Looking ahead to 2012

Now that the final touches have been put on one of the most difficult coaching jobs in his nine year tenure at Washington, Lorenzo Romar will go about preparing his squad for next season and filling in the holes left by his three departing seniors.

The distractions for this past season were numerous, but the three biggest curve balls that came Romar's way were the retirement of power forward Tyreece Breshers, the season-ending knee injury to Abdul Gaddy, and the off-court investigation of Venoy Overton.

"I don't know I've ever had a year like this one," said Romar in retrospect.

"So much went on, at times it was difficult to keep focused."

Breshers would've probably vied for a starting role and would've given the Huskies some bulk inside. The 6-6 Barkley-esque Breshers was at home on the glass and used his deceptive jumping ability and timing to block shots from men much taller than he. His retirement forced Aziz N'Daiye to play about twice as many minutes that the staff had envisioned for the raw Senegal native.

N'Daiye did develop but it was pretty clear that his offensive post presence is nowhere near Pac-10 level yet, and that should not have come as a shock because he was supposed to be learning the ropes from the sidelines a lot more, rather than getting tossed into the fray like he was.

Gaddy, the smooth sophomore from Tacoma, was playing exceptional basketball before he tore his ACL. His outside shot was falling, he was second on the team in assists, his three-point shot was going in over 40% of the time, and his foul shooting was over 80%. He had really found his place on this team and when he went down, although Isaiah Thomas stepped in admirably, there was a drop off in overall depth. Also, Romar could no longer utilize the calming effect that Gaddy brought to the line up. The half-court sets became more difficult to run without him.

And Overton, while he fought through soreness in his knee, became a shell of his former self. He further complicated his role on the team when he made decisions away from the court that led to an investigation that was extremely distracting to the entire program. It lingered and it definitely affected the focus of the team. Distraction is never a good thing for a sporting team.

The other thing is, Overton just wasn't the same effective defensive stopper until near the end of the season.

Still, given these obstacles, Lorenzo Romar and his staff got his kids to focus and play hard for three straight nights in Los Angeles and win the tournament, as well as advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament with a win over a Georgia team that had a win over Kentucky on its resume.

Given the season that just transpired, it's time to look ahead to next year. It will be a different looking squad as Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday, and Venoy Overton will all graduate and have exhausted all of their eligibility.

MBA averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds per game. He was inconsistent but on the nights he showed up, he was huge. Washington doesn't really have an inside post player of his caliber to replace him with, so there will need to be a different approach to the paint next year. He also blocked over 1.5 shots per game and for the most part played solid post defense.

Holiday started the year on fire, as his shot was falling, he was leading the team in steals, and he was grabbing solid boards along with playing the best man-defense on the team. As the Pac-10 season began to unfold, unfortunately the likeable team captain began to struggle mightily, as his shot abandoned him. He wound up averaging just over 10 points and five boards, but it is his defensive prowess that will be missed the most.

Overton, when he was on, was a serious on-ball defender and had the ability to speed up a game and make the opponents play faster than they were comfortable with. However his effectiveness was largely a non-factor this year.

So how will Romar address the holes in his roster? He has options and while he may be missing one piece to the puzzle, the rest of the pieces are more than exciting to look forward to.

POINT GUARD:

Junior Abdul Gaddy will be fully recovered from his injury and should regain his hold over the point guard position. At 6-3, Gaddy is a difficult guy to defend and if he shoots the way he was shooting early last year, he will bring a devastating weapon to the line up. He can create his shot well and drives to the hoop with good force. Expect Gaddy to play about 20 minutes per game average and I would expect him to be around 10 points per contest with about 5 assists.
Senior Isaiah Thomas will relieve Gaddy at the point for about 10 minutes per game. When Gaddy is sitting, Thomas will do what he did this year, and that is distribute the ball to the shooters, and penetrate zones to either get to the rim and finish or to dish to either the wings or to the paint.
Freshman Tony Wroten will play the other 10 minutes at the point. Wroten is about 6-5 with a long wing span. He actually played post on defense for the Garfield Bulldogs because of his ability to block shots and contest anything entering the lane. He will be a very difficult match up for the other team's point guard. And Wroten's biggest asset is how well he sees the court. His passing abilities are going to blow Husky fans away. He isn't an outside sharp shooter but the Huskies have plenty of those without "The Tone" needing to fill it up on his unorthodox jumper. However he can slash to the hole extremely well and elevate and finish. He is so quick in terms of foot speed and getting off the floor.

