The University of Washington possesses one of the deepest stable of guards in the nation. Despite the loss of 1st Team All Pac-10 player Justin Dentmon, this backcourt group will likely be a stronger group than last year's. The guards will be centered around last year's Freshman of the Year Isaiah Thomas, and bolstered by the likes of Venoy Overton, Elston Turner and newcomer Abdul Gaddy. Behind those first four are the highly touted Scott Suggs as well as hot shooting freshman C.J. Wilcox.
Lorenzo Romar is going to have his hands full trying to find a way to get all of the guards on this team minutes, because he's got six players who are Pac-10 caliber contributors, and unless the Huskies go small frequently there simply isn't enough time in a game to keep them all happy.
Much more after the jump.
#10 Abdul Gaddy: 6 feet 3 inches. 190 pounds. Freshman
If you haven't yet heard about Abdul Gaddy, then get out from under the rock. After the whirlwind that was his recruitment, he spurned Arizona (twice) and decided to play hoops near home for at least the next couple of years. The Tacoma product and McDonalds All-American has been lauded as one of the top players coming into college basketball next year, and with good reason. Gaddy is a prototypical point guard; he has great size for the position, he handles the ball well, is a leader on the floor, looks to pass first, can hurt teams if they don't respect his offense and can take over a game if need be.
Abdul Gaddy will come in and contribute from day one. He will likely be the team's starting point guard and is an early favorite for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. How he responds to the pressure of expectations will determine how quickly he reaches his potential. If he comes in and tries to do too much, then Coach Romar will have to yield to a more experienced player like Venoy Overton. Another concern about Abdul is how quickly he picks up defense at the college level. Being counted on to play a lot of minutes would be great, but if he's a defensive liability Romar will not hesitate to yank him. If Gaddy adjusts to college quickly, he could help lead this team deep into the postseason.
#1 Venoy Overton: 5 feet 11 inches. 185 pounds. Junior
Everybody's favorite pest, Venoy Overton is one of the best defenders in all of college basketball. As last year's sixth man, Overton was counted on to come in and frustrate opponent's point guards, an art he has honed as evidenced by the steals he has accumulated and the charges he has drawn, as well as the kerfuffles he has caused. At times Overton gets too aggressive on defense and gets called for too many fouls, often pushing giving UW's opponents bonus free throws, but he also creates easy baskets off of turnovers. Unfortunately for Overton, there's another side of the ball, a side that he has yet to get a grasp on. To be blunt: He doesn't shoot well. He will occaisionally penetrate, something he does well with his quickness, though too often he puts his head down and commits to shooting once he gets into the lane when passing would have been the best option.
Overton will likely be the exact same player he was last year. He'll continue to be the most hated player of our opponent's fans, provide the Huskies with a ton of energy, and frustrate many with his offensive inability. Any offense that he provides the team with will be a bonus, and as long as he yields to the more accomplished offensive players instead of forcing up shots he will have done his job.
#15 Scott Suggs: 6 feet 6 inches. 185 pounds. Sophomore
We've heard for the past year or so about how talented Scott Suggs is. He was Mr. Show Me Basketball as Missouri's top high school player his senior year and a four star recruit with tremendous length. Yet last year he couldn't get minutes and was 5th in the guard rotation, behind fellow freshmen guards Isaiah Thomas and Elston Turner. Then Romar signed Abdul Gaddy and C.J. Wilcox, two guys who are expected to come in and compete for spots in the rotation. It didn't really look like Suggs had much of a place on the team last year, and it wouldn't have been shocking had he transferred. But he decided to stick around to prove that he can play at UW and in the Pac-10.
One big reason Suggs didn't get off the bench much last year is that he was rail thin. His shoulders are too narrow for him to ever be a big guy, but he really needs to put on some pounds or else the wings in this conference are going to bully him around. With Overton/Thomas/Turner returning and Gaddy coming in, if Suggs has any chance of getting on the court he has to be able to play on the wing and guard that position, and Romar is going to have to go small a few times a game.
Unfortunately, a scenario where his minutes don't increase to a level where happy seems very possible, barring an injury to another player. I'd hate to see a player with his potential leave the program, but it looks like a distinct possibility given the state of the depth chart.
#2 Isaiah Thomas: 5 feet 8 inches. 185 pounds. Sophomore
The diminutive Isaiah Thomas is this team's heart and soul. He was the biggest difference between the team two years ago that went 16-17 and last year's Pac-10 championship team. He used his quickness and athleticism to blow past, around and through opposing defenses and in the process set UW's freshman scoring record and earned the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year honors.
We know what Thomas is capable of doing on the hardwood, but for this coming season there are some areas where some improvement is going to be necessary. Isaiah shot a ton of threes last year, but hit less than 30%. He shot the most free throws of any player on the team last year, but hit fewer than 70% of them. If Isaiah improves on anything in his game for the coming year, these two areas need to be priorities 1 and 1a. If he does improve those percentages to the 35% and 75% range or better, there's an excellent chance he'll be staring a Pac-10 Player of the Year award in the face.
#31 Elston Turner Jr.: 6 feet 4 inches. 205 pounds. Sophomore
Last year Elston Turner displayed a sweet shot, and toward the end of the season showed real flashes that he is going to become a dangerous player sometime before his eligibility runs out. He battled an ankle injury down the stretch last season, but when he was healthy he was a player that had to be accounted for by opposing defenses. Being the son of a coach, Elston was able to come in as a freshman with enough savvy and understanding of the game to earn minutes, and if his performance at Midnight Madness is any indicator (5/6 from the field and 3/4 from 3 point range) he has honed his scoring ability and is going to be pushing for more minutes.
Coming into the 09-10 season, he is the team's most accomplished three point shooter and is going to be counted on to come off of the bench and bust zone defenses. Really, he's the team's only player who has proven he can hit 3's with consistency, and if Isaiah Thomas doesn't show that he can knock down a decent percentage from deep Elston may simply be impossible to keep on the bench for key stretches.
#23 C.J. Wilcox: 6 feet 5 inches. 180 pounds. Freshman
The buzz around C.J. Wilcox is that he's the best shooter on the team and can stand toe to toe with anybody in the nation at the 3 point arc. If he can pick up Romar's defensive rotation, he might be tough to keep off the floor if his offseason shooting translates to live action.
There has been some talk of Wilcox redshirting this year, and given the depth ahead of him it's a distinct possibility. As long as the team avoids any serious injuries Wilcox will likely sit this year out, but with only 12 scholarship players it's a thin margin. If Wilcox gets a lot of minutes this year, it's a bad sign.