Last season was incredibly rough to witness. It was clear from the moment Wroten and Ross skipped out for the draft that it wouldn’t be a team full of top-flight talent, but it turned out that the absence of ego and a wealth of experience also weren’t nearly as valuable as fans hoped. Not only did the team sorely lack any sort of vocal leader or go-to guy, they also struggled fundamentally. Poor free throw shooting, bad team defense, a lack of basketball IQ (saving the ball in bounds under their own basket…again and again), and some of the weakest transition play I have ever witnessed.
I don’t mean to pile on, but anyone who watched a single game last year understands. It was rough, and most of it stemmed from two primary issues: a lack of leadership, both as far as a vocal leader goes, and a primary, reliable scorer, and an inability to take care of the fundamental elements of proper basketball. As far as leadership goes, with Gaddy, Suggs, and N’Diaye, all stand-up guys and teammates that nonetheless were not leaders, having graduated, there is definitely opportunity for players to step into new leadership roles.
That could mean someone already on the roster feeling comfortable asserting himself on the court and/or in the locker room now that more senior players have moved on. Andrew Andrews seems to be the most likely player to fit this description, as he played with a ton of fire, and often seemed very frustrated with a lack of energy, or a lack of diligence, among his teammates. With a year to develop his game, and another year of seniority, I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes beyond simply barking instructions or venting frustration, and becomes more of an all around team leader.
As far as incoming players, it may be a bit unreasonable to expect a freshman to become a leader in his first year on campus, but if anyone is capable of this, it is Nigel Williams-Goss, the four-star floor general that seems to possibly be what fans so desperately wanted Gaddy to be: an efficient distributor that plays with passion and poise, and a guy that can rally teammates and demand the respect of a locker room. Obviously too early to put all that on him, but there is a chance for tangible solutions to the leadership issue.
As far as the fundamentals? That problem is exactly why I am so excited about Mike Anderson, and what his presence could indicate about the direction Washington basketball is headed in the next couple years. Anderson is a JUCO transfer, and so naturally he hasn’t been talked about much. Didn’t get as much hype as NWG, or even Darin Johnson, when he committed, but if you take a look at his stats, it becomes clear that he is someone to get excited about.
At Moberly Area CC, he averaged a gritty 17 points and 10 rebounds per game. For a 6’5″ guard to average double-digit rebounds, even at the JUCO level, is impressive, and shows an approach to the game from Anderson that will be very valuable to Washington. As far as how he scored the 17 a game? 54% from the field, 44% from three point range, and 82% from the line.
Anderson won’t play the same role with Washington that he played at his CC. He almost certainly won’t start, won’t get all that many minutes. But, if his incredibly rugged and efficient stats at Moberly Area CC carry over at all to the Pac-12, whenever he does play, he can be expected to hit open jump shots, slash to the hoop (one of Washington’s biggest weaknesses on offense last year), and rebound much harder than the average guard.
To have a guy like that, who can be depended on to hit smart shots from anywhere on the floor, coming off of your bench is a huge asset, and it’s a luxury the Huskies simply didn’t have last year, when the bench was razor thin and almost completely devoid of scoring from the guard spot. In the same vein, from the post, is Perris Blackwell, who transferred last year from San Francisco, sat out the season, and will be able to contribute next year. If Moser spurns the Huskies, I think it’s likely he starts. But if Moser takes over at the four, having both Blackwell, a guy with soft hands and a great low-post game, and Anderson coming off the bench will go a long ways to fixing the issue of smart, fundamental basketball here at the University of Washington.