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Husky Men's Basketball

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October 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Andrew Andrews ready to lead UW back to NCAA tourney

Nigel Williams-Goss (left) and Andrew Andrews were named Washington co-captains. (Photo credit: Dean Rutz - Seattle Times)

Nigel Williams-Goss (left) and Andrew Andrews were named Washington co-captains. (Photo credit: Dean Rutz – Seattle Times)

Washington begins practice Friday with a three-day retreat to Lewis & Clark College in Portland, which officially begins the 2014-15 season. Per NCAA rules, the Huskies get 30 practices over the next 42 days before Nov. 14 opener against South Carolina State at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Several questions surround the Huskies, but perhaps the most important is who is going to lead?

It’s inaccurate to suggest the reason for Washington’s three-year NCAA tournament drought is tied to the absence of a dynamic on-court leader. Many factors, including the bizarre circumstances in 2011-12, the loss of NBA talent and mediocre recruiting, contributed to the recent struggles.

However, there’s no doubt Washington has been looking for a fiery, vocal leader since Isaiah Thomas put the Huskies on his shoulders and carried them to a Pac-10 Tournament title and the NCAA tournament in 2011.

Over the next three seasons, the captains were Abdul Gaddy, Darnell Gant, Scott Suggs (2011-12), Gaddy and Suggs (2012-13) and Perris Blackwell and C.J. Wilcox (2013-14).

This season, junior guard Andrew Andrews and sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss are the captains.

They’re the face of the team who were splashed on college basketball magazine covers previewing the upcoming season. Andrews represented Washington on the Pac-12 all-star team that visited China in August while Williams-Goss will participate in Pac-12 media day Oct. 23.

Williams-Goss (13.4 points per game) and Andrews (12.3) are the two leading returning scorers on a team that compiled a 17-15 record last season and finished tied for eighth (9-9) in the Pac-12. Senior wing Mike Anderson is the only other UW player who started at least 10 games last season.

Had a chance to catchup with Andrews last week and we talked about a litany of topics, including his leadership skills and qualifications.

Here’s the transcript of the Q&A.

(Tell me about the trip to China? Did you grow as a player or was it just a few practices and games during the summer?) “It was little bit of both. I had the experience to go to Africa and I don’t think a trip for me could be better than that. But to go to China and experience the culture and the way they do things and the way they live, it was definitely another eye-opening experience for me. It was just fun actually just being around the guys. Learning about new players and new coaching staffs. So yeah, I enjoyed myself.”

(I’m guessing it was the first team-oriented experience for you since high school. What was that like?) “It was kind of easy for me to transition to it because I’ve known DaVonte (Lacy) for a long time. Me and him kind of took on that new team aspect together. We were roommates for practically the whole trip. As far as bonding with other players, we kind of did it together. So once we were together (as a team) it made it a lot easier. We bonded like quick. The first bus ride is always a little shaky. You’re trying to figure out who knows who? But all the guys were cool. We actually made a pretty good connection.”

(What’s your impression of Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak who led the all-star team?) “Cool coach. Real laid back. He’s kind of how Utah plays. Real disciplined. Real structured. Utah represents him really well.”

(What did he ask of you?) “Just to do what I do best. A lot of times he was telling me to attack the basket. Anytime I got it in transition to push it in transition. Just to be a basketball player.”

(Were you trying to get much out of the games or did you know you were going to win? I guess I’m asking, how was the competition?) “It was up and down. The last game was against the Shanghai Sharks and they were pretty good. That’s Yao Ming’s team. We were down a lot in the first couple of games through the first couple of quarters. And some of them we were down 7-8 points. I can’t really tell about the competition besides the last game. I know they were pretty good. But the other two teams were alright, but we ended up pulling away.”

(Did you have a similar role as what you have at UW?) “I think a similar role. A lot of the guys they were looking for me, but on the all-star team everyone is good. I felt like I took the same role. When it was time to get a bucket, they would look at me to get a bucket. Same with a lot of guys like (Colorado’s Xavier Johnson), DaVonte and guys that put up numbers. I remember (Arizona State’s) Bo (Barnes) had a really big game where he was knocking down every three-pointer. With an all-star team, you kind of go with who’s hot or who’s in a rhythm so that’s what they did. So I was a recipient of that and a lot of other guys as well.

