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December 9, 2009 at 11:50 AM

Abdul Gaddy: “I’m just trying not to think and just play”

abdul 2.JPG
Photo credit: AP PHOTO – Joe Nicholson
Don’t read too much into one outing, but Abdul Gaddy (above, right) played his first game with the Huskies last Sunday where he looked comfortable on the floor.
Even for a pass-first, playmaker like the UW freshman, it’s amazing how scoring points can boost one’s confidence. For Gaddy, who was scoreless in the two previous games, it was good to see the ball go in the basket.
He sank his first shot, a driving layup with 13:26 left in the first half, then appeared at ease running the offense.
Gaddy scored nine of his career-high 11 points in the first half. He sank 5 of 8 shots and finished with two assists and a block. He was credited with three turnovers, but two potential assists sailed off the hands of teammates who missed passes.
The only person who stopped Gaddy was Isaiah Thomas. While diving for a loose ball, they collided heads. More specific, Thomas’ tooth gashed Gaddy above his right eye. The cut required three stitches and kept him on the bench for several minutes.
The difference in Gaddy might be mental.
Teammates say he’s no longer consumed with comparisons with good friend Avery Bradley and former Franklin High standout Peyton Siva, who play at Texas and Louisville respectively.
Bradley is averaging 9.4 points and he’s dished out 13 assists while starting five of seven games for the No.2-ranked Longhorns (7-0). Siva is averaging 5.2 points with eight assists while coming off the bench in five games for the Cardinals (5-2).
Gaddy is averaging 5.3 points with 18 assists and one start in seven games.
Coach Lorenzo Romar believes Gaddy is adjusting to a new way of playing basketball.
After several weeks in an up-temp system where UW coaches are erasing his old habits and teaching him new techniques, Gaddy said he’s finally at a point where he’s able to just play without thinking about what he should be doing.
Also, he’s dealing with more responsibilities than ever before. He’s got two 20-point scorers (Quincy Pondexter and Thomas) that he has to keep happy with passes and he’s being asked to play ball-hawking defense, which wasn’t his forte in high school.
So with all of that going on, it’s no wonder the 17-year-old McDonald’s All-American hasn’t played up to some expectations. But all of that may be changing.
It’s also interesting to note Romar is impressed Gaddy hasn’t made a fuss about not starting. Romar said many high-profile freshman are given promises during the recruiting phase on everything from starting assignments to minutes. More on that below.

(Did the first shot Sunday make you feel more comfortable?) “I think it made me feel more comfortable out there. Just playing better defense. I think overall, I had one of my best games. I’m just trying to build off of that each game and get better.”

(What changed for you on Sunday?)
“I didn’t think that much or try to do too much. I think I just kind of played off of instincts and it helped me.
(Early in the season, were you thinking too much?) “I probably didn’t start doing everything off of instincts until I’d say the Montana game. Probably. Before that, I was just trying to do the right thing every time. But now, I’m just trying not to think and just play.”
(Will Abdul Gaddy’s 11-point outing Sunday spur him on to be more of an offensive threat?) “I think so. Whether he played like he did the other night or not … I’m not going to ask you to come back and say you said that was going to happen. You don’t need to do that. But it’s just a matter of time. I think Abdul’s maybe early struggles were for a good reason. He is concentrating on, when he closes out defensively, is his hand in the right place technique-wise like we teach. He wants to be so perfect in all areas, he has really been thinking out there. I think now he’s not thinking. He’s doing everything right without thinking. Because now habits have formed with him and beginning to form. And as a result I think his mind is just getting clearer. And the clearer his mind gets, the better he’s going to play. And his mind is getting clearer. I think he’s going to keep coming. I thought if he wouldn’t have gotten in foul trouble or if he would have played more in the Texas Tech game, he would have been fine.”
(So the stage hasn’t been too big for him?) “When you get guys like him who have played in the McDonald’s All-American game and these all-stars games. You got tons of college coaches, even pro scouts watching you and all of that. I don’t think that there’s too many stages that are too big. It’s not the stage as much as sometimes the game may be at a different level than you’ve ever played. Because I don’t care what game you’ve played in you’ve not played in a level of game where the intensity is on a certain level. And guys are so good defensively, there’s just not very many openings right away. And the people you’re defending, they’re coming off screens with guys that are 260 pounds as opposed to 180 pounds. Things like that make a difference in games as opposed to the stage, the hype of a game. The hype of a game, I don’t think that affects him at all.”
(Has the pace or size caused Gaddy to struggle?) “I think it goes back to I want to do things right. While I’m concentrating on doing things right, the ball’s in my hand and I’m supposed to shoot it. You can’t shoot like that. You can’t be a really good offensive player like that. You got be thinking about that ball is getting ready to get swung here. He’s thinking about okay I’m supposed to be the safety on defense. I’m supposed to rotate back. All of these things that he’s being asked to do now that maybe he wasn’t asked before, in my opinion that’s what not allowed him to get off to a better start. Because he’s thinking. There’s some that just say forget you coach, I’m going to just do my own thing. It catches up with them down the road because they haven’t developed good habits. With him, he’s getting it all right right now. I think that’s may be been the core of his struggles sometimes. Like I said, he’s picking it up now and I think that’s freeing his mind up to where that’s going to allow him to play better.”

(Is he picking up at the pace you expected?)
“I’ve been almost amazed at how important it is for him to do things right. To make sure that no I don’t want anything given to me. I’m going to get this right. Leave me alone. I’m going to get this right. Players with his stature nowadays, a lot of times want favors. Just throw me out there. I’ll be alright. It’s important for him to do things right. As he’s learning it, once he gets it, I’m talking about he’s going to get it. And there will be no looking back at that point.”

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