Four years ago there was a freshman by the name of Abdul Gaddy set to lead the Washington Huskies offense. The consensus five-star point guard prospect (number two point guard behind the eventual first overall NBA Draft pick John Wall) was going to replace the graduated Justin Dentmon and lead the Dawgs straight back into the NCAA Tournament. It didn't go exactly as planned, but for the past four seasons the Washington faithful knew that Abdul Gaddy would be the starting point guard for Lorenzo Romar's Huskies.
Not this year.
This year's squad returns redshirt sophomore Andrew Andrews. Andrews could (and probably should, considering Romar's history) be considered a combo-guard but for the purposes of this article, he will be listed as a point.
Another player who could be considered a combo-guard is Hikeem Stewart. Stewart played the one in in mop-up duty his freshman year, and saw the court a little bit more as a defensive specialist alongside another point this past season. For this article, he is going to be considered a point as well.
There is Dion Overstreet, a walk-on who will be a senior this year. He played in three games last year, making a pair of free throws.
Those are the returning players.
There are two incoming freshmen who could look to have an impact immediately: Nigel Williams-Goss and Jahmel Taylor. Kevin profiled them both in his series for SBN Seattle about UW basketball recruits. Check them out, he has some awesome stuff in there.
Right now though, we are trying to find what UW has at the point guard position for this upcoming season. I miss basketball you guys. Maybe Washington is mostly a football school. Heck, I even know more about the game of football than the game of basketball. But, basketball is poetry on hardwood. Football is chess. Basketball is Edgar Allan Poe writing about - no, Poe won't work, his work is dark and depressing. I don't know anything about poetry. Basketball is a Shakespearian sonnet recited to the tune of a crashing ocean. Basketball is beautiful wordplay interwoven with the crashing of waves: crisp, clean passing intermixed with the oscillation of a circular orange rim.
When it comes to aesthetics, a back-pick to set up a soft lob to the rim finished by a thunderous slam is one of the deepest actions to witness in all of sports. Coaches will emphasize the importance of the timing of the screen to catch the defenders off-guard. Commentators will mention the level of skill it takes to time a lob pass to match a human being in flight. Fans will enjoy the end result: the rim bent no longer perpendicular to the glass while bearing the weight of one of the top athletes in the world while he is emphatically screaming at the top of his lungs, letting the world know what he just accomplished.
I love basketball.
Some of the guys throwing the passes (or in some cases receiving) will be covered in this article.
He was easily the quickest player on the roster last year. Andrews used his superior quickness (and nifty spin move) to be the best for Washington at getting the ball in the paint off of the dribble. Gaddy was able to use deceptive dribbling, strength and length to get inside, while C.J. Wilcox was able to get past defenders fearing his jump shot and also by using his length to wiggle his way through defenders. Andrews could get into the lane in a flash, especially compared to the time it took Wilcox and Gaddy to move the ball inside.
That was probably his strongest ability last year: get into the lane. Once he got himself into the lane however, he wasn't always the best at finishing or making the dump-off pass to the big man who was left alone when his man went to go help on the penetrating Andrews. Now, we cannot be sure how much of this blame could potentially go on the shoulders (or should I say hands) of Aziz N'Diaye, who struggled mightily to corral difficult passes. It very well may have been that Andrews just did not have faith in the big Senegalese. Shawn Kemp Jr. did show better ability to do this, as did Jernard Jarreau, so a lot of the blame, deservedly so, will remain on Andrews.
Something that was lamented quite a bit was the inability of Tony Wroten Jr. to do anything other than get the ball to the rim. He had no sort of a mid-range pull-up jumper (heck, he had no jumper at all), or even a floater/runner to do six feet out of the rim to prevent help defenders from crashing extremely hard at the basket, as he was not a threat to hand the ball off (again, N'Diaye caveat) or do anything other than get to the left side of the basket and try to lay it in off the glass. Andrews does not have this problem. His floater in the lane may be his best offensive weapon. Not only can he use it to score, but it keeps defenders from committing too hard to the backboard, opening up other opportunities.
Andrews's strength as a passer is best observed in the open floor, in transition and semi-transition. He is able to use is athleticism to push the ball down the floor quickly, before the defense is set. This helps to create mismatches and confusion within the defense, causing there to be more open passing and driving lanes. It appeared last year that he had better vision in transition than Gaddy. That may very well be true, but his abilities lent themselves much more to an up-and-down game than the departed senior.
