Beach's Bits

With the Washington Huskies (16-5, 7-2) tied atop the Pac-10 conference with UCLA, expectations are high on Montlake for an even better second half. With that being said, it's time to hand out some mid-term grades. Who has surpassed all expectations? Who has flopped worse than Richie Sexon? Read on!

Justin Dentmon, Grade A+
The Carbondale, Ill. native is doing it all during his senior season. So far in conference play, he's leading the Pac-10 in scoring at 19.6 ppg, while shooting a whopping 50 percent from three, and is among the top-10 free throw shooters in the conference. He's also averaging fewer than two turnovers a game and is second on the team in assists. He's been a rock during clutch situations, taking control of the game from beyond the arc or at the free throw line. Dentmon's not just the Huskies MVP: If he continues his stellar play, he's a legitimate candidate for Pac-10 Player of the Year.

Jon Brockman, Grade A
Brockman's production has taken a step back this season, sacrificing personal gain for the sake of his team's success. That's not to say he hasn't been productive despite near constant double teams: He's still averaging 14.4 points per game and a conference-leading 11.7 rebounds per contest. He also appears to have put his free throw challenges behind him, going 23 for 30 from the charity stripe the last five games. Better still, it appears the future Husky Hall of Famer is going to get his shot at leading his team to the NCAA tournament, and nobody deserves it more.

Isaiah Thomas, Grade A-
The Huskies' diminutive scoring machine has made a believer out of anyone who has seen him play. At times he's unguardable, plays inspired defense and doesn't put himself ahead of his teammates, adjusting to whatever role Coach Romar asks. The Tacoma native ranks third in scoring at 19.2 ppg in conference play, while leading the team in assists at 2.9 assists per game. He's also been solid with the ball in his hands, averaging a respectable 2.7 turnovers a game, and is shooting well from the free throw line. He needs to work on his 3-point shot, especially at the rate he jacks them up (leading the team at 93 attempts), hitting on 31 percent for the season. But overall, Thomas' first season as a Husky has exceeded the considerable hype that accompanied his arrival.

Quincy Pondexter, Grade B
By now, most Husky fans have readjusted their expectations of the much-maligned junior, tempering their want of a high-scoring, NBA-bound acrobat for the solidly reliable interior play and occasional clutch shot that has become Pondexter's game. Based on those revamped thoughts, Quincy's season has been an overall success. He's averaging nearly 10 points, 5.4 boards and two assists per game, while playing above average defense in 27 minutes a night. He's also among the league leaders from the free throw stripe, shooting 89 percent. For this year's team, Pondexter has been the player he needs to be.

Darnell Gant, Grade B-
Gant's contributions to this team can't be measured by a stat sheet. He's averaging just 3.1 points and 3.6 rebounds a game, but as his performance matched up against James Harden proved, he's an essential member of this team. An incredibly versatile defender, Gant is just as at home on the perimeter as he is defending the post. He's also shown moments of offensive prowess as well, occasionally stepping outside to drop long range jumpers. In his current role, he's been a splendid fit.

Justin Holiday, Grade B-
Like Gant, Holiday has been the consummate team player, doing the dirty work under the hoop and on defense. He's earned the nickname "The Fireman" for his ability to extinguish opponents' hot hands while drawing defensive responsibilities on the opponents' best players. He's also proven to be a tenacious rebounder, including a 10-board effort last week against Arizona State. His shot has looked pretty iffy at times, but it'll come around as he gains more confidence. As Coach Romar predicted before the start of the season, Holiday has been one of the team's best surprises.

Mathew Bryan-Amaning, Grade C+
After a delayed start to the season, Bryan-Amaning roared into the spotlight with huge efforts against Oklahoma State and Texas Southern. Sadly, the momentum didn't last, and though the London native is having a solid sophomore season, he still hasn't broken out the way many had predicted he would. In 19.4 minutes a game he's averaging a respectable eight points and 5.1 rebounds. It's become apparent that he's a bit of a black hole with the ball in his hands, rarely looking to involve his teammates. He's got oodles of skill and potential, but whether or not he becomes a factor in the rotation and regains his early-season form is far less certain.

Venoy Overton, Grade C+
Good or bad - with apologies to Quincy Pondexter - nobody generates more impassioned argument than Overton. On the one hand he's scary fast and brings instant energy, while being an absolute menace on defense. On the other, he's a barber's nightmare repairing the damage done due to the pulling out of hair when he attacks the paint in transition or shoots the ball. Fortunately, he's tempered his penchant for cheap fouls, while reducing his turnovers in recent games, showing that he's finally embraced his new role as the Huskies' third guard.

Elston Turner Jr. Grade C+
The promising freshman's season was interrupted somewhat when he suffered a high ankle sprain during the Huskies' final non-conference tune up against Morgan State. That said, there's absolutely no denying his potential. Turner already plays like a seasoned veteran with total confidence in his jumpshot, rarely making the dreaded 'freshman' mistake. Unfortunately, the injury curtailed his development during the all-important early conference play. He's starting to find his stroke again, as evidenced by his 11-point, 14-minute effort against Arizona. He's one of the Huskies' few remaining wild cards.

Artem Wallace, Grade C-
It now appears that the knee injury suffered during the Huskies' first round loss in the CBI last season effectively ended the meaningful era of Wallace's UW career. That's not to say he doesn't approach each game with a desire to win and a smile on his face, but he appears to have accepted the fact that, barring injury to the bigs in front of him, his final months as a Husky will be played out on the sidelines.

Joe Wolfinger, Grade D+
Give Coach Romar credit for giving him a shot, but it was apparent early on this season that Wolfinger did not belong on the court. Sure he can bomb away from outside, but a seven-footer who can't impact the defensive end has little purpose on the court. With potentially two years of eligibility remaining, he may be better off going the same route Joel Smith did to finish off his college eligibility.

Scott Suggs, Grade Incomplete
Don't judge Suggs based on his contributions this season: Some players like Turner come in physically equipped to make an impact right away, others don't. The few glimpses of Suggs we've seen have demonstrated why he was such a highly regarded recruit; he just needs to get stronger and buy into the physical nature of playing defense at the high-major level. He's still got loads of potential and could be a major factor in the rotation next season.

Tyreese Breshers, Grade Incomplete
Thanks to a shin injury, the Huskies have missed out on the first year of what promises to be a very exciting career for young Mr. Breshers. Despite being undersized, he's an incredibly explosive athlete, and it's been suggested that he could compete for a starting role next season.


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