Pondexter continues to persevere

SEATTLE - With the 2010 NBA Draft, there were 15 players invited to be "green room" guys - those close to the stage. If your name was John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins, your "green room" invite came the moment you applied for the draft. And then there were those that sat with the crowd - like Maryland's Greivis Vasquez, who hugged David Stern like the NBA commish was personally handing him a check.

But none of those picks are quite like Quincy Pondexter. The former Washington G/F, selected by Oklahoma City with the 26th pick before being traded to New Orleans in a deal that looks to include Craig Brackins from Iowa State and Cole Aldrich from Kansas, was in the last place you'd expect an NBA draft pick to be on one of the most important nights of his young life.

He was in the gym, working out. In fact, he said Thursday night that he didn't even start watching the draft until right around the 19th pick. "I had a feeling," he said. "I was waiting for my name to be called. I'm blessed to get picked where I got picked."

But he wasn't necessarily happy about it. In fact, he admitted that he was frustrated to see others drafted ahead of him. But he still held a great belief that he wouldn't fall farther than the end of the first round. "I had a great intuition about it," he said. "And guess what? I didn't. So for all those people that thought I'd go in the second round - I love you too."

It encapsulates Pondexter's career in a nutshell; the constant persevering, often overcoming his own lack of maturity and stratospheric expectations that followed him from Fresno, Calif. to the University of Washington like a fog. It caused him to question his place at UW, question if he made the right choice. And when the rest of his 2006 signing class - one that included Spencer Hawes, Phil Nelson and Adrian Oliver - imploded, leaving Pondexter alone to pick up the pieces, it was up to him to rise above the din and succeed on his own terms.

And he did just that, helping lead the Huskies to an outright conference title in 2009 and a Pac-10 Tournament crown in 2010. Pondexter was a first team All-Pac-10 pick as a senior and was named Pac-10 Player of the Week a record five times during the season.

"It was a long road for him," Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He really took advantage of the college experience. He's been rewarded for a lot of his hard work."

"Half the people don't know what it takes to be a champion and what you have to do," added Pondexter's Mother, Doris. "He's resilient. He gets knocked down and he gets back up. He's been doing it all his life."

And Quincy is expecting the NBA to be just as unforgiving, and rewarding, as his college experience. During one trip to Milwaukee to work out with the Bucks, he came face-to-face with the stark reality of professional sports - there's always haters.

"You're the guy that ended my bracket!" one guy said to him, clearly acknowledging Pondexter's last-second shot that took Marquette out of the 2010 NCAA Tournament. To add insult to that guy's bracket-busting injury, the Bucks took with their 37th pick another casualty of UW's late-season run; New Mexico's Darrington Hobson.

Pondexter, surrounded by friends and family Thursday that also included Hawes, were busy celebrating the good news and figuring out how to do it up right. In fact, Pondexter was even thinking of sipping a little alcohol - something he's never done before. A nice glass of wine or bubbly seemed to be more than appropriate for the man who is now calling Seattle his full-time home.

"We all might move up here to Seattle now!" exclaimed his father Roscoe, who also knows the joys of being selected in the NBA draft. Roscoe, along with his brother Cliff, were both drafted in 1974; Cliff went to Chicago with the 14th pick, and Roscoe was taken by Boston with the 54th selection.

But after? Pondexter looked to Hawes, now getting ready to start his fourth year in the NBA after being traded from Sacramento to Philadelphia a week ago. Even though they came to UW together, Hawes is now the elder statesman with the bigger bank account.

"Hey Spencer? Are you paying the tab tonight?" Pondexter queried.

Hawes shook his head. "You're on record with that!" the rookie exclaimed. It's probably the last free meal Pondexter will get for a while. After Thursday, it's back to work in the gym at 6 a.m., as he's determined to help whatever organization he plays for win a championship.

"With Q, and everything he's been though here and what he's accomplished here to take that next step - to see one of my best friends to fulfill his dream, it's a great feeling," Hawes said.

"He's battle-tested. When I came in…he's 22. I think he's probably a little more mature than when I came in. It's one of those things you can only get used to by going through it. I think mentally and physically he's in such a great place, and I think he's going to thrive."

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