Beach's Bits - Four Scenarios

The tumultuous 2012 Washington basketball season came to an unexpected end Tuesday evening in New York City. Post-game, the attention immediately shifted to next season and the fate of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, Jr. Normally a team losing just one senior (Darnell Gant) doesn't face much uncertainty heading into the off-season, however the Huskies face several potential lineup scenarios.

Both Ross and Wroten are projected to be taken in the latter half of the first round of the NBA draft, and their decisions will significantly influence the Huskies' trajectory next season. The good news however, is that regardless of what both players decide, the Huskies should contend for a conference championship again starting this fall.

Though they've yet to sign a recruit for 2012, Washington will add three noteworthy players, all of whom are expected to impact the rotation immediately. The anticipated return of senior Scott Suggs, who sat out this past season after a foot injury, will give the Huskies a big immediate lift. Suggs was Washington's most consistent shooter during the 2010-2011 season, and though injuries have somewhat diminished his impact during his UW career the Husky coaching staff is quite bullish on the former Missouri Mr. Basketball. Washington will also welcome the services of redshirt freshmen Andrew Andrews and forward Jernard Jarreau, a lanky 6-foot-10 combo forward who has drawn comparisons to a poor man's Kevin Durant. Fellow redshirt freshman Andrews joins the team as a taller, more athletic Justin Dentmon-type. He's perhaps the most underrated guard prospect on west coast, and he is expected to make an immediate impact on the rotation.

To be clear, odds are both players will declare for the NBA draft, but the Huskies still have plenty in the tank if that were to happen.

The scenarios:

Least likely - Both Ross and Wroten return.

However unlikely it may be, the scenario that leaves Husky fans salivating would be the return of both players. Were that to happen, the Huskies could enter next season as a top-10 team with the most talented back court in the country. The depth alone would probably necessitate a four guard starting lineup, with either Suggs or sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox coming off the bench. As unfathomable as it seems, Washington would boast four or five all conference guards. In some ways, this group would look more like the Husky teams of old and should be able to effectively utilize full court defensive pressure while constantly rotating fresh legs. The Huskies lack of front court scoring would be negated by the collective firepower on the perimeter.

Outlook: This is the team Husky fans have been waiting for: A legitimate Final Four contender with the talent, experience, athleticism and depth to match up with any team in the country. They'll still struggle scoring on the blocks, but with a back court full of capable double-digit scorers, it shouldn't matter. A challenging non-conference schedule and the new ESPN TV deal would keep the Huskies in the national spotlight all season long and the program's exposure would soar. Don't get your hopes up, though.

Less Likely - Ross returns, Wroten leaves.

If Ross returns, the Huskies' lineup will demonstrate a more traditional look and would be a force to be reckoned with. A one-two-three scoring punch of Ross, Wilcox and Suggs would be more than any team in the Pac-12 could handle, as the Huskies drain jumpers from every corner of the floor. Senior point guard Abdul Gaddy would act as a true facilitator, using the dribble drive to draw defenders and kicking it to open Huskies from outside. Ross' return also means the Huskies get their top rebounder back, though rebounding isn't expected to be a concern next season. The Dawgs might not start a four guard lineup, but it's hard to imagine any scenario where the three high octane wings are off the court for long. This is perhaps the most enticing defensive squad as well.

Outlook: With Ross back, the Huskies would still likely enter the season a top 15-20 team - maybe higher. He's an NBA caliber shot-maker, and players like that don't come around very often. His presence would potentially give the Huskies the Pac-12's most dominating offensive player since Brandon Roy.

A Little More Likely - Ross departs, Wroten stays.

While Wroten is immensely talented, he's far from a finished product and would greatly benefit from another season at Washington. Were Wroten to return, his presence vaults the Huskies into the national picture, assuming his game matures. UW's back court depth concerns would evaporate and he would alleviate much of the scoring pressure placed on Wilcox and Suggs. Wroten adds a true one-on-one scoring threat – quite possibly the only such player capable of doing that in the Pac-12 on a regular basis. With a year of seasoning under his belt, it isn't hard to imagine what a Husky team with a more mature Tony Wroten might be able to accomplish.

Bottom Line: Wroten's performance in the NIT exposed his flaws. He needs to show that he can still persevere even when he's not getting calls. As long as he commits to improving his defense and free throws, develops a jump shot and refines his decision-making, he's a huge asset for a team that needs a proven scorer. He also cements the Huskies' status as the top team in the Pac-12 once again. Defensively, the team could struggle if he doesn't dedicate himself toward being a stopper. Washington's inconsistent effort and defensive focus were the single biggest contributing factor to their struggles this season, and we could see more of the same. While they may not be an obvious Final Four team, expectations of a deep NCAA Tournament run wouldn't be unreasonable.