This season we may see how well Andrews does at orchestrating an offense for a long period of time (or may not, NWG could have something to say about that). At this point in time, it has yet to be seen how well he gets players into the proper places to run an offensive set. This is something that Gaddy was actually very good at. He could be seen constantly directing other players to certain spots.
Andrews has the potential to be a very good jump shooter. He has good lift on his shot, he keeps his balance very well and keeps himself within rhythm. He doesn't have much of a hitch in his release, and everything is kept very compact. One big, big thing is that he is confident shooting the ball. He does not shy away from taking an open shot, nor does he hesitate. That being said, he shot 27% from three-land last season. Obviously shooting form is not the only thing that determines if one is a good shooter or not, it just makes things easier. It could happen that this season Andrews is a knockdown shooter that defenses have to respect. This will open up the high post more, which is obviously very important within a high post offense.
Defensively, Andrews developed as the season went along. He is not a lockdown perimeter defender. His quickness is a definite asset. As he develops he will probably learn to use his gifts to play passing lanes better and garner more steals and force turnovers. He has the physical ability to be able to harass ball-handlers all the way down the court. There were times last season that he would do just that: full-court, Lorenzo Romar pressure. Force the opponent into making mistakes and create easy baskets. Given the personnel, I am expecting more of a return to the full-court defense.
Williams-Goss will very possibly be slotted into the starting lineup from day one. Here are a few of his credentials:
- Participant in the 2012 Nike Global Challenge
- Participant in 2013 Jordan Brand Classic
- McDonald's All-American
- Rated as 5-star recruit by ESPN
- Starting PG on U19 U.S. FIBA World Championships team
In other words, he can play.
As an incoming freshman, we can't be certain of what exactly we will get from him. How will his game transition to the Division-I level? Will he have a steep learning curve? Right now, we can give a scouting report and guess what will translate.
The biggest strengths for NWG are his intangibles. He has been called the best leader in high school basketball. Again, it is an intangible. Oftentimes leadership is difficult to determine just by what we see on a television broadcast. We will have to trust reports on that one.
Despite not being a top-level athlete, Williams-Goss is a great scorer. He has an excellent handle, and good length and size for the position, which he uses very well to get into the lane. He will have to add (and is probably in the process of) a bit more muscle to deal with stronger opponents at the D-I level, and maybe a bit more speed to better defend 2-guards (with Andrews being 6'1" he will be the one defending PG's).
Despite his great scoring ability, his passing may be his best attribute. He always keeps his head up in transition, great for the up-tempo Huskies. With both Andrews and NWG, look for the tempo to be more breakneck like years past, unlike the average pace of this previous season.
As for his jumper, there is potential, but at this point it is only average for a recruit. He can knock down open threes, but he can't be expected to come in and be a catch-and-shoot extraordinaire.
Taylor is another incoming freshman with the potential to impact the game right off the bat. The first thing to note about Taylor is his jumper. He has range out to 25 feet out according to ESPN. That is over four feet beyond the three-point line (20'9"). Basically he has "when he steps into the gym" range.
He has the ability to create his own shot - one of the signature skills of a combo-guard. Lorenzo Romar has likened Taylor to former Husky Justin Dentmon, one of many combo-guards that Romar has had a lot of success with. "He's a feisty player who doesn't back down from anyone. He attacks the rim, he really pressures the ball." Again, this looks to be another indicator that Romar wants to return to the full-court defense.
Taylor is undersized for a combo guard at 5'11", so having him and NWG both on the floor together will allow Taylor to defend the point guard while the bigger Williams-Goss switches to the shooting guard. How Taylor's length affects his offensive game remains to be seen. How can he finish in traffic against bigger defenders? He is only 160 lbs., which probably means that he is not a strong 5'11", but that remains to be seen.
We may not even see him this season, as Stewart (listed as a SG by many sites) can run the point in a pinch, we have seen Wilcox handle the ball at times as well. It very well could end up as a redshirt season for Taylor. He is a consensus 3-star recruit, so he should not be expected to make a large immediate impact. It is possible, but unlikely.
What do you think of the depth at the point guard position this season? How does it stack up to previous years? The big question: no matter how much flack Abdul Gaddy got throughout his career, it was comforting knowing he would be the one running the show. Do you see a drop-off from last season, losing a four-year starter and replacing him with a freshman?