BY Todd Dybas 07:00AM 07/12/2011

Dybas: UW hoops moves on with identity crisis

Massive turnover leaves Romar with lots of sorting to do with limited elite experience and a high degree of roster intrigue.

Darnell Gant will be relied on to use an expanded game in his expanded role during his senior season. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Not sure what Washington plans do to with the uptick in game-program sales this coming basketball season. Maybe the university can apply the extra money to anticipated steel cost overruns for the revamping of Husky Stadium.

Just who are these guys, anyway?

Better buy that program. Six freshmen formally make up a chunk of the Washington basketball roster. Really, it’s seven, because redshirt Desmond Simmons should be added to that group of toddlers.

Andrew Andrews, Martin Breunig, Jernard Jerreau,  Shawn Kemp Jr., Simmons, Hikeem Stewart, Tony Wroten. That’s half the team.

They’re not the only ones short on experience. It’s the second year for center Aziz N’Diaye, shooter C.J. Wilcox and, essentially, point guard Abdul Gaddy, despite his junior status.

Gaddy will be returning from a burst knee. The two primary ball-handlers from last year are gone. Only N’Diaye, Gant and Terrence Ross played more than 20 minutes in an NCAA Tournament game.

Kemp is too heavy and Jarreau too light. Stewart, 6-2, 175 pounds, too small. Wroten too raw.

If ever there were a time to line up the non-conference non-entities, 2011-12 would be it. The Huskies are re-packaged and oddly matched. Early trips to St. Louis and Nevada — both struggled last year, but neither lost a player of note — will be trouble. That’s before the jaunt to New York to have a street fight with Buzz Williams’ Marquette club, then dealing with refined Duke.

The Huskies are likely to fly back from the December trip with a snow boot imprint on their behinds.

But, hey, this is summer (by the calendar, not the weather). A deeper look at this crew:

— Scott Suggs, Wilcox and Ross are capable wings. The anticipation is each does more than he showed last season. The trio is poor at getting to the free-throw line. Combined, they shot 81 last season. Isaiah Thomas made 151. Often, one of these guys will be mismatched at small forward, becoming the rotating help defender on the baseline. Doing that effectively takes understanding and interest. We’ll see if they have both.

— Who’s the third ball-handler? Gaddy, Wroten, then who? Throughout Thomas’s  time at Washington, coach Lorenzo Romar referred to him and Venoy Overton as guards. Not point or shooting guards. Straight up guards. Romar probably refers to Overton as something else these days. But Romar rotated ball handling between those two and a third, in the past Justin Dentmon or Gaddy. Will Stewart or Andrews be capable? Can one of the wings initiate the offense?

— What to expect from Jarreau and Simmons? Simmons spent his redshirt freshman season healing and working on a midrange jumper. He came with a reputation as a grinder, something this roster desperately needs; it’s full of shine. Jarreau would be primed to redshirt if his height was’t so needed now. Freshman guard Andrews is listed at the same weight as Jarreau, 195 pounds, despite being eight inches shorter than the 6-10 Jarreau. Jarreau weighs 110 pounds less than UCLA center Josh Smith. Though N’Diaye would deal with him most of the time, Jarreau would likely deal with the Wear twins (David and Travis, 6-10 and 220 and 225, respectively) or mad bull Reeves Nelson (6-8, 235). Remember spindly John Henson of North Carolina? He outweighs Jarreau by 15 pounds. Henson was also mediocre his freshman season, averaging 5.7 points and 4.4 rebounds.

— Most intriguing is the length Washington can put out at any point. Romar, lamenting size after each March exit, can max out with a reasonable lineup that looks like this:

Wroten, 6-5, PG
Suggs, 6-6, SG
Ross, 6-6, SF
Jarreau, 6-10, F
N’Diaye, 7-0, C

There’s even a chance to slide in Gant as the small forward in the grouping.

Another version:
Gaddy, 6-3, PG
Wilcox, 6-5, SG
Simmons, 6-7, SF
Gant, 6-8, F
N’Diaye, 7-0

Across the board, that would match up with stretched-out North Carolina, which was 6-3, 6-3, 6-8, 6-10, 7-0 to start last year’s season-ending tournament game.

