Diaye and often was removed from games for Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. But, he did show glimpses of his potential, especially later in the season. Romar recently stated that Kemp was now fully in-shape and gaining enough confidence that he may be ready to become a real contributor. We know the guy can produce spectacular highlight dunks and is a decent rebounder. We also need Kemp to be reliable on offense and improve his free throw shooting. For the Huskies’ sake he needs to be solid, since without Aziz, the frontline will be woefully thin.
#5 Scott Suggs (SG)- The 5th year senior is back for his last hurrah. After injuring his foot last fall, he was expected to be back with the Huskies by December. When his recovery went a little slower than hoped, he decided to sit it out completely (especially given the plethora of guards on the roster). With Ross and Wroten off to the NBA, there certainly will be opportunities for Suggs to shine. He has had lots of time to work on his game (in practice late in the season). Let’s hope his ball handling has improved, because during the few times he was asked to play the point in his junior year (after Gaddy went down), he wasn’t able to handle it. But, we all know the guy can shoot! He plays good defense, although his lateral movement could use work and he has the ability to get inside to rebound. Suggs could be a difference maker to this team if he plays up to his potential. Putting him on the floor at the same time with CJ Wilcox could really extend teams since either can launch it from long distance, opening things up nicely for the bigs or for drives to the basket.
#4 Desmond Simmons (PF)- Simmons was a real enforcer up front for most of the season, providing critical rebounding and defense. Everyone loves his hustle and heart. He loves to get to the floor to save that loose ball or cause a held ball. But, he seemed to hit a freshman wall late last year, losing much of his effectiveness near the end of the season. But, that can happen to the best of them. Simmons has the chance to work on improving his offensive skills this off season. If Desmond can become more of a scorer, with a solid mid-range jumper, and more comfort under the rum, he could become a 10 ppg player. This would make the Huskies diverse and effective offensively by stretching defenses.
#3 CJ Wilcox (SG)- This is a guy that has a chance to become the first Husky to average more than 20 ppg since Christian Welp in 1987. Wilcox struggled through all of last season with a concussion, then a fractured femur that eventually became a bum hip. He was not able to practice most of the season, only coming in on game day, and then his minutes were often limited. Despite all of this, CJ was still able to average 14 ppg and was absolutely critical to helping the Huskies win the conference title and advance to the Final Four of the NIT. Assuming Wilcox is completely healthy, and knowing he will be much more focal to the offense with Ross and Wroten gone, CJ has a chance to really explode. If CJ Wilcox can expand his game by being more of a risk to drive inside, and possibly to dish it outside to Suggs or McLaughlin, teams will need to back off of him a bit, which would allow him even more open looks from 3-point land.
In terms of NBA potential, CJ Wilcox would rank #1 on the team. But, there are two others on this team whose absence would be even more detrimental to the team for two primary reasons. The first is the lack of similar and experienced backup players who can fill their roles and second, they play two of the hardest to replicate roles on the team; big center and starting point guard. At least Wilcox has suitable backups in Suggs and McLaughlin. I am not sure you can say that about the other two positions with certainty at this point.
#2 Aziz N’Diaye (C)- Aziz has shown himself to be almost irreplaceble. Perhaps some of that is due to the players brought in (or not brought in) by Lorenzo Romar to give him help or back him up. But, also as the famous saying goes “You can’t teach height”. Simply put, there just are not that many 7’0″ tall, muscular, and quick players built like Aziz. N’Diaye is critical to the defensive schemes of this team because his mere presence disrupts opposing offenses. He is a strong rebounder, good shot blocker, and can even score some points, mostly through putbacks. What Aziz needs to improve to really become a factor is to improve his touch under the basket and develop a better post move. With defenses extending out so much to cover the long distance shooters the Huskies have, Aziz needs to be a threat inside to keep defenses honest. He also needs to learn to just use his size and athleticism to just dunk the ball rather than do cutsy moves under the hoop. Aziz also needs to learn to be more selective on his choice of fouls, as when he gets into foul trouble his effectiveness on defense is greatly diminished. Lastly, he has got to improve that 38% free throw shooting average. At the rate he shot them last year, if he could just raise that average to 60% (still not great), he would average more than 1 ppg more, which could make the difference between one or two more wins for the team.
#1 Abdul Gaddy (PG)- Abdul Gaddy came to the University of Washington as the #2 rated PG in the country. He has mostly failed to live up to all of the hype. His freshman season was downright disappointing. His sophomore season showed promise before it ended prematurely with a torn ACL. Last year, we began to see a better and more confident Gaddy, who averaged 34 minutes per game, while showing improving leadership and stability. But, he was not a serious offensive threat in most games, and defensively he often struggled to keep quicker guards in front of him. While he was not a 5-star PG, he was exactly what the team needed to counter the role Wroten played. At the very least, Gaddy needs to perform at least as well as he did last year. But, Gaddy could become even more important to the team if he could become more of a threat from outside. This could also improve his opportunities to get into the lane driving and his ability to pass out to the wings or down low to the bigs. Percy Allen reports that Gaddy has looked terrific in the summer league. He reported that Gaddy appeared to be working on very specific parts of his game, rather than just playing the role of the straight point guard. Gaddy has been scoring at will, dropping three’s, and working on his drive moves. The only worry I have are the reports that he struggled to keep Anrio Adams in front of him (which is something Gaddy struggled with last year). But, overall, I think these reports could mean a very big year for Gaddy and the Huskies and maybe even a spot in the NBA draft.