Follow us:

Husky Men's Basketball

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

December 14, 2011 at 5:11 PM

Poll question: Who is the next Isaiah Thomas?

isaiah thomas salute.jpg
Beyond the statistics and the ‘Coldblooded’ clutch performance in the 2012 Pac-10 Tournament title game, Isaiah Thomas gave Washington an identity.
The Huskies embodied their former leader. They were tough and scrappy They hustled. Washington was dynamic on offense and relentless defensively.
Perhaps coach Lorenzo Romar put it best when he said: ” Isaiah was the guy that just had you convinced you had a chance to win I don’t care who you were playing against.”
Eight games into the season, the Huskies (4-4) are still looking for a leader like Thomas. Admittedly Romar is a little surprised someone hasn’t emerged and said there’s several candidates.
After losing four of the past five games and coming home riding a three-game losing streak, the Huskies are at an early crossroads. They’ll have a long week of practice to prepare for Friday’s game against UC Santa Barbara.
These were times when Thomas would do his best work behind the scenes. In the locker room, in practice and away from the court, he would be the galvanizing force that would bring the team together. He’d coin a phrase that became the team’s motto. He’d Twitter blast players and fans with Bible verses and motivational pick-me-ups. He’d interject fun into games with series of salutes, faux picture poses and raise-the-roof gestures.
Or he simply willed his team to wins and carried them to a NCAA tournament last season.
It remains to be seen who will be that person this season.
The Huskies have three co-captains (Darnell Gant, Abdul Gaddy and Scott Suggs, who is redshirting) and three underclassmen (C.J. Wilcox, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr.) who lead the team in scoring.
It’s a unique dynamic.
Also throw in the fact Suggs is redshirting this season and the situation is a little more unusual. As one UW player said: “You rarely see a senior choose to redshirt and come back another year.”
Suggs’ decision surprised some players who learned who was going to sit out due to a toe injury via Twitter.
Gant and Gaddy have the most experience, but Ross, Wilcox and Wroten are the early stars who have the ball in their hands and are being trusted to make good decisions at the end of games.
Romar is confident a leader will emerge. But who?

Who steps into Isaiah Thomas’ leadership role this season?

(Some players said they were intimidated by Duke. Does that surprise or disappoint you?) “When I said earlier in the year there would be some ups and downs with our team I don’t know if people believed me or not, but I felt those things might happen with our team. Maybe we wouldn’t have that on-the-floor chemistry yet. In the road games early, the big games, maybe we wouldn’t have that belief yet. And I say yet because I think we do now.
“I wouldn’t say it totally surprised me. It was a little disappointing. But again we’ve had guys that have played in NCAA tournament games, Pac-10 championships, but not many were the guys that were carrying us. C.J. and Terrence were phenomenal in teh Pac-10 Tournament last year. That was a three-game stretch. Neutral court. Game in and game out on the road. Tough times. I don’t know if anyone on this current team has been in that situation and been a leader in that situation. So we’re going through that now where we’re learning to do it. That’s why these games we played will probably really help us later on.”
(Is that one of the voids left by Thomas’ departure because he carried the burden of being the face of the team on and off the court?) “You can’t discount Justin Holiday and Matthew Bryan-Amaning either. And Venoy (Overton). Justin was in some big games and made some contributions. So did Matthew. So did Venoy. But Isaiah was the heart and soul. Isaiah was the guy that just had you convinced you had a chance to win I don’t care who you were playing against. When we play in the Pac-10 Tournament and he’s virtually the only guard and he has to play all but two minutes of a 120 and he doesn’t bat an eye, he just gets after it. He willed our team to win that tournament. Just willed it. Took it upon himself. Other guys helped. Other guys were all-Tournament, but it was Isaiah who just said get on my back, I’m going to take you there. That makes a difference.
“Players evolve into that. I think Isaiah felt that way when he was a freshman, but he wasn’t able to do it. He was able to do it last year.”
(Who is the IT this season?) “That remains to be seen. When he was a freshman, he wasn’t the IT we saw last year. In mind he was. He would try and he was stubborn, but the results weren’t always the results he had last year.”
(Eight games into the season, you surprised that person hasn’t stepped forward to assume that type of leadership?) “A little bit. But it will come up here pretty quickly.”
(What did you learn from Isaiah last season?)
“His will to win and his will to play hard. I felt like he was one of those guys who always had a chip on his shoulder and he always played to win. Sometimes he might not get is stats, but he’s out there and he’s really playing to win. He had some differences with certain people, but even if he had other things going on other than basketball, he always provided that spark to win.
“I feel like us as a team we need to try and take after that. He’s not here this year so we need somebody to fill that role.”
(Who’s doing that?) “I feel like Terrence is doing a real good job of talking about winning and also playing to win. I feel like he’s really stepped up and he’s doing things that I don’t think people really expected of him. I’ve noticed from the last few games that he really has a drive to win. He hates to lose too. When you have your leading scorer or second leading scorer and he’s on guys about we lost the games and other people are content, you kind of want to follow suit because he’s playing hard and he’s not just talking about it, he’s being out it. We want to get everybody like that.”
(The little things Thomas did like coming up with sayings and the behind-the-scenes things, how important was that?) “I feel like it does. I feel like we’ve gotten away from having fun. I don’t know. It’s tough to really pinpoint what it is. Isaiah had his things where he’d play to win and he’d come up with little things just to try to make it fun because we go through practices and we go through games sometimes we’d be stagnant. There woudn’t be any life. It was all of us. It wasn’t just him. It was all of us would try to come up with something new to spark something. Like when we lost those games to Oregon State and Wazzu, we tried to come up with something to get the fun back into it. Because as soon as say for instance we’re not hitting shots or we’re not doing a good job rebounding or we’re not getting back on defense the coaches get into it and they make everything harder. So when the coaches are on you and the fans are on you and the media is on you, it’s like everybody is against you so it’s like we’re all by ourselves so we got to come up with something to try to block all of that out and get back to what we do. We play the game to have fun and we love basketball. We’ve played it since we were little and I feel like it should never get to a point were it’s not fun.”
(Has that happened this season?) “I feel like we do need to come up with some things just to try to spark something. Those three losses aren’t the end of the world. Like the losses last year changed everything. We were first in the Pac-10 then we got three losses and we jumped straight to like fourth or fifth. These losses aren’t doing that to us. I’m not saying it’s the end of the world, but we want to get it turned around as quick as possible because the Pac-12 is right around the corner.”
(You’ve been here five years and you’re a captain do you feel comfortable doing those things that it takes to lead?) “I feel like I’ve been doing a bad job and letting other things get to me and then it affects how I interact with the team and on the court. I shouldn’t do that. I feel it will be a change in that. I can’t let my attitude stop me from talking on the floor or being an impact on defense and other things like that. I’ll make a change in that sense and I feel like I should be that guy. I’ve been here the longest and I shouldn’t let little things affect the bigger picture and what’s going on right now. I should help out a lot in that sense of being that spark plug.”

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


No personal attacks or insults, no hate speech, no profanity. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate this thread by reporting any abuse. See our Commenting FAQ.

The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only, and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►