Washington will still be lengthy and skilled next season, though it will have prominent holes to fill once again.
Gone is its only back-to-the-basket scoring option, Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Two of its best defenders, Justin Holiday and Venoy Overton, are finished. Holidays overall presence and ability to defend multiple positions will be a large void.
Coming in is headstrong freshman Tony Wroten and a couple other pieces. Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar said he will be in pursuit of another big man in the offseason. This is the time he was able to find and bring in Aziz NDiaye last season.
Lets look at the roster and take a stab at what the lineup could look like next year:
What was expected: Gaddys sophomore season was going to be an uptick from his uneven freshman go. Gaddy needed to improve his shooting percentage, defense and
confidence. The hype surrounding his recruiting ranking prior to coming to Washington made many forget his age at the time (17) and led to harsh assessment of his ability.
What we saw: Gaddy as a much-improved shooter and better defender. Then he was hurt at the start of January when he tore his left ACL in practice. The influence of his injury trickled though the team in a variety of ways, affecting depth, chemistry and calm.
Whats next: After spending most of the year rehabilitating the torn ACL in his left knee, the junior to be expects to be back to 100 percent by the fall. Since Im not in a rush they are going to take the longest time they can and make sure Im in the best shape so I dont hurt it again at all, Gaddy told Sportspress Northwest. Im going to take as long as I can so I can get it back 100 percent. I dont want to rush it. Gaddy will be part of a swarm of perimeter players for the Huskies next season. Will he be able to push back into the starting lineup? Probably not at first.
What was expected: That NDiayes seven feet of height would help plug the lane and defend. His offense would be limited. There were concerns about whether or not
NDiaye could make the leap to the Pac-10 level from junior college. He was also coming off knee surgery.
What we saw: NDiaye was not fazed by circumstance. He played aggressively and well during the biggest games of the season versus Kentucky and in the NCAA Tournament against North Carolina. Intimidated he was not. His offense was very limited. Free-throw shooting and ability to stay out of foul trouble was poor. His shot-blocking, help defense and willingness to play hard all were excellent.
Whats next: NDiaye needs to improve his skills and explosiveness. Romar said Tuesday that NDiayes knees bothered him throughout the season. NDiaye would be much better off attempting to dunk many of his in-close attempts. Former Huskies Spencer Hawes, Detlef Schrempf and Jon Brockman will likely work with NDiaye over the summer. At the very least, he will have mastery of Washingtons system. He sure isnt going to shrink.
What was expected: Gant would be a quality defender, come off the bench to provide
some rebounding, and show something new in his game.
What we saw: Just that. Gant had a couple epic help blocks this season, the one against Arizonas Derrick Williams in the Pac-10 tournament comes to mind, and added three-point range to his game. After zero three-point attempts combined in his first two seasons, Gant made 18-of-48 in his redshirt junior season, 37.5 percent. He increased his scoring, rebounding, playing time, free-throw percentage and blocks. He also continued to be an outstanding teammate.
Whats next: Romar said Tuesday Gant will have an opportunity next season to make an impact on a much higher level than he has in years past. Always a role player, Gant will have a shot as a senior to be a key part of a team. He expects to work on his back-to-the-basket game as well as his shooting. Romar said Gant can still get stronger. He will also be an interesting half of the pick-and-roll with Isaiah Thomas since Gant has the leaping and roll ability of Bryan-Amaning, but also jump shooting range Bryan-Amaning did not.
What was expected: Thomas to score a bunch, lead the team, be an All-Pac-10 player.
What we saw: All of that and more. His ability to run the point after Gaddys injury kept
the team afloat. If he wasnt such a do-it-all guard, that injury could have sent the team into a tailspin.
Whats next: Breaking the school scoring record. Thomas is fourth on the all-time list with 1,721 points. If he duplicates this season in 2012, Thomas will finish with 2,316 points, well ahead of Chris Welps record of 2,073. Thomas trails Welp, Jon Brockman (1,805) and Bob Houbregs (1,774) in scoring. It would be nice to see Thomas be more effective with his midrange, pull-up game. Defenses toward the end of the year built a wall in the lane to keep him out. He needs to find a way to score without getting all the way to the rim. Well see the moon blocked out by leaping cows before we see Thomas leave early for the NBA.
What we saw: Simmons redshirted because of a slow recovery from knee surgery.
Whats next: The 6-foot-7 Simmons will likely find a spot in the rotation much the way Gant did in his early days. Simmons should understand the Washington defensive system by this point. Romar calls Simmons the most aggressive rebounder on the Washington roster this past year, despite the injury. His minutes will likely be limited.
What was expected: A junior coming into the season, Suggs was in line to be part of the
rotation at the loaded wing spot. His defense needed to improve, and his shooting needed to remain efficient.
