Things haven’t been so great for Washington basketball in the post Brandon Roy era. Three years ago Washington was a Mike Jensen foul away from a date with George Mason in the Elite 8. All in all, a plum program elevating opportunity squandered.
No worries though, because Washington had elite post recruit Spencer Hawes coming in the next season.
Then Spencer got really sick, temporarily lost a bunch of weight, was pretty average, and left. And to be honest he was a terrible fit for Lorenzo Romar’s system. Florida transfer/local boy Ryan Appleby emerged as the team’s go to scorer, but to be honest he was a terrible fit for Lorenzo Romar’s system. Jon Brockman has been UW’s best player the last two years, but to be honest he shouldn’t be the main cog in Lorenzo Romar’s system.
The Nate Robinson/Will Conroy/Bobby Jones/Brandon Roy Dawgs thrived on swagger and athleticism – two traits sorely lacking in Husky basketball since their departure.
Enter freshman Isaiah Thomas. Not that one. The new one. The swag is back on Montlake. I give you your 2009-10 Washington Huskies.
Isaiah Thomas: “The Democrat”/”Too Easy”
Isaiah Thomas arrives in Seattle after a year’s diversion at Connecticut prep school. He is a 5’9″ lightning fast born scorer. In his exhibition debut against Western Washington Isaiah scored 27 points in 19 minutes on 9-12 shooting. He can get to the cup and shoot. His offense draws defensive attention away from everyone else on the floor. Which Isaiah can then exploit with his deft and creative passing. It remains to be seen if he can handle defending Pac-10 guards at his small stature. Isaiah can stay in front of anyone, but the worry is that taller players will just shoot over him. Too Easy’s impact will be on the offensive end where he will be relied upon to press the pace back up to Washington’s speed of old. He has also been dubbed The Democrat by Fig Jam because he always goes left.
Justin Dentmon came out of the blocks hot at UW. His freshman year he took over against Dee Brown’s Illinois team in the NCAA tourney, leading to unrealistic expectations. His second year Dentmon bulked up in preparation for the league, and ended up ruining his quickness. JD has pretty much disappointed since then, becoming a lightning rod for criticism. The hope is that his senior year will be a replay of his freshman year. Dentmon is no longer relied upon to run the offense, or be a primary scorer. In the exhibition against Western he exploited the space created by Isaiah Thomas to hit 4 of 6 threes. That’s Dentmon’s role this year. Perimeter garbage man. His bulldog on ball defense will be essential if Washington is to excel. Like Isaiah though, he is short.
Venoy Overton: “Noy Noy”
Lost in the shuffle after a promising freshman year is Venoy Overton. He started a handful of games at the point and seemed the lone player able to push the pace to Romar acceptable levels. Venoy is (how shall I put this?) an asshole. But in a good way because he’s on our team. Noy Noy agitates and backs down from no one. The chief example of this was last year at Oregon State where he goaded the winless-in-conference Beavers into gathering outside his hotel to challenge him to a street fight. Overton declined, and then UW harnessed the pregame energy to beat the living shit out the hapless Beavers. Concern: Venoy and Isaiah have something of a rivalry dating back to their AAU days. How will Venoy handle being demoted to 6th man? If we win it’s all good. If we lose? I don’t have a lot of faith in Overton taking this well.
That’s three top guards and no shooters. Isaiah and JD can get theirs on certain nights, but neither is a deadeye marksman. Enter freshman Elston Turner. At 6’4″ Turner is the lone Husky guard with unassailable size. His body looks Pac-10 ready from jumpstreet also. Turner doesn’t have eye popping athleticism, but he plays steady.
Quincy Pondexter: “Q Pon”/”Quindex”/”Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese”/”Hors d’oeuvres”
Washington just couldn’t reliably score the basketball over the past two seasons. That’s because they were counting on Ryan Appleby (who couldn’t get his own shot), Jon Brockman (who couldn’t get his own shot), and Quincy (who wouldn’t take his own shot). Quincy did this dance last year where for the first two thirds of the season he tried to establish his jumper as a weapon to be feared. It’s not. At the end of the last season he said “Fuck it” and just started going to the hole. Which is what he should always do because he possesses a great first step, can finish, and can make free throws. Please Quincy! Just go to the hole!
Justin Holiday: “McRib”
Holiday has been marketed as Bobby Jones Jr. Jr. – a do everything while doing nothing energy defender. There is also hope that he holds handcuffs to lockdown his little brother Jrue at UCLA. Manny Faces thinks the McRib tag is apropos because in large doses he’s not that great, but you can talk yourself into him when he’s only playing for a limited time. And because he appears to weigh 94 lbs.
Probably too early for this freshman to contribute.
Jon Brockman: “Hard Working Jon Brockman”/”Hardest Working Man in Show Business”
Not a lot to say about Jon Brockman that you don’t already know. He busts his ass every second of every game. He physically beats up the opposition, and dominates the glass through effort. You know what the sports media loves? White guys getting it done with grit. As offered earlier, the fact that Brockman will not be counted on to carry the offense will make his senior year his best yet for the Dawgs. In a perfect scenario Isaiah and Quincy slash to the lane repeatedly and Jon Brockman cleans up the mess. On defense Jon Brockman bullies opposition bigs out of the lane. Rinse, repeat.
This redshirt freshman is a key piece in the puzzle for this year’s Dawgs. Gant is physically imposing and can run. His job will be to provide a defensive/rebounding presence.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning: “MBA”
Hey look! A British guy! You wonder how MBA is going to handle coming off the bench following his strong showing this summer for the UK national team. Which they have, apparently. I like MBA as the first big off the bench. He is capable of getting his own looks, and could show well with the second unit where he is likely to see more looks. MBA is good for one thundering baseline reverse dunk per game. When a guy’s recruiting comes down to your school and UConn, and you win, you have to fell good about him.
Joe Wolfinger: “The Wolf”
Joe Wolfinger is too slow to play with these Dawgs. But he can shoot the three, and is something of a fan favorite because he looks a little awkward on the floor as a 7 foot shooter. The Wolf’s chief contributions this year will come with his allotment of five fouls.
Mercurial is the word for this guy. Most nights he is a non factor. When the moon is full he unleashes a dizzying array of post moves. Artem is also a Chris Dudley/Andres Biedrins level terrible free throw shooter. Artem is recovering from a knee injury suffered in the CBI (ouch) that will keep him out until December.
The theme for this year’s Dawgs is that the swagger is back. They will finish anywhere from third to fifth in the Pac-10 and challenge for an NCAA slot. Regardless of how they fare, this will be an exceedingly aesthetically pleasing team to watch. This is what a Lorenzo Romar coached team should be: chippy local guards and athletes all over the floor. Finally something positive for Seattle sports fans.
Games to watch
(You know, besides all of them.)
11/24 vs. Kansas (O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic)
11/25 vs. Florida/Syracuse (CBE)
12/04 vs. Oklahoma State
01/03 @ WSU
01/24 vs. UCLA
01/29 @ Arizona
Fig Jam and I will be in the house tomorrow night to watch the season tip off live @ University of Portland. I couldn’t be more excited.