2012 UW Hoops Fall Camp Primer

SEATTLE - Don't look now Washington Hoops fans, but the 2012-2013 season is fast approaching. The Huskies will be an underdog for a change in an improved Pac-12, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be down. With UW Media Day just a few days away, Dawgman.com takes a look at what should be some of the key elements to a successful 2012-2013 Hoops campaign.

Heading into the fall camp, there aren't a lot of question for this group of well-seasoned Dawgs. The rotation is mostly set and the starting lineup will likely combine 21 years of college basketball experience - an average of over four years per player.

The trio of Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs should put up some serious scoring numbers and will be one of the better backcourts in the country. Aziz N'diaye is a lock to start at center and is a menacing, intimidating defender and junkyard dawg. Desmond Simmons brings toughness to the Husky front court.

While there aren't any new faces, two redshirt freshmen - Andrew Andrews and Jernard Jarreau - are expected to quickly make their mark in the rotation.

The team summer trip to Europe allowed the Huskies to have 10 additional practices as well as six invaluable games to evaluate the roster. That work should help the Huskies come out of the gate fully ramped up.

While there's plenty of reasons to be excited about the Huskies this season, there's a reason they aren't being mentioned as a threat to repeat as conference champions. Some of the cynicism is legitimate; mainly the departure of NBA first round draft picks Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten, the lack of a front court scoring presence and an improved Pac-12.

But other aspects are being overlooked, namely the return of Suggs and the debut of Andrews and Jarreau.

Here are a few of the storylines to watch heading into the preseason.
Dial In The Rotation: Both N'Diaye and Simmons are pretty similar in their contributions. They're going to give Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar every ounce of effort they have as solid defenders and rebounders who thrive with physical play but neither is much of a scoring threat.

When the three pointers aren't falling (as happened in Europe last month) somebody is going to have to put the ball in the bucket, and it's going to have to come from the front court. Washington has lacked consistent punch in the post since Quincy Pondexter took his game to the NBA three seasons ago. There are several youngsters with solid potential though. Sophomore forwards Shawn Kemp, Martin Breunig and freshman Jarreau are long, exceptional athletes with significant long term upside, but the Huskies can't wait another season for them to emerge as viable contributors.

Kemp is the Huskies' most skilled post player offensively. True to his NBA pedigree he's got explosive legs and at 6-foot-10 and 255 pounds possesses all the physical traits to be a quality college player in time. Breunig is still learning the game but has a highly varied offensive skill set and is one of the team's best rebounders. He needs to continue to adapt to the college game.

The 6-foot-10 Jarreau, a former prep point guard, has the highest upside of any player on the roster - he just needs time to develop. Given the Huskies' thin bench and lack of eligible bodies, the younger players are going to be pushed into service sooner rather than later. Washington needs at least two to emerge as legitimate contributors and do it quickly.

With early season games on the road against Seton Hall and potentially Ohio State as well as home tests versus highly-ranked Saint Louis and Nevada, the Huskies don't have the luxury of a slow start. That was one of the main reasons for the trip to Europe. They're going to be thrown into the fire immediately and the young forwards will find themselves playing key roles in important games out of the gate. How they perform during those early contests could be the deciding factor in the team's non-conference success or failure.

Figuring out the guards are easy: There's three obvious starters in Gaddy, Wilcox and Suggs and one reserve in the Portland-born Andrews. The three veterans are mostly known commodities who will spend as much time on the floor as their legs allow. Andrews is the only real unknown but even that isn't overly concerning. He's tall for a point guard, checking in at 6-foot-3 and built like a tank. He's lightning quick, has legitimate NBA three point range and might be the team's best penetrator.
Find C.J.'s shot - For a player many regard as one of the finest shooters in the country, C.J. Wilcox's jump shot was flat out broken in Europe. Were it anyone else that might be alarming but it's hard to fathom Wilcox not hitting 40 percent or significantly better from deep this coming season. He's got a two-year track record that says he'll be just fine, though how he adapts to being the Huskies go-to scorer remains to be seen. Wilcox is the Huskies' most important offensive weapon and it's crucial he find his groove from outside.

