Statistics never tell the whole story, but in this case they did give us an insightful glimpse into coach Romar's crystal ball. The coming season is a key one and not just for Washington, which is attempting to maintain its precarious perch atop the Pac-12, but for the entire conference which sent six teams on pre-season trips. In contrast to Arizona and UCLA, who chose more chemistry building warm-ups against meager competition, the Huskies played a packed six-game schedule against quality, European pro squads with high level, often American-sourced talent. The NCAA allows for 10 practices prior to departure, which in reality is the biggest benefit for the teams involved. The Huskies packed' schedule allowed them to thoroughly evaluate their roster for the coming season, especially with a host of young players who will be expected to play important roles with the team.
The results were mixed. For the most part, the starting lineup is set with seniors Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs, Aziz N'diaye and junior C.J. Wilcox expected to do the bulk of the heavy lifting. As expected, sophomore Desmond Simmons earned the final spot in the starting lineup for most of the trip, though Martin Breunig displaced him the final two games.
We knew going in that the Huskies' guard play, while not as star-studded as years past, still has the potential to be the top backcourt in the conference. Despite poor three-point shooting it appears the Dawgs backcourt might be even better than advertised. The most encouraging aspect might have been the play of Gaddy, who was the team's leading scorer in three of the six games they played, averaging 13.5 points per game. He turned the ball over a lot, but the Euro game is officiated much differently than it is here which significantly inflated the turnover numbers. He shot the ball pretty well too, connecting on 7-11 three point attempts from FIBA's longer 22 foot three point line. Consistency from deep would be a welcome addition to Gaddy's offensive arsenal if it carries over to the season.
Those who have watched Scott Suggs' development closely over the last five years knew there was a lot more in the tank than what he had demonstrated to this point in his career at Washington. The Huskies' leading three point shooter two seasons ago was second on the team in scoring during the trip, averaging 13.3 points per game. Like the rest of the team save Gaddy, Suggs struggled from beyond the arc but that shouldn't be a concern for the career 43 percent three point shooter. The Huskies other three point marksman Wilcox couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in Europe but still managed to make his presence felt in other ways, averaging a hair over 13 points per game. His 6.5 per game rebounding average was as eye opening as was his dismal three point shooting.
Those three players will generate the lion's share of the offense for a team that lost its top two scorers to the NBA. If their performance overseas is any indication, they will be up to the task.
As expected, redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews further cemented his status as one of the top newcomers to watch in the conference this season, averaging 8.7 points per game off the bench. With such a thin backcourt, Andrews will be hearing his number called regularly and is expected to earn starters minutes off the bench as the Huskies sixth man. Like Wilcox and Suggs, Andrews struggled from the three point line, connecting on just two of his 12 attempts. Sophomore Hikeem Stewart did little to indicate he is ready to join the rotation right away, though he showed glimpses during the summer league at North Seattle Community College before Europe.
That's the good news. Unfortunately, the Dawgs are going to need more than their talented backcourt to have any hope of repeating as conference champs. Looking for productivity in the front court revealed little to write home about.
N'Diaye's return to the hardwood after recovering from wrist surgery met with mixed reviews. N'Diaye averaged 6.3 points and 7 rebounds in 25 minutes a game, including a 12-point, 14-rebound performance in the teams second game win over Zaragoza, Spain. Otherwise, his offensive productivity was similar to his first two seasons of college ball.
Being realistic about N'Diaye's offensive limitations means the Dawgs need more offensive productivity out of the power forward position. Unfortunately, Simmons did little to bolster enthusiasm in that respect. Simmons' 4.2 point, 6-rebound per game performance closely mirrored his numbers last season. Breunig, Shawn Kemp Jr., and Jernard Jerreau all played anywhere between 10-20 minutes a game but the results were inconclusive. None of them appeared to stand out if the statistics were to provide clues. Interestingly, Breunig started the final two games in France though neither game was noteworthy.
Based on the European returns, we now have a pretty good idea of what to expect of the Huskies this season. Guards will dominate the ball for Washington, and they've got some explosive offensive potential in the back court. Gaddy and Suggs are both expected to take significant leaps this season and they gave us no reason to doubt them based on what they did in Europe. Wilcox will be an offensive focal point and nobody should be concerned about his three point stroke as long as he's healthy.
Clearly Andrews is going to be a fixture in the rotation and he's got a chance to be a special player as well. He brings a toughness and swagger to the lineup that hearkens back to Husky legend Will Conroy. Championships are won in the paint though, and the trip to Europe doesn't appear to have bought Washington any closer to solving their front court deficiencies. N'Diaye will play upwards of 25 minutes a game, which leaves the UW coaching staff tasked with coaxing another 55 minutes of quality productivity out of a mostly untested group of youngsters who may or may not be up to the job.
The Huskies returned home with a renewed sense of purpose. They re-integrated the High Post offense which they hadn't used since Isaiah Thomas' freshman season. They established their guard rotation and discovered enough scoring balance that no single player will have to shoulder the entire load. They successfully debuted freshman Andrew Andrews, who will be a key member of this year's rotation. They know they've got a ton of work to do in the post, and now have a better idea of their young forwards' capabilities, or lack thereof. And finally - they were able to come together as a team. And that perhaps was the most important part of their trip across the Atlantic.
Beach's Bits - Back From Europe
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