Caught up with junior forward Darnell Gant (far right) last week after the San Francisco game when he was removed from the starting lineup and replaced with senior Matthew Bryan-Amaning.
Gant started the first nine games and was demoted because coach Lorenzo Romar wanted to improve UW’s rebounding, which has never been Gant’s specialty. The 6-foot-8, 225-pounder averages 2.9 rebounds during his three-year career and 3.0 this season. His season high is five.
While Gant’s rebounding numbers have plateaued, he’s dramatically improved his shooting on the perimeter. In his first two season, Gant didn’t attempt a three-pointer. This season, he’s converted nine of 15 attempts behind the arc. His 60.0 percent three-point accuracy leads the Huskies.
Gant has also increased his scoring average from 2.5 points per game to 6.3.
It’s not as if he’s disappeared from the rotation. He’s entered the past two games in the first half, but has played 10 and 14 minutes.
Romar says Gant’s knowledge of Washington’s system is invaluable. Gant started 34 games as a freshman, 11 as a sophomore and has played 35 games in both seasons.
Gant redshirted as a freshman and if returns next season, he’ll be the first fifth-year senior Romar has had at Washington.
(How are you adjusting to your new role?) “I don’t know. I can’t really answer that. I just got – just like in the past – take it how it is and focus and be with the team as much as I can. And when they need me or whatever needs to be done, go out there and try my best to do it.”
(We talked before the season about your summer workouts and how you worked with Justin Holiday and improved your three-point shot. You improved in that area, but did you take a step back in the rebounding department?)
“I really couldn’t tell you. It’s hard to explain. I worked on everything. I even worked on rebounding this summer. It’s just something I have to get better at. And that time needs to come fast. I’m working on it, but I really couldn’t tell you exactly what it is. It’s just got to come. But I’m working on it.”
(Is rebounding something that comes natural to you?) “I thought it came natural, but the stats show it’s not as natural as I would think. Whatever it is, I just got to find a way. That’s the bottom line. Just find a way to get them. Track them down and be that guy. It’s not like I’m thinking I’m a 30-plus guy or I’m the go-to guy and I need to have the ball. I know I can do some things, but rebounding is what’s needed and that’s what I’ve been lacking and that’s what the team’s been lacking so it makes it look a whole lot worse. So I just need to find a way.”
(No one is suggesting we’ve seen the last of Darnell Gant so how do you stay focused?) “I’m not comparing myself to this person, but I see it like Nate Robinson when he went to the Celtics. When they were in the playoffs, they didn’t use him at all or they barely used him. But for him to come in and hit those shots and do what he was doing at the end of the (postseason) that means he was working on his game that whole time. And that’s what I got do. Keep working on my game. Keep working on everything I need to work on in practice like rebounding, crashing the board and playing defense hard guarding the perimeter guy. Just everything. And I got a feeling it’s going to all click. Before the end of the season it will all click for me. I just got to stay after it and have faith and keep my mind focused. I lose focus at times. I wear my heart on my sleeve and when something is bothering me people can tell. I have to channel my emotions and keep working hard.”