There's no denying the effect Wilcox's shooting has on his teammates when he's raining threes. He has a tangible effect on their overall confidence level and a similarly demoralizing effect on opponents as they try to stop the nimble, 6-foot-6 marksman. The Huskies flat out need him to lead the way from outside to relieve pressure on the rest of his teammates as they acclimate to their new roles within Romar's high post offense. He's certainly got the skills to do it.
Polish the new high post offense - The Huskies recently tweaked their offensive sets, implementing legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden's high post offense. That doesn't mean the Huskies won't continue to earn their living in transition, but it should allow their jump-shooters plenty of open looks from outside. Coach Romar returned from Europe pleased with the team's implementation of the system, though the teams two top shooters - Wilcox and Suggs - struggled to find their way from outside. Unlike previous years, the Huskies have plenty of shooters but are short on players capable of creating their own shots. There's no Ross or Wroten to bail the team out during the waning seconds of the shot clock - that's the job of the system this time around - and it should work as long as the team connects from outside.
Re-establish the team's defensive identity - During the early years of Romar's career at Washington, the team's relentless defensive pressure propelled the Huskies to new heights. It's been four years since former assistant coach Cameron Dollar took over the head coaching job at Seattle University, and in some ways he hasn't been replaced and his lack of presence none more obvious than on the defensive end of the floor.

Last season the team hit new defensive lows. Much of that had to due with Wroten, who, despite his incredible length and athleticism, wasn't overly interested in playing defense. Or, when he was, it was mostly of the steal variety. If it worked, it led to easy buckets. If it didn't, it usually led to poor fouls or exposed the rest of the team. This cascaded down on the rest of the lineup as they tried to compensate for his lack of attention.

This season, the team appears tailor-made to re-establish themselves as the premier defensive team in the conference. The wings are long and athletic and Gaddy has developed into one of the better on-ball defenders in the Pac-12. Scott Suggs was an excellent on-ball defender two seasons ago and will also be a leader in that department. Wilcox shares similar traits with Suggs but lacked consistency last year losing track of his man from time to time.

In the paint the Huskies have the league's most intimidating defensive presence in N'Diaye, while Simmons - despite lacking prototypical power forward size - is an average defender but makes up for it with sheer hustle and desire.

The Huskies have outstanding defensive potential coming off the bench as well, particularly in Andrews whose approach has been compared to Husky legend Will Conroy, and Jarreau who reminds some of Justin Holiday. Even Kemp made strides in that department in Europe.

Opposing teams will be hard-pressed to match UW's length which should allow them to pressure the ball more while N'Daiye anchors the paint.

Take all their defensive potential with a grain of salt; the same things were said about last year's team.
Remember what it means to play like a team - While Wroten did many things for the team last season and it would be folly to discount his contributions, many would argue that the Huskies were a better team when he wasn't on the floor. True or not, there's no denying the team's lack of synergy. They simply didn't mesh on the court.

This season there's a renewed emphasis on teamwork and sharing the ball. Two years ago the Huskies were at their best spreading the ball around the floor. They averaged 17 assists a game in 2010 versus 14 a game last year and the entire team seemed to be on that same page. Much of that credit probably belonged to point guard Isaiah Thomas, and it was Wilcox and Suggs who were often the biggest beneficiaries of his unselfishness. There's no reason that same approach can't be replicated this year. The personnel hasn't changed all that much except it will be Gaddy distributing the ball rather than Thomas.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning was a black hole as far as passing was concerned and he has been replaced by more guard-oriented forwards like Simmons and Jarreau, both of whom are unselfish, superior passers.

The high post offense is a pass-first offense unlike the Huskies' previous Lute Olson-based motion sets which relied more on one-on-one match-ups to generate offense. Ironically, the one player the Huskies that needs to be more selfish is Gaddy. Much of the team's success this season hinges on his ability to balance his individual scoring (which they need) with spreading the ball around the floor and maximizing the ability of the Dawgs to shoot from long range.
Stay healthy - While the Huskies' starting lineup should have no trouble matching up with any lineup in the conference, the Dawgs' lack of depth means even losing just one player for an extended period of time could be catastrophic. All five projected starters have dealt with serious injuries at some point during their college careers. Gaddy, N'Diaye, Suggs and Simmons have all missed at least parts of seasons due to injuries and Wilcox spent most of last season severely hampered by a hip injury. The pre-season trip to Europe should pay off handsomely in terms of giving the veteran lineup a jump start on the season, but it also added a quarter season's worth of wear and tear on their bodies.

The Huskies must escape fall camp without suffering a loss to any of their key players. All indications are that freshman Andrews is capable of playing starter's minutes right away, but it's not like they have any choice in the matter since he's really the only other guard on the roster ready to contribute. The only other scholarship guard on the roster is Hikeem Stewart, who has done little thus far to indicate he's ready to see consistent playing time. They may need him anyway.

The front court is actually better equipped to take an injury hit, though losing N'Diaye would be devastating.

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