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Husky Men's Basketball

The latest news and analysis on Husky men's hoops.

August 12, 2010 at 7:23 AM

Summer impressions: Taking a look at UW’s freshmen

Sorry for the absence. Resources are tight at the newspaper and I’m spending my time these days in Renton covering the Seahawks. It took me a few days to get up to speed on everyone’s favorite local NFL team, still I’ll try to post here more often. Once we roll into October, I’ll focus more attention on the UW basketball blog.
Despite being blitzed with football, I had a chance to stop by Montlake last week and check in on the Huskies for a couple of days when the guys were playing pickup games at Hec Ed.
It must be noted, making evaluations on guys during open gym is tricky. There’s very little structure in these games, the big guys often get ignored and the guards tend to dominate. I didn’t jot any notes down and there were several guys on the court that I didn’t recognize. And there were a few big names on the court as well, including: Jamal Crawford, Will Conroy, Quincy Pondexter and Ryan Appleby.
For the most part, the Huskies comprised two teams that played against each other and the veterans. It was fun watching the older guys go against the young guns, especially Abdul Gaddy vs. Conroy and Desmond Simmons against Pondexter.
Still, it’s a pickup game and no matter how intense things got at times, you had to believe the play would be different if there were officials on the floor, coaches on the sidelines, fans in the stands and something meaningful at stake other than pride.
With that being said, here’s some thoughts I had about the team. I’ll start with the incoming freshmen on scholarship today and get to the veterans later.


