It seems as though the perennial off-season question has to do with how the Huskies will fare in replacing what was lost. One of the “problems” – though, ultimately, a good one to have – with graduating players and sending some early to the NBA, is how the void left will be filled the following year. One of the reasons Romar’s program is a success is that he understands a void left by a graduating or a player making the jump early is an opportunity; an opportunity for someone to step up.
With the early exodus of Ross and Wroten, one might be inclined toward concern for where those points will be recovered this year, particularly in the backcourt. However, when you return the likes of CJ Wilcox and Scott Suggs and add the silky smooth Mark McLaughlin, the question isn’t who will score, but when, where and how much!
The looming question, then, isn’t the backcourt, but the frontcourt. How will the frontcourt shape up over the course of a year? What role does the frontcourt (need to) play to complement the talent and scoring prowess of the backcourt? With the exception of Aziz N’Diaye and Desmond Simmons, who are well known to Husky faithful, only time will tell.
It’s difficult to underestimate the value N’Diaye brings, particularly on the defensive end. His presence alone demands the attention of the opposition, and if he doesn’t block your shot, he’ll alter it. I see Simmons coming into his own this year, advancing from the strong start he had last year. He’s the perfect complement to N’Diaye down low, a solid rebounder and willing to do what it takes to win. The question, however, isn’t N’Diaye or Simmons, but the second tier of Husky frontcourt players, the “big three” – Jernard Jarreau, Martin Breunig and Shawn Kemp Jr.
As an observer, there’s so much that’s unknown and seemingly unproven about the big three. However, the talent appears to be there, as well as the versatility. Redshirt freshman, Jernard Jarreau, is able to face up the defense and knock down the open jumper. Martin Breunig has one year in the Husky system under his belt, and shows the athleticism in addition to the size to be potentially disruptive on the offensive end. Shawn Kemp Jr. showed a lot of potential last year and has looked really good in the first couple of weeks of summer league ball. He looks in shape and, consequently, more active around the rim.
That second tier of Husky big men has the potential to be the x-factor for this season. While questions linger, Romar and his staff have proven over the years to be adept at evaluating and maximizing talent. The minutes will be there, as they spell Aziz and Des; and even if they perform as a group (which is how Romar might use them), if they do so with heart and aggression, we could well see the Huskies once again exceed expectations. Bow Down!