Pondexter is the 'Last Man Standing'

SEATTLE - No one, not even Quincy Pondexter himself, expected him to be the only player left of Washington's heralded 2006 recruiting class. Now, former teammate Spencer Hawes begins his third season in the NBA, while Phil Nelson and Adrian Oliver have made names for themselves in smaller programs.

Pondexter and the Huskies play host to Oliver and the school he transferred to - San Jose State - Friday night at Bank of America Arena after demolishing Nelson's Portland State team by 56.

While this season could have been a competition between four seniors for team leadership, Quincy's the man left with the job.

"We wanted to pick up and leave our mark on Husky basketball," Pondexter said, remembering the days the four freshman players all lived in the campus dorms. "From seeing Brandon Roy before, and we all had a lot of talent and we were really hyped so we wanted to live up to those expectations right away."

Quincy recalls his classmates talking about the Washington basketball program becoming like Duke or North Carolina, a perennial presence in the advanced rounds of the NCAA Tournament. They set their sights on the Final Four, but as a team failed to make a postseason tournament at all after a disappointing 2006-2007 season.

"We had a feeling that either Spencer would leave early because of how talented he was or if I was to test the waters early or whatever it may be, but at the beginning we all believed that we would be together here for four years," Pondexter said.

Even Pondexter admits the thought of transferring fleetingly crossed his mind when he didn't find the playing time or success he expected his first year with the program. UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar pointed to time when Pondexter made the decision to turn things around, stop placing blame, and live up to his potential as a player and a team leader.

"Quincy went through a period early where it was everybody else's fault," Romar said. "Then he went through a period where he thought, ‘I've got to do some self-inventory and take care of some things.' And he started working his tail off. That's what changed."

"I think when times get rough, transferring crosses everybody's mind," Pondexter added. "I might have thought about it for just a second but there was no way that I was going to leave, there was none at all. I think my family really helped me get through the tough times by sticking with me and telling me to keep my head up because everything was going to work out. I had a chance to become a Brandon Roy and I think that goal out there was what kept me motivated to stay here."

Pondexter has shown flashes of his NBA potential during all three of his seasons at Washington, but until this year he's lacked the consistency to gain an edge against the top competition in the Pac-10 conference. This time around, all the pieces of the puzzle are in place for the senior to have a career year worthy of NBA attention.

"Quincy was so down at one time, he could have easily gone somewhere else, but he stuck it out," Romar said. "And you talk about the four guys – that freshman class – he was the one guy that said, ‘nope, I'm going to make this work.' And it's interesting how well he's doing right now."

In the first three games of this season, Pondexter went 20-21 in free throw shooting, averaged 11 rebounds and 22 points and led the team in minutes played, as he earned his first Pac-10 Player of the Week honor and won co-MVP of the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic with teammate Isaiah Thomas.

"You look at how he's playing now, and I haven't seen all the teams around, but I can't imagine anyone playing better than Quincy is right now," Romar said. "You're talking about a guy who is 6-6 and is averaging a double-double, shooting almost 70 percent from the field and 95 or 96 percent from the foul line. And he's defending and diving on the floor for loose balls. That's pretty good.

"How does that compare on a national level? He's playing as well as anyone," Romar continued. "As I say that, it's a little scary, because I remember saying those same words about Brandon Roy his senior year, around this time… Right now, I can't think of anyone that's playing better than Quincy in the country."

With that vote of confidence from his head coach, Pondexter has a chance to help carry the Huskies to their second straight NCAA Tournament appearance. The team is ranked 14th in the AP and Coaches polls and ninth in the nation by Sports Illustrated. Many predict Washington will repeat as Pac 10 Champions.

"I'm happy to be in the position I'm in right now, leading this team," Pondexter said. "It means the world to me to be here, representing Husky basketball."

And as the last one standing from 2006, Pondexter is the right man at the right place, and at the right time.

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