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Husky Men's Basketball

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October 20, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Counting down the Huskies — No. 6 Darnell Gant

44 - Darnell Gant.jpg
Before Darnell Gant, coach Lorenzo Romar had never had a fifth-year senior in his 10 years at Washington. Think about that for a second. Gant has appeared in 105 games and will likely break Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s school record for most games played (136). He also started 34 games as a freshman and 11 in each of the past two seasons.
Gant checks in at No. 6 on our Washington countdown, which isn’t to suggest he’s not capable of being one of the team’s stars. He was voted co-captain and thrust into a leadership position. Whether that translates into more responsibilities on the court and individual success and postseason awards remains to be seen.
For the past three seasons, Gant has been a role player and an integral part of three teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament. With a return trip, Gant will make more history and become the first UW player to appear in four NCAA tournaments. (Scott Suggs would also share that distinction).
That would be one heckuva legacy to leave behind.
In addition, Gant hopes for a big senior season much like Quincy Pondexter and Justin Holiday. They made the jump from role players to prominent scorers. Gant averaged just 5.2 points last season. The Huskies are thin on veteran forwards and they’re hoping he also improves his rebounding. Last season, Gant averaged 3.8 boards.
A 6 foot 8, Gant is listed at 230 pounds. He bulked up this summer to withstand the rigors of playing in the paint, but admittedly rebounding isn’t one of his strengths. He’s a willing defender, but offensively he prefers to shoot from the perimeter. However, this summer he worked on post-up moves that includes a fadeaway jumper on the low block.
Gant has proven to be versatile on and off the court. The drama major appeared in a school production of Midsummer Night’s Dream last year. He’s also dabbled in music as a song writer, producer and rapper (below).

Here’s a transcript of a recent interview with Gant.