(Did you get a little bit of a scouting report on some of the guys you’ll be facing this season?) “Yeah. Right when I came back I think (Lorenzo) Romar called me and I was like we’re good. We ran Utah’s sets so I have Utah’s plays in the back of my head so I know if Coach K ever reads this he’ll probably have some adjustments. But I was making that a point of emphasis when I learned we were running Utah’s plays I made it a point to remember them as best I could.”

(And also the players? I’m guessing there’s going to be a time when you’re matched against Barnes. And obviously you know Lacy.) “Utah had three players. They had Jeremy Olsen, Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor so yeah definitely. And those are three of their corps guys besides (Delon) Wright.”

(What type of player is Loveridge?) “He’s a bruiser. He’s always going to try hard. Even though he was with his coaching staff he still went out and played really hard. He didn’t expect anything to be given to him because it’s Utah’s coaching staff and they know him. He went out and practiced hard.”

(How was your summer?) “I had a real good summer. I went back home after China and was working out hard every day. Doing a lot of conditioning. I’m probably in the best shape of my life. Or that I’ve been since being in college. The China trip actually helped me because I wasn’t eating so I lost a little bit of weight. Probably a little bit of muscle too, but it got me in better shape because I’ve been running a lot. I felt lighter. Got my bounce back so I’m happy with the summer.”

(How would describe the role?) “Obviously a bigger role than I played my sophomore year. We had our scorer with C.J. (Wilcox) so I would say I was probably that second guy. If we needed a spark or we needed some buckets I was that guy that they’d go to. I think I had a fairly good role. I think this year I’m going to have to step up my role a little bit more and take C.J.’s position as far as being one of the go-to guys. I know me and Nigel are going to be a terrific backcourt this year. I feel it. I think that’s going to be big for us.”

(If I had to critique one thing about your game I would say your perimeter game needs to improve. Fair or unfair?) “Yeah. Definitely.”

(Did you do anything in that regards this summer?) “It’s actually funny. My routine this summer and in fact every year I go to to this gym in Portland called Shoot 360. It’s like a little local business. It’s a gym and it has a whole bunch of (shooting) guns that’s spaced out around the court. So I’d go there and I would shoot about 200-300 shots everyday. Some day try to make 500 shots. I just tried to work on shooting the same shot because I know a lot of times my mid-range game, I have no problems shooting that. And then when I step out, I kind of just waver a little bit from shooting differently. I don’t know why it is because in the summer I shoot the ball really well. I’m hoping that changes this year as far as shooting in a game. But it all comes down to hard work and practice.”

(It really is an interesting shot isn’t it? Knowing that maybe you’ll get 1-3 three-point attempts in a game and being able to hit a high percentage is extremely valuable.) “It really is. It’s a game-changer. If someone knows you’re a knock-down shooter and you’re going to make that open three, it makes it that much harder to guard your drive because they’re worried about you shooting. So any little thing you do. That’s why it was so much fun to watch C.J. play because everyone knows he can come in the gym and shoot from anywhere. But you don’t know what he’s going to do because he can pull up or go to the lane. Once I get in my arsenal, I’ll be really tough to deal with.”

(I would say the book on you says, don’t let him get into the lane.) “Yeah. Actually me and Romar have talked about that a lot. Especially when coach (Jim) Shaw was here, me and him would talk about that as well. Once I get to the point where I’m just knocking down my shot consistently like the last seven games (last season). I think I was shooting over 40 percent and scoring 17 points a game. It makes it that much easier for you to get into a rhythm and keep players off balance and help the team out even more.”

(What does it take to make the transition from role player to star? Obviously you haven’t done it at UW, but maybe you did it in high school or AAU.) “It takes hard work. Doing stuff in the gym when nobody is in there. Being a leader everyday on and off the court. I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing this summer. I’ve been trying to prepare myself. I’ve been talking to C.J. about preparation. Trying to play with older guys who are a lot stronger than me, a lot faster than me when I was back home. I know Jamal (Crawford) has been talking to me a little about stuff like that. And honestly just pushing each other. We got a good group of guys this year and we’re all hungry for more and a better opportunity this season.”