THE NEWCOMERS:
I really wanted to see the new guys, freshmen Terrence Ross and Simmons and JC transfer Aziz N’Diaye because I’d never seen them play before and YouTube highlights are very misleading.
ROSS: The 6-6, 190-pound guard is as advertised. He’s a gifted athlete, who is probably one of the most explosive dunkers on the team. Ross has a nose for the ball and he flushed quite a few tip jams in traffic, which shows he’s not adverse to going in the paint – at least against guys he knows aren’t going to knock him on his keester. He tends to get lost in the action at times and he didn’t create a lot of shots for himself or others either off the dribble or with the pass. When he gets the ball, it’s usually going up, which again is what happens in pickup games. Ross has a smooth three-pointer. It’s not automatic, but it’s a good-looking shot. As with most freshmen, his defense could use some work. He didn’t back down against the older UW players or NBA guys, but he didn’t shut anyone down either.
Ross has Division-1 talent, but it was obvious how much he needs to mature watching him play against Scott Suggs and C.J. Wilcox. We’ll address the older guys in more detail later, but it was difficult to not walk away impressed with both of them. Ross will have to compete against those guys for minutes next season and keep in mind, he hasn’t played organized basketball in over a year so he’s probably a little rusty working in the confines of a controlled offense.
With co-captain Justin Holiday likely returning as a starter at small forward and Suggs and Wilcox demanding minutes at shooting guard and small forward, it’s difficult to see a clear path to the floor for Ross. If coach Lorenzo Romar loses confidence in his big guys and goes with a small lineup, then Ross could contend for a starting job or a backup role. If the big guys step up, then Ross should think about redshirting.
SIMMONS: Again, the advance scouts were right about this guy. He has a motor that doesn’t stop. It’s amazing. Simmons gets a lot of points just because he’s active, gets his hands on loose balls and plays hard. He’s raw offensively, but he dribbles better than you’d expect and he’s able to take contact and still get off a decent shot. I didn’t see him take a shot outside 10 feet, which is good and bad. It’s good because it shows he knows his game and plays to his strength. It’s bad because he was playing in a pickup game for goodness sake. Shoot the ball. Simmons is a stout on-ball defender and an underrated shot-blocker because he has long arms. I can see him embarrassing some guys in practice.
During one game, Simmons paired against Pondexter and the freshman held his own. Simmons is longer and perhaps stronger, however, Pondexter peppered him with an array of offensive weapons, especially a mid-range jumper.
Still, Simmons can run the floor for a 6-7, 215-pounder. He’s a prototype Romar hybrid player who doesn’t seem to have a natural position. Going into the season, Simmons looks like a candidate to redshirt and that could be good for him and UW. But again, he’s going to embarrass some guys in practice and if the Darnell Gant and Tyreese Breshers don’t improve their rebounding, it’s conceivable Simmons could steal their minutes.
N’DIAYE: I heard several reports about the 7-footer and wanted to see him more than anyone else. Everything you hear about the guy is correct. He doesn’t look like a 7-footer and I mean that in a good way. Most big guys are strange-looking athletes because they’re so disproportionate. N’Diaye is one of the most graceful looking 7-footers you’ll ever see. He’s 260 pounds and the guy is ripped.
N’Diaye wore a brace on his right knee, but he doesn’t run with a limp and didn’t have any problems getting up and down the court. With the exception of Simmons, he was outrunning most big guys. And I’m not sure Simmons is really a big guy.
N’Diaye is a shot blocker, who made guys think twice about going inside. Crawford and Conroy proved he’s susceptible to pump fakes, but it was good to see he didn’t commit a lot of silly fouls. It was also good to see he is a quick second jumper. N’Diaye also keeps the ball above his shoulders and he wasn’t afraid to throw long outlet passes. Not sure if he’ll do that in real games, but in a pickup game it was impressive watching the big man snatch a rebound off the glass and throw it halfcourt to Gaddy.
In the games I saw, the guards had difficulty getting him the ball inside and his low-post offensive game is limited to an unblockable baby hook that looks a little different than Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s because he doesn’t fall away from the basket. Still, N’Diaye didn’t play a power game, which isn’t to say he didn’t flush his fair share of dunks and putback jams.
Even in a pickup game setting, it was easy to see N’Diaye carving out a significant role this season. He can be a game changer. He can be a starter, who sets the tone early, but sits while a three-guard lineup finishes the game. Or he could backup Bryan-Amaning and get quality minutes. I believe N’Diaye’s playing time will hinge on his effectiveness in Romar’s defensive system, which often causes players to switch and get matched up against different players. Lots of freshmen (ie Clarence Trent and Gaddy) struggled with their defensive assignments last season. If N’Diaye can be where he needs to be defensively and stay out of foul trouble, he should be able to successfully make the jump from junior college to Division I.
NOTES:
— Bryan-Amaning is being used sparingly for the Great Britain team that won 84-80 over Bosnia and Herzegovina and improved to 3-0 in Group B of the Eurobasket 2011 qualifying games. He did not play in the first game, logged just two minutes in the second game and Wednesday finished with two rebounds and zero points in two minutes.
— Romar concludes summer camps Saturday with the Elite camp for 9-12 graders. The camp is soldout.
THURSDAY MORNING LINKS:
— Oregon players are back on the court with coaches today. The Ducks are the first Pac-10 team to return practice because they’re playing six exhibition games this month in Italy. According to the Register-Guard, freshman guard Jonathan Loyd needs to bulk up before the start of the season.
— Oregon State got some good news this week when it learned UTEP transfer Eric Moreland will not have to sit out this season and will be immediately eligible, according to the Oregonian.
— Arizona is spending about $21,000 for a new floor design at McKale Center.
— On it’s pay site, ESPN is previewing the upcoming season and LaRue Cook, who writes for ESPN The Magazine, posted an item on Washington yesterday. In summary, the story says UW should be an Elite Eight team if it can overcome the loss of Pondexter. It quotes Romar about making sure roles are defined early in the season.
Anaylyst Jay Bilas tells UW fans to get over the loss of recruit Terrence Jones. Doug Gottlieb believes Ross should start right away. Not sure about that. And Joe Lunardi still believes Washington’s win over California in the Pac-10 Tournament was the only reason the Huskies made it to the NCAA Tourney. He says: “If the non-Pondexter Huskies can at least remain at their March level, Washington can again be on the right side of the bubble in 2011.” Wow.
Dime magazine listed it’s MVPs for each Pac-10 team and selected Isaiah Thomas for the Huskies. It’s a good list with the exception of the Arizona State choice. The magazine chose Jamelle McMillan over Ty Abbott, which is a mistake considering Abott is an early conference MVP candidate.

Comments | Topics: Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox, Scott Suggs

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