(What would it mean to you be the first Washington player to make four straight NCAA tournament appearances?) “It would be a big milestone in my career. I feel like that will be real important. It’s important to me. It’s important to Scott. I feel like it’s something big. Nobody has ever done it and it would be in the books as we’re the only two to ever do it. So it’s something big.”
(What do you want your UW legacy to be?) “I don’t know. Just a hard worker I guess. Just a guy that does the little things. A guy that’s respectful. A great teammate as well as a great player for the coaches that I’ve had.”
(What do you remember from your first year at Washington?) “Just a lot of hard practices. Going up against Jon (Brockman), Quincy (Pondexter) and JD (Justin Dentmon). It was just tougher back then. The practices were a lot more intense. Just going from my high school practices and to jump right in there, it was a big test to how much you cared about basketball because back then it was kind of tough. It really challenged you mentally.”
(So practices were tougher a few years ago then they are now?) “Yeah. It was more so because I was a freshman. Now I know what to expect. I’m familiar with it so it’s easier for me. But when you don’t know and you’re going at the rate, it’s real hard because you’re tired and they expect so much of you. You’re trying to go as hard as you can, but sometimes you just don’t have it.”
(No player can say they’ve spent five years under Romar. What has it been like?) “As far as me and Romar, we have a different type of a relationship so it’s been cool for the most part. I feel like we’re real close. He was close to my late grandfather (Earlie Hill). Ever since he’s been gone, I feel like Romar has stepped up a little bit in trying to make sure everything is good with me. He’s always kept it real with me so I don’t really have no problems with him.”
(Romar said you could probably run practice. Is that true?) “I feel like I could. I know everything. I’ve been here long enough. [Laughs] I feel I could. I probably won’t be as strict as he is. Yeah I could probably do it.”
(Ever regret redshirting?) “No. It was just hard to watch the three that I came in with go through Senior Night and to not be here now. That’s the only part that I don’t like about it. I don’t have any regrets about redshirting. I feel like that was the best opportunity for me.”
(It sounds like you miss the guys from that Class of 2007.) “Yeah I do. Justin is over in Belgium, Matt is over in Turkey and Venoy is out doing his thing. To go through a year and to know I don’t have the guys that I came in with – my main dudes – it’s kind of hard. And then Isaiah (Thomas) is gone too. They were kind of a big part of my getting with the team. So now everybody is gone and I’m alone. I feel like Quincy did his senior year, but not as bad because I still got Scott so I’m good.”
(What has your career been like to this point?) “A lot of ups and downs. Things that I wanted to happen, didn’t happen. And a lot of things that did happen, I’m glad it happened. I just feel like everything works out and everything happens for a reason. I’m happy with the success we’ve had as a team the past three years. I’m glad to be a part of it. My name is in the books right now and it’ll be there forever. And I still got one more year to do some things.”
(Is role player a dirty word?) “No. I feel like it’s not. Like any other freshman I’m sure they didn’t come in wanting to be a role player or wanting to have that title, but I embraced it. But me and Isaiah always say the Lakers have glorified role players. Role players that if they went to another team they would kill. And that’s what I need to be with this team. I need to be great at the job that I have to do.”
(What did you learn from Brockman, Pondexter and Thomas?) “With Jon he used to teach me little things as far as rebounding. Little tricks to boxing out and there’s certain times when you can hit a guy and not get called for it. Just little stuff like that. How to be mentally tough. With Quincy I couldn’t really tell you what I learned from him. He’s a different type of dude. He get’s his point across though. He works hard and he wants to win. He taught me how to want it a lot, but as far as him being like Jon and Isaiah, he didn’t really teach me that much. That’s not taking anything away from him, that’s just how I feel personally. And then Isaiah, he teaches you how to be a warrior. He wants you to have that killer mindset all the time. If I don’t shoot the ball or if I don’t do something, he’s mad at me because you got to be aggressive at all times. That’s the only way you can make things happen is if you’re aggressive.”
(Who is the best player you’ve ever played with?) “Isaiah.”
(Describe your leadership style?) “I don’t know. Like I said earlier, since I know everything it makes it easier for me to point out to guys what they need to do or help guys where they’re struggling. I’ve been here long enough and I know everything. Or mostly everything. Plus I know what they’re going through and what they’re going to go through. So I feel like me as the leader of the team, guys look up to me in that role. I make it easier on the coaches to where they can get frustrated too. It never said in any handbook or anything that a player can’t teach other players what they need to do. Coaches don’t have to make so much of an emphasis to get their point across.”
(Who does of the talking between you, Gaddy and Suggs?) “I feel like it’s neck and neck between me and Abdul and then Scott is right after that.”
(Did you gain weight?) “Yes. I’m around 228. Between 228 and 232. I’m going to try to keep that and maintain that for this next month. I’ll see what I can do with that. Hopefully I can do what I need to do. When (Seattle University coach Cameron Dollar) was here he always told me if I was playing at 225, just mark my words good things will happen. So we’ll see. In past years, I’ve always been able to gain weight in the offseason and when the season comes I lose it. So what I’m really doing is focusing on keeping my weight up and making sure it stays to where it needs to be at.”
(Why did you put on the pounds?) “Just because it would be easier for me to play. It’s weird when Dollar used to tell me about my weight, it usually came true. During the season when I wasn’t really rebounding like I was supposed to, I started going to (strength coach Matt Ludwig) and on road trips I started lifting extra. And get an extra lift when we were at home. After games, I’d lift. I would do things like that and get in the weight room with him. Towards the end of the season, I was around 220 and I had a goal to get back to 225 by the end of Pac-10 and I did. At that time is when I started rebounding more. People weren’t knocking me around like they usually do. So I feel like if I maintain the weight that they always wanted me to be at, then I’ll feel like I’ll be a little better player.”
(What’s the difference in your game now than it was a few years ago?) “I’m more aggressive. I look for my shot more. I’m more vocal. My athleticism went up a little bit. Just rebounding more. I try to stay on the boards as much as I can. I know that rebounding is not my strongest point, but I try to make the effort to be an opportunity rebounder.”
(What’s an opportunity rebounder?) “Like when I know if I can get to it on the offensive glass, then I’ll try my best to get it. If I can’t, then I just won’t get it that time. Just making the effort to try and rebound and picking my spots.”
(How will you guys replace Matthew Brian-Amaning?) “It’s hard. We got some talented bigs this year and as a whole we can kind of fill that void. We got different kind of weapons. I shoot from the outside. Desmond (Simmons) also shoots from the outside, but he also has a quick first step. Aziz (N’Diaye) has worked on his inside game so we can go to him in the post if we need to. Martin (Breunig) is a face-up four-man. He can drive and he’s athletic around the rim. Jernard (Jarreau) can handle the ball like a guard. We got a bunch of weapons. Like I said you can’t replace Matt with one player, but we have to collectively do it.”
(You went from a guy who didn’t attempt a three-pointer in two years to someone who made 18 of 48 last season. How did you develop your outside shot?) “I just put it on myself to being not really scared, but stop worried about what the coaches were saying. They gave me the green light and they wanted me to work on it in the offseason, but that wasn’t like something new to me. When I go home and I’m playing in the offseason, I’m always shooting threes. But I just didn’t shoot them in the game. It’s like a thing where Romar says if you’re not making them, then you don’t shoot them. Then I would get a mental block and I’d start missing a bunch even though I know I can make them. I got it to where in the summer time I’m shooting them in front of them. I’m shooting them when I’m working out so when it came to the game it was like really nothing. I’m comfortable with it. I’ve always shot them. So when it came to shooting them in a game, it came back to me being comfortable and me being confident.”
(So what did you work on this past summer?) “The low block. Picking and popping. Like you’ll see me this year to where I’ll pick and pop, but if somebody close out to me I’ll take them down low and back them in and make a play like that.”
(Who has surprised you the most of the newcomers?)Tony (Wroten Jr.). I think Tony has surprised me the most. He’s more athletic than I thought he was. He’s a better defender than I thought he was. He does a lot. He gets a lot done. And I’m anxious to see what he does when the season comes around. I feel like he can have a great year.”
(Who has surprised you the most of the vets?) “Dez and Aziz. I think Dez has really worked hard in the offseason and Aziz changed his shot for the better as far as free throw purposes. And he’s gotten better scoring on the block. He’s more demanding of the ball and finishing better. He’s kind of vocal. He’s a winner. He tries to win everything. If he loses, he’s upset. And I’m real impressed with the way he’s come back over the summer time.”
(You’ve always been a Simmons fan haven’t you? It’s like you’ve taken him under your wing from Day 1.) “Yeah with Dez and Aziz are my guys. I feel like I have to. When we go to the gym, it’s always either me, Dez and Gaddy or me, Dez and Scott or me, Aziz and Dez. Why just work on my game myself when I can get my teammate and get the same amount of work in. That’s selfish. I got to look out for somebody else instead of just looking out for myself.”
(What does your team need to do to be successful?) “We need to be persistent and be hungry. Be hungry and be smart. If we’re hungry and smart and come to play every game then we’ll be fine.”

Comments | Topics: Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs, top 25

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