Darnell Gant Should be the 6th Man


Coming into the season the Huskies had plenty of questions that needed answering. At 5-5 they are starring their final non-conference game down seemingly without any answers and even more questions than they began with.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the team is who should start, and even more-so, who should be getting the most minutes in each game.

When Aziz N’Diaye went down, the #StartWroten movement went into full force, Lorenzo Romar had to fill in for N’Diaye in the starting line-up, and his options were either Desmond Simmons, or Wroten who had already shown he was ready for the role.

The four guard line up of Wroten, Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross plus Darnell Gant looked the part offensively against UC Santa Barbara, but on defense it was obvious that N’Diaye was a huge missing piece.

That same lineup got lit up by Nate Wolters and the Jack-Rabbits of South Dakota State, a game that the Huskies appeared to have no chance in, N’Diaye or not.

The big seven footer is expected to return to action against Cal State Northridge, and should be near 100% when Pac-12 play begins next week against Oregon State. There is no question that he’s going to find his way back into the starting lineup, but the question is, who will he replace?

Conventional wisdom may point to

Wroten, he was thrust into the starting role when N’Diaye went down, so with N’Diaye back he takes a seat. But with the way Wroten has been playing he may be impossible to sit. He scored 50 points in his two starts combined and against the Jack Rabbits he was the only bright spot for Washington.

Abdul Gaddy also will remain in the starting lineup because it’s clear he is the only Husky that can run the offense. He has an assist/turnover ratio near 3, and has also shown more explosiveness to the hoop in recent games. If one of the two point guards sits, it will be Wroten, not Gaddy, but I don’t see that happen.

Ross and Wilcox went silent scoring just 22 and 19 points respectively in the Huskies last two games combined. Still, they are the best shooters the Huskies have and two off games can’t wipe out what the pair did to start the season.

That leaves Darnell Gant, a player who has been in and out of the starting lineup throughout his career at Washington. The problem with Gant is that he doesn’t know what kind of player he wants to be, he’s caught in the middle of being an inside threat and a perimeter player, but doesn’t seem to do either very well offensively.

That hadn’t been much of a problem in the past for Gant because he’s been labeled as a role player, and he’s seemed to embrace that label. In years past he was an emotional leader who did all of the small things, he was nearly invisible on the court aside from his three-point shot he would make on occasion last season.

But that’s what made him a special player for Romar and the Huskies, he seemingly was happy just helping the team win. This year though that’s not the case, with him inserted into the starting lineup, he’s failing to do the small things, yet also not being productive on either end of the court.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen Gant put a weak, useless screen near the perimeter only to watch the ball handler dribble out and look for another option. Screens are part of fundamental basketball and somewhere in the last year Gant forgot how to do that.

Putting him on the bench would lower expectations, whether he expected a breakout season like Quincy Pondexter, or fans put the expectations on him, he clearly is pushing himself to do too much.

With Gant on the bench, the Huskies would have their most talented players starting each game, they lost some size, but the way Gant plays, his size isn’t much of a factor; in fact Wroten averages just .4 rebounds fewer than Gant per game.

Coming off the bench he could provide a veteran spark that the Huskies currently don’t have. First off the bench is Wroten when he doesn’t start, or Simmons, two players with plenty of spark and skill, but this Husky team appears to need something different. Gant could provide that, but only if he steps into the role player position on the bench.

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