Had a chance to spend a few minutes with Hikeem Stewart before Tuesday’s practice.
The freshman guard replaces C.J. Wilcox (hip) in the lineup. It’s a major drop off from a statistical perspective. Wilcox is averaging 15.5 points per game, which ranks fifth in the Pac-12 while Stewart has scored seven points total this season.
However, the Huskies believe they will need the 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard while Wilcox is out.
And quite frankly, there’s few viable options.
There are many reasons to explain why the Huskies are lacking experienced reserves.
Over the past two years, Elston Turner Jr. (Texas A&M) and Clarence Trent (Seattle University) transferred, once-promising forward Tyreese Breshers retired due to a medical condition and last season’s star Isaiah Thomas declared early for the NBA draft.
Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau – two freshman – are redshirting this season.
Two freshmen forwards Shawn Kemp Jr., who was out of basketball the previous two years, had a slow start due to conditioning issues while Martin Breunig has struggled defensively.
The Huskies were counting on senior guard Scott Suggs before he broke his toe and chose to redshirt.
Senior forward Darnell Gant had 13 points Sunday against Washington State and did all of the scoring off the bench. Kemp and Breunig both logged just one minute.
Stewart played a career-high 10 minutes and finished with an assist. The Huskies aren’t expecting him to contribute a whole lot offensively, but they don’t want him to be a liability on the defensive end.
Coach Lorenzo Romar: “Hikeem Stewart came in and played 10 minutes, but those were quality 10 minutes in that No. 1 he went out there and was fine playing and was relaxed play. Secondly, it allowed us to give a few guys a few minutes rest.”
Junior guard Abdul Gaddy: “I tell him to just keep your confidence and go out there and play. He’s going to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. He can make plays. He’s athletic. He does things that can help the team. He’s really an athletic player. He can knock down open shots. He can guard full court. It’s really his athleticism that really helps because he can pick up full court.”
Gant: “He needs to be solid on defense and make sure he knows the scout. And knows what our principles are and try not to make too many defensive errors. If he does that then he’ll be solid and he’ll make up that space that we need until C.J. gets back.
HERE’S A TRANSCRIPT TO AN INTERVIEW WITH STEWART:
(What was your mindset before Sunday’s game?) “I hadn’t played in a couple of games and I was just trying to get a feel for things. I was like I’m going to work myself back in and get comfortable with everybody. Help guys get open shots. I wasn’t nervous or anything.”
(Is this what you had in mind when you chose not to redshirt?) “I knew I wasn’t going to come in right off the bat and get 30 minutes or anything. It’s hard for any freshman to do that. You got to be an outstanding freshman like Tony (Wroten Jr.) to do that. I was thinking keep getting better. Keep learning everything and eventually my chance will come. Something is going to happen. Either foul trouble or something else.”
(Are you able to get better if you’re not playing many minutes?) “I think I’m doing real good learning the system. I’ve been struggling with my shot. I haven’t struggled like this ever, but I’ve been staying positive. Working on my game. I feel that I’m doing good, but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”
(When you’re out there, how can you be effective?) “Since my shot isn’t falling, I’ve picked up on the defensive end figuring you play defense that will keep me on the court. I just started taking out all of my aggression on the defensive end and make it harder for the offense to score and it’s paid off. That’s what I try to pride myself with right now. Even though I am a shooter and a slasher, my shots aren’t falling right now. And I’m going to do whatever it takes to get on the court and help my team win so right now it’s focusing on defense.”
(It’s unfair, but can you replace Wilcox?) “Wow. (Laughs) He’s probably one of the best shooters in the country. I’m a great shooter, but my shots off right now so I have to affect the game in different ways.”