What we saw: Both of those things at a higher level than expected. Suggs showed a much better understanding of the overall defensive principles at Washington. He also shot a hearty 45 percent from behind the three-point line. Suggs, quietly, has moved into ninth on Washingtons all-time list for made three-pointers. His 45 percent shooting also was fifth best in the history of Washington. It was the highest percentage of anyone who attempted 100 or more three-pointers in Husky history.
Whats next: Improving all-around game. Suggs drove to the basket on occasion in 2011, supplementing his shooting. He needs to get stronger overall and be stronger with the ball. His assist-to-turnover ratio needs to rise above even. His rebounding needs to improve, too.
What was expected: Little beyond some shooting. Wilcox was a thin freshman coming
off a redshirt year.
What we saw: Stunning displays of shooting, above-average athleticism, calm and confidence for a freshman. Wilcoxs 24-point half against UCLA saved Washingtons behind in that game. It also kept them afloat for an at-large tournament bid it would not need. His shot did lose its accuracy at times. He also dropped in confidence at different points in the season. Those things are to be expected in a freshman season.
Whats next: Even better scoring, defense. Wilcox is very capable of putting the ball down for a dribble or two after a pump fake. The loss against North Carolina was a good example of what he will face much of next season. North Carolina began to close Wilcox very hard as the game went on. As a result, he had to wind around some traffic. Added strength and weight will only help him.
What was expected: That he would be able to talk about Terrence Jones.
What we saw: An explosive scorer who earned the nickname T-Buckets in some circles, namely this one. Ross athleticism was stunning. He also showed he enjoys shooting the ball, sometimes not from the best spots. His defense was lacking throughout the season. In the opening game of the Pac-10 season at USC, Ross was the key in the win. He was also a monster against North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament, proving once again his ability to put a bad performance behind him. He was scoreless in his first tournament game, then took it to North Carolina just two days later.
Whats next: More strength, a better understanding of defense, better rebounding. Ross can score. Thats that. But he needs to be able to defend other premier players much better. His leaping ability should make five rebounds a game an expectation. It would would also be nice to see Ross drive the ball more in order to shoot more free throws. His ability to post smaller guards, something that is comfortable for him and is not for every guard, will make him Washingtons largest scoring threat in the post next season.
Expected incoming freshmen
A big, versatile guard who has the frame to be an excellent defender but perhaps not the disposition. Wroten will have to dispatch many of the histrionics that accompanied his game in high school in order to fit in with the Huskies. For the first time in his life, he will need to fit in around others, not the other way around. Tony Wroten is a phenomenal talent. At the high school level, hes the best passer that Ive seen all year, Romar said Tuesday.
Very thin and 6-10, Jarreau was lightly compared to North Carolinas John Henson by Romar. If hes near that, he could be a substantial help to Washington. Jarreau played as a guard most of his life prior to bolting up to 6-10 in high school.
I cant wait for him to get here, Romar said. I cant wait for him to get into practice because he could be the one who could surprise a lot of people, for two reasons: Mainly people have not seen him play, and, secondly, we didnt beat out Kentucky and North Carolina to get him. The assumption could be, well he must not be that good. That could be the furthest thing from the truth. Again, I always bring up C.J. Wilcox. Hes from Pleasant Grove, Utah. People hadnt seen him play, they just assumed that he was just OK. Well, they didnt know what they were talking about.
Stewart is another local guard who will have hard time cracking the rotation. Has a smooth game. Could be on his way to redshirting, though Romar said Tuesday no redshirt thoughts are expressed prior to the new year for obvious reasons.
Hikeem Stewart is a heady player and good athlete. We have a lot of guards. Hell be given an opportunity, like the others. Hes a guy that will come in and I know hell compete.
The 6-9 forward playing at Tacoma Community College has given Washington a verbal commitment. Well see if it gives one to him.
Hes likely off to prep school.
Projected starting five and rotation
Romar will have a a challenge on his hands dealing with playing time next season. It will likely reflect the 2011 season. Romar will have the ability to go small or next seasons version of big. Options are available, from playing Ross at the power forward spot to playing him at shooting guard. If Jarreaus skill level is to be believed he could play a small forward spot. That could make Washington 6-10, 6-8 (Gant) and 7-0 (NDiaye) across the frontline, the same size as North Carolina, though with less skill. That lineup could even be complimented by Wroten at 6-5 as the point guard and Ross at 6-6 as the shooting guard. That would be quite a combination to play 2-3 zone with.
Right now, the guess is Thomas starts as the point guard. This is mostly because of Gaddys injury. That would allow Gaddy time to work the rust off and get back into playing shape. He wont be playing basketball again until August.
Remember, Gant is a mere inch shorter than Bryan-Amaning and the young wings are the same size as Justin Holiday. Since Bryan-Amaning was strictly a post player, a bit of a misnomer is developing in regard to Washingtons loss of size from this season to next. It will still be very tall and long. Its also in pursuit of another big man, just like last season when it landed NDiaye.
Expect a lot of minutes for a lot of people and for Romar to follow his typical pattern of leaving the hot hand on the floor.
Just about seven months until tip-off.