Feb 2, 2012, Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar speaks with Washington Huskies guard C.J. Wilcox (23) during free throws by the UCLA Bruins during the second half at Alaska Airlines Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Washington defeated UCLA, 71-69. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Top 5 Summer Storylines

With the summer underway and the players ready to show up for summer classes, Romar and the gang are about to get things underway for the 2012/13 season. It should be yet another fun season with many questions remaining to be answered. The team lost it’s two top scorers in the first round of the NBA Draft, both of which were underclassmen. After a year of “rebuilding” when Thomas, Holiday, and Bryan-Amaning left, it looks like Romar’s squad is facing another major renovation. Here’s my look at the top five things to keep your eye on as the summer turns to fall.

5. Will a star emerge?

Last year Terrence Ross stepped his game up and became a first round talent who led the Huskies through some tough times. He had some phenomenal games, like the comeback against UCLA, which kept the Huskies in the Pac-12 title hunt. With his exit, who will step up to become the go-to player?

The obvious choice is C.J. Wilcox who is entering his red shirt junior year after scoring 14.2 point per game. He doesn’t just get hot, he gets surface-of-the-sun hot. He does struggle to create his own shot off of the dribble which, hopefully, he will be and has been working on.

Can the forgotten Scott Suggs step up his game as a senior? People forget that he led the Huskies in three point shooting at 45% in 2010/11 and scored 7.4 ppg while only playing 18.3 minutes per game. I won’t pretend to be unbiased here; I’ve been driving the Suggs bandwagon since his freshman year. He has been absolutely itching to get on the court since he was cleared to play late last December but Romar made the tough decision to keep him on the bench and save his final year of eligibility.

What about the much maligned Abdul Gaddy? I’ll have more on him later…

Keep your eye on the practice reports and player/coach interviews for hints on who is demanding the ball late and has taken the next step.

4. How legit is Andrew Andrews?

The legend of Andrew Andrews began in high school when he put up 50 points in a game and then quietly committed to the Huskies with little fanfare. It continued as he impressed in last year’s summer league and fans began to wonder if he was a hidden gem. With the depth at the point, Romar decided to red shirt Andrews and make Husky fans wait another year.

The time has come for Andrews to show what he’s got and impress the coaches (and fans) with a year of learning under his belt. Most are hoping that he can be a dynamic bench scorer that can be a combo guard and lead UW’s high speed attack whether Gaddy is on the bench or alongside him. He’s got speed, size, and aggressiveness that Romar love to see in his guards. With one tweet he showed that his shooting ability may be his most dangerous weapon. He beat C.J. Wilcox in a shooting contest by making 500 of 627 threes. Is he the complete package?

We’ll have to pay attention to what he does in the summer league and reports from practice to hear if it all adds up. We all know that Romar loves defense first, so keep your eyes/ears open if his defense in practice allows Romar to play him more.

3. Who emerges in the frontcourt?

It wasn’t pretty last year. I’ll leave it at that. Aziz N’diaye returns for his senior season at center but it will be tough to determine how much he has developed until the games begin. He put on weight last year while fixing his foul issues and that was a good step forward for the seven footer. After averaging 7.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in 23 minues, it would be great if he could step it up to average a double-double in 26+ minutes in 2012/13. Is that too much to ask from awkward Senegalese center? And free throws; has he improved AT ALL in that area? Maybe, but that type of output may be the key to the Huskies season.

With Darnell Gant graduating, it leaves a gigantic hole at the power forward position and more questions than answers in regards to his replacement. Shawn Kemp Jr. showed flashes of his potential last season but his inconsistency and flat feet leaves much to be desired. He has the right size and strength that make him the ideal fit. However, as I mentioned, there’s a lot that we have to see from him before we can pencil him in. He’ll be a guy that I will be watching very carefully during the summer league.

Martin Breunig wasn’t exactly perfect player either. He got dunked on more than he impressed last year which definitely isn’t a great sign. On a more positive note, he did show that he can score on the offensive end at a somewhat promising rate. In order to get on the court he will need to greatly improve his defense and add solid weight to his 6’8 frame. He’s an intriguing prospect who could be a dark horse but there’s a lot for him to learn before Romar will give him extended playing time. Unfortunately the summer league is not the place to see defensive improvements.

Desmond Simmons may be the leader in the clubhouse for extended playing time at the four even though he’s a more natural wing. Simmons wasn’t the “Romar Prototype” last year that we all wished he could be as his shooting touch from three point range and his defense left a lot to be desired. All reports before last season spoke highly of his shooting touch and defensive intensity. Were the reports and scouts wrong or did he just struggle adjusting as a freshman? Hopefully he regains his touch and feels more comfortable with his abilities.

2. What can Mark McLaughlin actually do?

We don’t know much about McLaughlin. The TCC transfer who averaged 27.5 ppg last season will step in to try and immediately fill the scoring shoes of Terrence Ross. He has drawn comparisons to Tre Simmons and Brandon Roy which should be a good sign. Early reports from summer league are that he has great shooting stroke and is incredibly fluid in the lane. He’s not the strongest, fastest, or most athletic but, like Roy, he puts it all together into a very dangerous package. I don’t care what league it is, AVERAGING 27.5 ppg is impressive and if he can average half of that this season the Huskies will be just fine.

He’s saying all of the right things when it comes to his dedication to defense which, as we know, is at the top of Romar’s wish list. His commitment to defense will probably be the number one thing in deciding how much early playing time he will get and ultimately what his role will become.

Personally, he’s the player that I’m most excited to see and read about. How will he adjust to the speed of the Pac-12? Will his scoring translate against bigger and better post defenders? Is  he a liability on defense? How dedicated is he to becoming a true star? Definitely stay tuned on this one.

1.  Which Abdul Gaddy shows up for his swan song?

Outside of the “Human Lightning Rod” known as Tony WrotenAbdul Gaddy was the victim of most of Husky fans’ rage last year, including myself. I think that it’s fair to say that his knee injury in 2010/11 has left him a step (or two) slow which really hindered his game. He was forced to deviate from his slash-and-kick style to more of a passive offensive general. His shooting touch absolutely left him and his overall scoring output went from 8.5 ppg in 23.2 minutes per game to 8.1 ppg in 33.9 minutes per game. Not exactly the type of improvement that you hope for in a McDonald’s All-American’s junior season.

His struggles last year were one of the top reason why the Huskies found themselves in the NIT last year but he did show some very impressive performances in that tournament. His 11 point, 10 assist, 7 rebound game against Oregon showed that he does have the capability to be an elite point guard in 2012-13. With Tony Wroten gone he will certainly be able to better dictate the offensive pace and game plan. Don’t underestimate that factor. Gaddy MUST improve into an All Pac-12 First or Second Teamer if the

Husky squad wants to repeat as conference champs and make it into the Big Dance.

Watch for reports on his shooting stroke, quickness, and overall confidence. This is Gaddy’s team and it will only go as far as he can take them.

Tags: Andrew Andrews Aziz N'Diaye C.J. Wilcox Desmond Simmons Martin Breunig Scott Suggs Shawn Kemp Jr. Terrence Ross

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