(And then what does it take to go from role player  to a leader? It’s no easy thing because you have to deal with so much more than just basketball and your game. You got to do stuff like this talking to the media more often and representing your team.) “It’s funny because I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Just trying to be perfect. Even though nobody is perfect and you can’t be perfect. But you have to try and live everyday perfectly just because you’re that role model on the team. I know this year, me and Jernard (Jarreau) were talking about it. We’re old now. We’re the old guys on the team. And we were laughing at Darnell Gant when he was a senior and they were saying he’s the old guy. You just have to everyday in practice push yourself and show everybody that you’re willing to do what it takes. That’s the main part. I really don’t focus too much as you know on the media or how I’m portrayed or stuff like who’s the face of the team and that means he has to do this or that. All I care about is my team knows that I’m there for them and I try to show them that every day by working hard.”

(To that end, you’ll be the guy that has to speak for the team and other guys. And that’s something you never really had to do before.) “That’s the good thing about being a Husky because we’re so tight-knit as a family in this basketball organization and even in Seattle in general. Spencer (Hawes) has been coming to open gym. Spencer has been talking to me. I’ve been talking to C.J. and Abdul (Gaddy). All the people that have been through it, they’ve been talking to me and helping through everything and figuring everything out. Romar has been helping me as well. It’s a learning process and I’m taking it as it comes.”

(How would you describe your leadership style?) “I’m definitely a vocal guy. I try to lead by example, but I’m also one of those guys that if I see you slacking then I’m going to call you out on it. That’s why I have to stay on top of everything that I do because if I’m slacking then I can’t be the guy to call somebody out. But man this year they’re making it easy on everybody. They’re making it easy on the coaching staff. Everybody has had a good summer. Everybody is here to work. Even though I was named captain, there’s a lot of dudes on this team that lead. There’s a lot of dudes from Mike Anderson all the way down to Jahmel Taylor. Jernard, he’s coming off of ACL surgery, and he’s leading. Everybody is pitching in. So although I might be named captain, I look at everybody as a captain because one person can’t do it by themselves.”

(Any other captains?) “Nigel. So it’s me and Nigel as the captains this year.”

(Practice starts soon.) “I’m excited.”

(What are you expecting?) “As far as practice goes, I’m just expecting everybody to come out here and work hard. I think we have a real good group of guys. I feel like if we put it all out on the court, we should have a fun year.”

(Do you have a sense what type of team you got. I know you haven’t gotten with the coaches as a group, but you’ve been around the guys this summer.) “It’s all speed. Going up and down. Flying around. Just going back to the old way basketball used to be played at the University of Washington. Last year we had Mike running at the four. This year he’ll be put in a position where he can get the ball and do things in transition. The same with Darin (Johnson) and a lot of other guys. Where we just get it and go. We have a lot of players who can play under the rim now with Shawn (Kemp Jr.) and Robert (Upshaw) and Jernard. So it should be fun basketball to watch.”

(Defensively what do you guys look like?) “Long. Long and big. I was looking at our roster and besides Jahmel I’m the littlest player on the team and I consider myself a big guard in the Pac-12 so that’s saying something.”

(If I’m remembering correctly, a problem last year was perimeter defense and keeping guys in front of you. How is that coming?) “It’s been good. We’ve been doing a lot of defensive sequences in our drills these last couple of individuals where we were keying in on those factors about keeping our hands off. We have this drill that we do called ball up. The emphasis is to pressure the ball when it’s above their head, but when they bring it down we have to be back off with our hands up and not press. It should help us stop getting those reaching fouls and making contact with our hands first.”

(What do you want to see over the next few weeks in camp?) “Just continuous effort. Like I said so far everybody has been doing great and I think that’s going to continue. As long as we’re pushing ourselves I think the sky is the limit.”

 

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