Most Likely - Both Ross and Wroten depart for the NBA draft.

While Husky fans may dread the thought of losing both their stars, the Huskies won't be nearly as hamstrung as one might think. First and foremost, they'll go from one off the youngest lineups in the conference to the oldest. A starting lineup of Gaddy, Wilcox, Suggs, Desmond Simmons and Aziz N'Diaye, would give Washington 21 years of combined college basketball experience, and while they may not possess the flair Husky fans are accustomed to, that lineup would be much more precise and fundamentally grounded than we've witnessed since Roy's senior season.

Out of necessity, Gaddy would have to take a more aggressive approach to scoring, though that's probably going to happen anyways. A healthy Wilcox would be the Huskies' primary scoring option, while Suggs - a dynamite scorer in his own right - will serve in that role as well.

Obviously N'Diaye remains the incumbent starter at center, but it was painfully clear that the Huskies would need more offensive productivity out of the post. N'Diaye's size and physicality affords head coach Lorenzo Romar some interesting options at the second forward spot, which should be wide open heading into their pre-season trip to China. Six-foot-eight sophomore Martin Breunig may be Washington's most dynamic athlete at the position, and his excellent three point stroke will draw defenders out of the paint and give the Huskies quality shooters at four positions.

Jarreau is perhaps the most intriguing young player. The Louisiana native grew six inches between his high school junior and senior seasons, yet retained his guard skills. He features a ridiculously long wingspan which could create mismatches at both ends of the floor.

After a promising freshman campaign, Simmons will be one of the Huskies' most effective rebounders and versatile defenders. Center Shawn Kemp was a welcome surprise this season, earning valuable minutes backing up the foul prone N'Diaye. And then there's always Austin Seferian-Jenkins, if he chooses to play basketball again after his sophomore campaign playing tight end for the football team.

Washington's backcourt reserves are a bigger question mark. Andrews features potent offensive skills and deep range, but will need to demonstrate discipline and he's a complete unknown on the defensive end. Former Rainier Beach guard Hikeem Stewart features balanced skills, but has to prove he's ready to contribute at a high level consistently. He's still probably a year away from meaningful contributions.

The Rub: With no players yet signed for the 2012 recruiting class, the Huskies will enter next season with just 10 scholarship players as of today if Ross and Wroten both declare. In reality, they need another wing capable of shouldering a decent scoring load and earning at least 20 minutes a night - and they might try and sign two. Gaddy can't play 40 minutes a game, which means the Huskies need 5-10 minutes of solid point guard contributions from Andrews or Stewart.

Suggs and Wilcox will shoulder heavy scoring loads after spending their careers as secondary scoring options, and both have been beset by recent injuries.

While the Huskies have promising options in the frontcourt, the power forward position is a complete unknown. Given Aziz's limitations, they need more offense from the paint.

Outlook: Promising, though vulnerable in places. The Huskies won't garner much pre-season buzz with this group, but their playing experience is a coach's dream. The China trip should give Romar enough time to fine tune his rotation before the tough non-conference schedule, which includes games against Connecticut, Ohio State, Seton Hall, Saint Louis and Nevada, begins. Suggs and Wilcox give the Huskies two of the finest shooters in the country, and Gaddy will finally get his chance to run the show and cement his legacy with Washington. Depth will be a concern in the backcourt, but the front court should be improved.

Bottom line: Washington should be a conference champion contender with just enough pieces to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament as long as they stay healthy and live up to their capabilities.

2012 Recruiting:

While the Huskies have yet to announce a recruit for the 2012 class, that doesn't mean they haven't been actively pursuing options. The Huskies are one of five finalists for power forward Anthony Bennett - the number eight prospect in the country who is also coveted by Kentucky, Florida and UNLV - though UW isn't thought to be the leader.

More realistically, the Huskies could turn to the JC ranks and former top-100 recruit Mark McLaughlin, who prepped at Inglemoor High School. After bouncing around a bit, McLaughlin landed at Tacoma Community College, where he led the country in scoring last season averaging 28.4 points per game. Checking in a nearly 6-foot-6, the former Baylor commit possesses deep three point range, and is excellent creating off the bounce as well.

The Huskies are also leading for French standout William Howard - a versatile, 6-foot-8 three point shooting wing/forward currently playing for New Hope Academy back in Maryland. The Huskies could make a run at 7-foot Kansas State commitment Robert Upshaw, who signaled he may reopen his recruitment after Wildcats Head Coach Frank Martin took over at South Carolina, but he seems like a longshot at best.


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