There is an exceptional level of sorting to do for Romar. Prior to last season, Washington lost just Quincy Pondexter. It’s a bit of a downplay to put “just” in front of the name of a conference player of the year candidate, but it was not the mass shift of this coming season.

It’s not just the physical traits of the newbies. Indoctrinating the first full-fledged class of social media monsters will be an experiment like none other for Romar.

The core is rattled. The base of the teams that won some form of Pac-10 title each of the last three years has moved on. Likely so has that run of titles.

This group is long on inches, short in the tooth.


  • Tone

    Would disagree with you, nearly 100%. Experience wise, yes, we lost a lot. But if you look at individuals and compare, I think what we gained outweighs what we lost. For example, who would you take: Venoy or Wroten? Sorry, but Wroten is NBA talent and we all know where Venoy is. Wroten will clearly bring more offense vs. Venoy and I don’t think we lost much in his senior year in terms of D. If you take Holiday, feel pretty good that a combination of Simmons/Breunig/Kemp/Jarreau brings more points, equal athleticism and the depth needed. Reports also say that Simmons will bring more boards. Feel good there. Feel equally good that Ross (projected top 15 draft in 2012) can draw as much defense as IT did last year and collect more boards. That will free up others to collect points as well. I do respect what IT brought to the table but feel collectively among these guys, we should be solid. Also, it was clear that the Dawgs, despite their great inner circle and friendships, were distracted by something in the locker room. How else do you explain the mid season crash despite all these seniors? Well, that distraction appears long gone now. The competition in practice will be fierce. Personally feel much more optimistic, but will be cautious, than you.

  • Ridiculously cynical article.  The talent level on this team is ridiculous.  There is far more reason for optimism than pessimism.

  • Ryan

    Ross is capable?  NBA scouts disagree w/ you.  Wroten is raw?  His shooting, maybe – but his skill set is the perfect match for Romar’s system

    They may struggle early, but this team has a lot of pieces to compete at a really high level.  Terrible article…

  • I think the article is a little cynical.  Not insanely so. 

    I agree that the author will be very pleasantly surprised with the play of Ross this year.  Look for his free throws to go way up too.  He will have the ball in his hand a lot more this year.

    Another thing is that i felt Holiday really faded last year.  I think he put too much of his mental focus on his offense.  He needed to be a defensive demon every single game and let the O come during the games.  He was thinking too much about needing to score to be relevant for scouts imo.  Or according to my W.A.G..

    I don’t expect this team to be quite as good as last year.  Having a legitimate low post presence will be missed.  I do think Wroten’s ability to drive and create will make up for a lot of that, but it will be missed.  And yes i know Amanning was inconsistent.  But he did show up more often than not in his Senior year.

    We will see lots of improvements in the young guys.  And don’t forget how good Gaddy was looking before going down.  This team would have gone farther imo with Gaddy getting most of the minutes Venoy got last year.  He was needed vs. North Carolina.

    Lots of additions.  Gaddy, Wroten, Simmons.  Those three guys should all be big time players for this team.  Might sound like an overstatement for Wilcox, but i hear good things and i love his “style”.  Wilcox, Aziz, and Ross should all take big steps forward after one year of Pac play.

  • IF you can go really small, imagine the skill out there with this lineup.  I know there are tons of teams you would probably never want to try this line up against(even against their second unit).  But man it would be fun to see it’s ability to get up and down the court, the 3 pt shooting, and their ability to get to the cup or drive and dish. 

    The amount of minutes Ross can match up against another teams PF might be telling for how many minutes we can go small.

    Gaddy   6’3
    Wilcox   6’5
    Wroten  6’5
    Suggs   6’6
    Ross     6’6

  • Neal_9621

    I think you should find a new profession

  • Joe

    Maybe you should actually see what these guys do on the floor before you write them off as “too heavy, too light, too small, and too raw.”

    Ridiculous article.