OFF GUARD:

Isaiah Thomas will play probably 15 minutes here. He is actually at his best at the two because he doesn't have so many responsibilities. He is freer to run around and find space without the ball so Gaddy can find him in good places. He also rebounds extremely well from the two-guard position. His shot was starting to come up short last year because of the fatigue that comes with playing 35 minutes per contest and running the point in addition to leading the team in scoring. In 2011, he can slide back over to the two for the majority of his minutes and use the time to focus more on scoring. I would expect him to average closer to 18 points per game next year.
Sophomore C.J. Wilcox will pick up probably 15 minutes at the two guard position. When he's in his role is to score, find open spaces on the court and release that beautiful jumper. He is a solid defender both on the ball and in the zone, and he is the same height as Wroten so these guys will present match-up problems for the other teams' guards. Wilcox is good at creating his shot and not just a one-dimensional three-shot specialist. I would expect Wilcox to average about 10 points per game.
Senior Scott Suggs will play 5 minute stretches in this role as well. He is an outstanding shooter in transition. In terms of catch and shoot guys, Suggs is the best on the team. He, too, has turned himself into a solid defender as well in both the zone and man-to-man schemes. On nights when Suggs is hot, expect his minutes at the two-guard spot to increase.
Tony Wroten will probably pick up the other 5 minutes in the two-guard role. He reminds me of Kendal Gill in that he isn't necessarily the best shooter but he can find his way to the basket and score. He will be a nice change of pace to the shooters Wilcox and Suggs. Wroten is much more explosive and has the ability to create with his amazing court vision. He will contribute probably 6 points per contest in his role here.

SWING FORWARD

Sophomore Terrence Ross will pick up probably 15 minutes at the "three" position. He is Washington's best offensive threat in terms of looking to get to the hole and score. He takes an aggressive approach and can create his shot because of his jumping ability. He gets off the floor quickly and extremely high. Ross is capable at carrying his team offensively for stretches of time, and hopefully will be more consistent with his scoring in 2012. In a perfect scenario, Ross should average about 15 points per game and should be the second leading scorer behind Thomas. He is going to get a lot more chances to score now with Holiday gone. Ross will need to grab about six boards per contest as well.
Scott Suggs will get 15 minutes in this role. He is capable of scoring, and should find it easier to get his shot off when he's at the three. 8 points per game off the bench is where he should be and hopefully he will grab a few rebounds as well.
C.J. Wilcox will pick up 5 of the minutes at this position to give Ross some rest.
Tony Wroten will get the other 5 minutes at the three position and Romar will use it to utilize speed mismatches, to speed up the game, and to use Wroten's passing ability. He will run the team from the three much like Brandon Roy did when he was at Washington.

POWER FORWARD

Senior Darnell Gant will play 20 minutes at the power forward position, a significant increase in his minutes from last year. Gant really blossomed at the end of the year and proved that he is capable of grabbing the tough rebounds and playing tough low post defense. His stroke gained a lot more consistency last year, as he was the third best three-point shooter behind Wilcox and Ross. Expect him to grab closer to 6 boards per game and if he can add 8 points while doing so, this team will be difficult.
Terrence Ross will play 5 of the minutes at power forward as well. When the Huskies go small, Ross will move to the four. He will give bigger players fits with his explosiveness. He is becoming more and more of a solid rebounder.
Freshman Desmond Simmons will pick up the rest of the 15 minutes at the power forward position. Simmons game is all based around his tireless approach to defense. He basically does whatever you need done. He dives for loose balls, he defends on the ball with tenacity, and he can grab rebounds in traffic. His shot looks good in practice but I'm not sure he'll be asked to score a great deal. Rebounding and defense will be what earns him his minutes.

POST

Junior Aziz N'Daiye will be expected to play significantly more minutes in 2011, but his role will largely be the same. He will need to play tough post defense, grab about 9 rebounds per game, and challenge anything that comes his way through the paint. If he averages 6 points per game, that will be fine. Those should come on put backs and dunks off of feeds from Thomas and Gaddy. Aziz will likely play 25 minutes per game next year, all of it in the post.
Darnell Gant will spell Aziz in the post for about 10 minutes per game, but his role will still be the same – rebound, play tough post defense, and knock down the open shot when it's there.
The other five minutes in the post will likely come from someone that is currently not on the roster. I would put my guess on either JC transfer Kevin Davis, a 6-10 raw post player at Tacoma Community College, or Jernard Jarreau an incoming freshman from Louisiana. Jarreau is rail thin but he is a legitimate 6-10. He could spell N'Daiye for short periods of time and play the middle of the zone defense pretty well with his long arms.

Thus the totals for each player would be as follows:

Thomas: 25 minutes, 18 points per game, 4 assists, 4 boards.
Gaddy: 20 minutes, 10 points per game, 6 assists, 4 boards.
Ross: 20 minutes, 15 points per game, 6 boards.
Gant: 30 minutes, 8 points per game, 6 boards
N'Daiye: 25 minutes, 6 points per game, 8 boards
Wilcox: 20 minutes, 10 points per game.
Suggs: 20 minutes, 8 points per game, 4 boards.
Wroten: 20 minutes, 9 points per game, 4 assists, 4 boards.
Simmons: 15 minutes, 5 boards per game.


That leaves about a five minute hole that must be filled up by either Davis, Jarreau, or someone that we have not heard about yet.

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