Beach's Bits - MBA

SEATTLE - It's been a long road for senior center Matthew Bryan-Amaning, but after a roller-coaster three-and-a-half years, the stars have finally aligned. During the first four weeks of Pac-10 play, the London, England native has emerged as one the top post players in the conference and a dark horse candidate to challenge teammate Isaiah Thomas for Pac-10 Player of the Year honors.

Bryan-Amaning's breakout season didn't start out that way. A disappointing Maui Invitational performance marred his first month of play. A chance at redemption against Texas A&M went by the wayside. Last season's brilliant second half of conference play suddenly seemed like a distant memory. Maui was particularly frustrating for the long-armed forward, averaging just 10 points and four rebounds a game, and he was subsequently benched in favor of Aziz N'Diaye upon returning home.

But while a lesser player might have mailed it in, Bryan-Amaning re-dedicated himself to improving, and four games later returned to the starting lineup. The shuffled lineup paired Bryan-Amaning with defensive standout N'Daiye, and he flourished with the additional freedom created by the seven footer's presence around the hoop.

To open conference play, Bryan-Amaning surged out of the gates, earning himself Pac-10 Player of the Week honors during the Huskies' opening weekend sweep of UCLA and Southern Cal. Though USC's Nikola Vucevic appears to be the king of Pac-10 posts, Byran-Amaning isn't far behind, ranking fifth in scoring and second in rebounding. Not surprisingly, he's also tied for second in blocked shots, averaging 1.2 swats per game. A momentary letdown against Stanford notwithstanding, he's been a rock of consistency as the Huskies have vaulted to the top of the Pac-10 standings.

Thursday night's Seattle showdown between Pac-10 leaders Washington and Arizona pitted Bryan-Amaning against Wildcats' star Derrick Williams. Regarded as one of the top NBA prospects in the country, Williams has put up some eye-popping numbers so far in his second season. The former recruiting afterthought is considered a leading candidate to win Pac-10 Player of the Year honors, along with UW's Thomas and Washington State's Klay Thompson. But are his numbers really that much better than MBA's?

Consider that Williams' 20.8 per game scoring average bests Bryan-Amaning's by three points a game, but Bryan-Amaning is averaging nearly two more rebounds per contest. Williams is also averaging three times as many turnovers per game. Now Williams is shooting a ridiculous 73.7 from the field during conference play, but MBA's defense is vastly superior to Williams in just about every way imaginable.

To be fair, Bryan-Amaning clearly benefits from the phenomenal skills of point guard Thomas – a luxury Williams doesn't have.

No disrespect intended toward Williams, and he clearly deserves the notoriety he receives - but the gap between him and Bryan-Amaning isn't really there. Most Pac-10 analysts would lead you to believe Williams has only Thomas and Thompson to worry about when it comes to talking about the best players in the conference; the facts, however, paint a much different picture.

Ironically, MBA's seemingly effortless skills around the basket are occasionally overlooked next to long the long shadow cast by Thomas, especially since the junior guard just became the first Husky ever to ever post back-to-back games with double-digits in assists. But he and Thomas, along with senior co-captain Justin Holiday, make up the deadliest trio of players in the Pac-10 since Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson roamed the court at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley.

As his career at Washington begins to wind down, Bryan-Amaning is finally living up to his vast potential, and the Washington basketball program is better for it. Hopefully by the end of the season, he's properly talked about in the discussion of the league's best players. Top Stories