The Huskies face a daunting task in 2011-2012. They'll be replacing three key contributors from this season when seniors Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton and Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Those three players should earn upwards of 30 minutes each per game this season, meaning nearly half the teams playing time will be up for grabs next year. On top of that, Isaiah Thomas will almost certainly explore his NBA draft options, though the looming NBA lockout may leave him no choice but to return to college after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of this season. That's potentially 120 minutes or more a game that the Huskies must replace next season.
Regardless of Thomas' status next season, the Huskies should return one of the top backcourts in all of college basketball: Thomas, Gaddy, Suggs, Ross and Wilcox will all dominate the rotation, giving UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar plenty of options, but under the hoop is another story.
With Bryan–Amaning gone, Aziz N'Daiye is the obvious candidate to replace him, but even that is no sure thing giving his surgically repaired knee and the fact that he hasn't played a minute of D1 basketball yet. Darnell Gant will be a senior and Desmond Simmons has shown promise, but neither has done anything to claim the spot as of yet.
Coach Romar has refined his recruiting strategy over the years, and the 2011 class of players is further evidence of that.
Tony Wroten Jr. will arrive on campus next season the most celebrated recruit in the program's history. Wroten is a true "Lead Guard" in the same vein as Brandon Roy and Isaiah Thomas. Generally regarded as the top passer in his class, Wroten is truly a spectacular playmaker, dazzling with precise interior passes which utilize his stellar court vision. He's also a fearless scorer, though he displays just a mediocre jump-shot. He's at his best penetrating the lane, initiating contact and getting to the free-throw line. He also has immense potential as a defender, using his long arms and well muscled frame to defend all three guard positions. Standing nearly 6-foot-5, Wroten is a tower at the point guard spot, and that size and versatility should allow him to flourish at all three backcourt positions. He's expected to make an immediate impact in the rotation and could potentially challenge for a starting role.
Rainier Beach's Hikeem Stewart is a program building type of player. A model student-athlete, the six-foot-two-and-a-half combo guard is a highly-skilled athlete and potentially excellent defender. Though not a scorer in the purest sense, Stewart possesses a solid three-point stroke, and demonstrates great feel with the ball in his hands. Stewart is a fundamentally sound, all-around ball player and reputedly a quick learner whose recruiting stock shot through the roof during an impressive stretch of games this summer. With so much backcourt depth, Husky fans may have to wait a few seasons for Stewart to make his mark on the court.
Jernard Jarreau was a bit of a recruiting mystery when he announced he was choosing Washington after originally committing to VCU. Standing 6-foot-10 with extraordinarily long arms, Jarreau is a bit of a recruiting gamble with potentially high pay off. As a face-up combo forward, Jarreau envisions himself in the mold of Lamar Odom or Kevin Durant – a bit of a clichéd, over-used boast for tall players in the modern era of college basketball, but it may not be far from the truth. He certainly passes the look test, but weighing in at 195 pounds and built like Justin Holiday, Jarreau has some work to do on his body. His strength lays in his high skill level and guard-like instincts in transition, which could pay huge dividends in Washington's system – a system that prizes versatility in its bigs. Though more than likely, he'll need a couple of years of seasoning before he's ready to make consistent contributions, but don't discount the possibility of Jarreau carving out a spot in the rotation for himself given the current state of post depth in the program.
Andrew Andrews wanted to be a Husky, plain and simple. To make that happen, he volunteered to delay his college career a year and enroll in prep school next season, making him a 2012 recruit if needed. Romar confirmed Wednesday that Andrews will come in next year if a scholarship is available. Whether he's a 2011 or 2012 player, the unselfishness and character demonstrated in that decision should tell you plenty about the young man from Oregon. A tenacious point guard in the same mold as Will Conroy or Venoy Overton, Andrews is a fierce competitor with a passion for defense, though he's a gifted scorer in his own right. Like Stewart, he may not be a major contributor overnight, but with point guards at an absolute premium, Husky fans should be thrilled with Andrews' commitment.
The work isn't over for the UW Coaching staff on the 2011 recruiting class. The signed recruits don't address the Huskies biggest need next season which is to find a post player ready to contribute from day one. One option has already committed and his arrival isn't a question of if, but when. Former Todd Beamer star and soon-to-be Tacoma Community College sophomore Kevin Davis is an athletic 6-foot-9 power forward with pogo sticks for legs. Davis committed to the Huskies in the spring and is racing to earn his Associates Degree to order to become eligible with UW next fall. He's reportedly about a quarter behind after some of his credits from the College of Southern Idaho didn't transfer, but all indications are that he's planning on being at Washington when practice opens next fall.
But for the UW coaching staff to feel comfortable, they need to make a big splash with one of two stand-out prospects remaining in a woefully thin 2011 post class.
With Norvel Pelle having signed with St. John's over UW, another option for the Huskies is 6-foot-8 San Diego phenom Angelo Chol. Chol had favored the Huskies and his relationship with coach Romar until recently, when North Carolina entered the picture this past Spring. Like Pelle, Chol checks in at a lanky 6-foot-9 and possesses many of the same appealing traits as Pelle, but with a more polished back-to-the-basket game. The Huskies chances of landing Chol took a hit Wednesday when Cody Zeller spurned North Carolina for Indiana. The Tarheels are now expected to make Chol their top target, though he has indicated he'll wait until after his visits and sign during the spring.
There are others out there, though they're just developing. DeAndre Daniels is a legitimate blue chip forward who originally committed to Texas before changing his mind. Washington is thought to be a long shot, though they were recruiting him before his original commitment. The Husky coaching staff, especially coach Raphael Chillious, continue to scour the junior college ranks for potential hidden gems.
A quick jump ahead
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