Fred Hoiberg looks to continue the success of his young career.(TheSportsBank.net)
By Nathan Staley
Friday, October 5, 2012
Last Season: 24-11 (14-4 Pac-12)
Key Losses: Terrence Ross, Tony Wroten
Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Abdul Gaddy 6-3 Sr.
SG: C.J. Wilcox 6-5 Jr.
SF: Scott Suggs 6-6 Sr.
PF: Desmond Simmons 6-7 So.
C: Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 Sr.
Key Reserves: Shawn Kemp Jr. 6-9 So. PF, Andrew Andrews 6-2 Fr. PG, Martin Breunig 6-8 So. PF, Jernard Jarreau 6-10 Fr. PF, Austin Seferian-Jenkins 6-6 So. F
The defending Pac-12 champs begin their 2012-2013 title run with three returning starters and a host of seniors. Still, questions loom after the key departures of conference player of the year candidates and NBA first round picks, Terrance Ross and Tony Wroten. The Huskies need some players to step up this year if the team has any hope of competing with preseason top 10 ranked UCLA and Arizona squads for conference bragging rights. On paper, the Huskies appear to be a weaker crew, but who can argue with the potential of a program coming off a fourth consecutive 20-win season?
The Dawgs recently returned from an early preseason exhibition tour in Europe and Africa where they saw consistent output from the team’s bevy of veterans including Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs. After a 3-3 showing on the tour, Lorenzo Romar christened the starting roster with the exception of power forward, a position still up for grabs as the team enters camp.
A four-way battle is currently underway between sophomores Desmond Simmons, Martin Breunig, Shawn Kemp Jr. and redshirt freshman Jernard Jarreau to secure the PF spot. Simmons maintains his position as the early favorite.
Fortunately, the Dawgs are secure at swingman thanks to Romar’s three-guard set, led by Gaddy and company. The sharpshooting trio will need some statement wins in conference play to avoid a repeat to last year’s drama of being ostracized by the NCAA selection committee and denied a 17th appearance in the tournament. The team’s efforts will be aided by, what should be a lighter non-conference schedule sans Duke and Marquette. Yes, a December 29th matchup against perennial powerhouse Connecticut looms, but does anyone really see Uconn as a legitimate contender given the program’s recent upheaval that sent almost the entire team scrambling for the door?
The conference runner-up in assists, Abdul Gaddy, should thrive as he takes the helm at point. Gaddy, who is often criticized for his underwhelming college career, gets one last shot as the Huskies court general to show fans and NBA scouts alike why he was the 5-star, number two point guard in the country coming out of high school. Gaddy will look to keep momentum going as he came on strong towards the end of last season, shooting 45% from 3-point land during the last seven games and proving his surgically repaired ACL is as strong as ever.
Hot-handed Utah transfer C.J. Wilcox partners with Gaddy as one of the best shooters in the country averaging 40.3% behind the arc last year and recently boosting his draft stock by putting on a clinic at the invite only Kevin Durant Skills Academy this summer. C.J. took a lot of criticism after leaving his Utah roots to get a turn at Washington, but who can blame him for wanting to join a backcourt traditionally loaded with NBA prospects? If Wilcox can stay healthy and improve on the defensive end, expect him to explode onto the national scene as the most NBA-ready player on the Washington roster.
After a season-ending foot injury forced him to redshirt his senior year, Scott Suggs rejoins Gaddy and Wilcox to complete the trifecta of guards. Fans can only hope Suggs returns to his junior year form where he boasted a 45% 3pt field goal percentage and helped lead the Huskies to a second round NCAA tournament finish. The former Missouri Mr. Basketball and most tenured Husky will have his work cut out for him though, replacing Terrence Ross who was the team’s leading scorer and #2 rebounder.
That leaves us with a Huskies frontcourt, likely featuring the gritty Desmond Simmons and big man, Aziz N’Diaye, rejuvenated by the homecoming trip to Senegal this summer. N’Diaye is poised in his senior season to dominate the boards where he averaged over 7 rebounds per game last year. The 4-year starter brings a breadth of experience to the squad and leadership for a sophomore Simmons who continues to battle for the coveted power forward position over Shawn Kemp Jr.
There’s plenty of hype, of course, around sophomore Shawn Kemp Jr., son of the iconic Seattle sports legend and 5th son of a Seattle Supersonic to play for the Huskies. Kemp should see more playing time behind Simmons and will be ready to compete for a starting role if Simmons falters. At least the high flying Kemp, who averaged just over 6 minutes per game last season, has someone in the family to help him with those low post moves.
With such a veteran group, bench play will be interesting to watch this year. There are a handful of other returners from last year’s squad that didn’t see many minutes, but with the departure of Wroten, a couple of the guards may be getting the call more often, in particular, redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews. Keep an eye on Andrews who has also made some noise in this preseason. He could likely fill a spot in the rotation early in the Huskies season and bring some needed points off the bench.
Expect the Dawg’s level of experience to help them squeak out some close wins this year, though chances of a national title, and perhaps even a conference title, are slim-to-none. Romar’s crew ended last season ranked 115th in field goal percentage at a paltry 48% - not too hot for a team with two superstars. But don’t worry Huskies fans. Any holes Washington has on the roster this year will look to be filled by a touted 2013 recruiting class that’s arguably one of the best in school history, led by 4-star recruit Nigel Willams-Goss and a cast of potential high profile signees in the waiting.