In the preseason, there was a lot of talk about Andrews, the fact that it very easily could have been him playing and Hikeem Stewart redshirting last season, the way he was tearing up off-season ball. Then the regular season started, and I was able to see him in action for the first time.
It quickly became clear that Andrews plays with intensity. The complaints about the laid-back, deferring personalities that make up this year’s roster do not apply to him. On defense, he guards his man with intensity, harassing him no matter where on the court he is. That alone guaranteed him 20 or so minutes early on, and even more after early-season injuries struck the back court.
Things were not so simple offensively. Andrews showed flashes of very skillful passing, but a few too many were forced into too-small of spaces, or were ill-advised in the first place. His explosiveness and willingness to drive right into the defense earned him a healthy number of free throws, which he converted at a healthy rate (70%+). However, that explosiveness sometimes seemed to lack control. Struggles of those sort are typical, of course, for young players, and no one expected Andrews to be the complete package in his first year on the court.
However, there was one element of his offensive game that was borderline unacceptable: his shooting. He didn’t attempt too many shots, and he didn’t take all that many foolish shots. They just weren’t falling. In his first seven games, Andrews was 10 of 41 (24%) from the field, including 4 of 18 (22%) from three point land. His shot looked pretty good, and Romar certainly didn’t seem to have an issue with how often he attempted jump-shots, so it seemed as if he simply needed time.
Well, after those first seven games Andrews suffered a sprained ankle that held him out of three straight against Nevada, Seattle U, and Jackson State. His field goal percentage in the 10 games since he has returned? 46%, including 31% from the three point line. More specifically, Andrews has scored the ball very well in two of his last three games. He shot 7-11 for 17 points in the loss to Utah and 5-10 for 15 points in yesterday’s loss to Oregon.
Yesterday’s performance in particular impressed me more than anything else Andrews has done this year. For a long stretch in the first half, Andrews ran the offense. He found room for his mid-range shot by dribbling around screens to create a little space, while continuing to mix-in aggressive drives to the rack, which earned him 7 free throw attempts. He didn’t play a flawless game by any means. He only hit 4 of the 7 free throws, and he turned the ball over 3 times to basically cancel out his 4 assists, but with his shot falling, it became clear just how advanced the rest of his game is for a player of his age. He simply looks as if he belongs.
If Andrews continues to score and pass as well as he has the last couple games, I think Romar will have to seriously consider giving him Abdul Gaddy’s starting point guard spot, or at least a lot of his minutes. Right now the sample size is small, but it is clear that Andrews is continuously improving, while Gaddy is a known quantity. Andrews is already the better defender, and the gap is quickly shrinking on offense.
Even beyond this year, the Oregon game also conjured up images of a possibly potent 2013 back-court. If C.J. Wilcox stays, it would be reasonable to expect Nigel Williams-Goss at the one (if he really is ready to start as a true freshman), Andrews at the two (he can play off the ball well, and can still share ball-handling duties with NWG), and Wilcox at the three.
Maybe I’m getting ahead of things, but it’s tough not to be excited about the growth of Andrews. He is a redshirt freshman, with plenty of time to improve even more by the end of this year. There is no telling how high the ceiling is. Where he could be at the start of next year, or next year, or perhaps even the next, his redshirt senior year, if he sticks around that long. Simply put, he is the most exciting young player on Washington’s roster, and I will be watching him closely this week to see if his elevated play continues against Arizona State and Arizona.