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Husky Men's Basketball

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

March 25, 2011 at 3:38 PM

2010-11 recap: The Juniors

We continue our recap of the 2010-11 season and take a look at Washington’s juniors.
They accounted for 35.7 percent of UW’s points and two players appeared in every game this season.
Next season this class has a chance to make four straight trips the NCAA tournament, which would be a first at Washington.

thomas on the floor vs georgia.JPG
Photo credit: Getty Images – Streeter Lecka
Isaiah Thomas: On the floor. That’s how I’ll remember Washington’s 5-foot-9 dynamo this season because he was always diving, falling or tumbling to the hardwood.
Whether it being knocked down when his last-second potential game-winner was blocked at Texas A&M. Or collapsing in exhaustion at midcourt after the game when he carried the Huskies to a Pac-10 Tournament championship. Or missing a steal and landing hard on his back during the final play against Georgia.
Thomas knows floor burns and bruises.
And yet he averaged more minutes (31.9) than anyone on the team. Along with Justin Holiday, Thomas was one of two players who started every game.
Where would the Huskies be without their junior co-captain? He started the season at shooting guard and accepted a supporting role early on while teammates emerged as scoring threats. Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Holiday led UW in points in the first two games. Thomas didn’t quibble. He said he was happy with winning.
He peppered Virginia with 7-of-11 shooting, including three three-pointers, but struggled with his jumper (8 for 25 combined) against Kentucky and Michigan State. He also struggled defensively to contain opposing guards during the UK and MSU games.
The Maui Invitational was a microcosm of Thomas’ inconsistent nonconference season for UW’s junior co-captain. He played many roles for the Huskies. He collected a career high five steals against Eastern Washington. He hauled in a season-best eight rebounds against Portland. At Texas A&M, he committed six turnovers while shooting 2 of 7 from the floor. The final seconds of the game embodied Thomas’ early-season highs and lows. Trailing 63-62He swiped the ball away from an A&M player with four seconds left, but his long jumper barely made it out of his hands when an Aggies defender swatted the attempt just after it left his hands.
Thomas didn’t dwell on the setbacks. When Abdul Gaddy suffered a season-ending knee injury, he slid into the point guard role and thrived as a playmaker.
During a three-game stretch at California and at home against Arizona and Arizona State, Thomas was amazing. He averaged 22.7 points, 10.3 assists, 5.3 rebounds, two steals and 35 minutes.
At the time, many believed Thomas was a national Player of the Year candidate.
Thomas received some criticism during UW’s three-game losing streak largely because he shot 4 of 17 on three-pointers during the stretch.
Being the team’s most vocal leader, he also accepted the blame for a 2-3 regular-season finish.
As good as Thomas was in the three games against Cal, Arizona and ASU midseason, he was better in the three Pac-10 Tournament games. He averaged 19.6 points, 10 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 41 minutes.
Thomas starred in the biggest UW play of the season, when he drained a step-back jumper at the buzzer in overtime to win the tournament championship game.
He was solid, but not spectacular in the NCAA tournament averaging 15.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.0 steals.
Thomas ranks sixth on UW’s all-time scoring list and if he returns, plays a full season and maintains his career scoring average, he’ll shatter Chris Welp’s 2,073 points record. Thomas was vague on whether he’d come back for his senior year after the North Carolina loss, but said via Twitter that he plans to return.
Thomas is a volume shooter, but needs to improve his jumper. He’s got to consistently drain the mid-ranger shots and better last season’s 71.9 percent free throw accuracy.
It will be interesting to see how he handles returning to shooting guard next season and sharing point guard minutes with Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten Jr.
scott suggs drives.JPG
Scott Suggs: The junior sharp-shooter has come a long ways since the days following his freshman year when he played in just 18 games and considered transferring. After 2 1/2 years, Suggs finally got a chance to start and he made the most of the opportunity. He’s established himself as one of the best three-point shooters in the Pac-10. He ranks second in the conference shooting 44.8 percent behind the arc.
Suggs also set career highs in every meaningful category this season. Still it wasn’t a breakout year for the 6-6 guard who essentially missed four games late in the season because of a sprained MCL. It was more of a glimpse of his potential.
He dropped 12 and 18 points at Washington State and Oregon State in consecutive games, which was impressive because Suggs had never scored in double figures on the road. He fouled out against Stanford, which was meaningful because Suggs had never fouled out before. When Venoy Overton was suspended, Suggs was forced to handle the ball in short stints. It didn’t go well. But that too was a learning moment.
“I need to improve my ball handling,” he said after the season.
And he’s correct. Suggs has to develop beyond the spot-up shooter role, which he’s shown he can handle. The Huskies need him to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He’s done it a few times particularly on short dribble drives from the wing.
It would be nice if Suggs improved as a rebounder. His career average is 1.3 and last season it was 1.9. That’s somewhat of a misleading statistic because often Suggs was perimeter player responsible for defending against the fast break when the shot went up.
Perhaps the biggest area where Suggs needs to improve is drawing fouls. Inexplicably he’s taken just 17 free throws this season, which is the fewest among the players in the rotation.
Being a fourth-year player will make Suggs a better defender because he knows where he’s supposed to be in the defense and he’s pretty good at anticipating. His steal in and dunk in the first half against North Carolina is a good example.
Romar said Suggs can make a big leap next season.
gant ok.JPG
Photo credit: Getty Images – Kevin C. Cox
Darnell Gant: The 6-8 forward follows Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s foot steps in the sense that the UW coaching staff will attempt to transform him into a low-post, back-to-the-basket player the way they did Bryan-Amaning.
Gant appears willing. He saying all the right things. He wants to do the dirty work in the post. He committed to becoming a better rebounder and in the three of the last four games he collected at least six boards. His defense beneath the glass has improved and given minutes, he promises better results.
Still relying on Gant in the post is a risky proposition because he has the body of a small forward. He weighs 225 pounds and he’s never averaged more than 18.7 minutes per game. It’s asking a lot to expect him to defend post players who outweigh by 30 pounds while playing 28 minutes.
Still Gant is durable. He’s the only UW Husky who has not missed a game in the past three seasons.
Gant has the ability to draw bigger defenders away from the rim because he can knock down an open jumper. To his credit, he became a three-point threat last offseason. Before his junior year, he hadn’t taken a three-pointer. Last season, he connected on 16 of 45 (35.6 percent).
Gant won’t be the next Bryan-Amaning, but he can have an impact similar to Pondexter. He’s taller than Pondexter and he already has a better outside shot than Pondexter did heading into his senior year.
brendan shoots.JPG
Brendan Sherrer: It’s now or never for the walk-on forward. He spent the first year learning the system and in the offseason improved his body and conditioning. It wasn’t enough to warrant meaningful minutes in a game, but he almost entered his first game before halftime at USC.
The Huskies need a big man who can throw his body around, defend, rebound and score a little bit. There’s an opening on the rotation. Sherrer has plenty of practice experience. He’s only appeared in 23 games and played a total of 48 minutes. He has four rebounds and eight points in his career.
It’s a tall order, but it would be a nice story if the former Dawg Pack member could carve out a significant role next season.

Comments | Topics: Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs


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