The University of Washington's is entering the post-Brockman era. With Jon Brockman manning the lane, there were very few worries. He was going to grab every rebound he could get his hands on, he was going to bang on offense and get hard earned points, hustle on both ends and play his heart out for 40 minutes a night. And now that one of the most decorated players the program has ever known has moved on, he has left a big question mark in his place.
The team will have to use a by-committee approach to pick up Brockman's lost production; no one player is going to be able to do it alone. Traditionally Coach Romar has had teams that rebound the ball strongly regardless of what players he has on the floor, so there's no reason to be concerned about this approach, especially when one considers that there are guys on the roster who have shown that they can man the glass at times. The question will be whether or not they can do it consistently for the course of an entire season. The one area that will improve on Brockman's exit will be shotblocking, because as great as Jon was, he lacked the length and athleticism to block shots and all the guys playing forward on this team have that ability. The team as a whole has a chance to be very stingy defensively and while Overton is the guy that everybody notices, the big men are the key to keeping other teams away from the basket.
The players that Romar has recruited to play the post are all guys that were widely pursued in recruiting, have a bunch of talent, tons of upside, yet most of them have relatively little production to show for it. This is going to be the year that we find out how good these kids are.
#33 Tyreese Breshers: 6 feet, 7 inches. 255 pounds. Redshirt Freshman
Breshers was given a medical redshirt last year due to a shin injury, and word is that his recovery is going well. Well enough that he should be able to contribute this year. When healthy, Breshers is an incredibly gifted athlete. In spite of his height he is an accomplished shot blocker and has been known to throw down a thundering dunk if given the opportunity. He is also a big, strong kid, as the 255 pound waistband indicates, and if he puts the effort, stays healthy and keeps his weight under control Romar believes he could become a guy the program leans on in the post in the coming years.
It's hard to say exactly how much the freshman will be able to contribute because of his injury. Romar has stated that he isn't 100%, and may not be until the middle of the season. It feels like a certainty that he will get some playing time though, and he may even be the first big man off of the bench. He's got a shot of working his way into the starting lineup if his health and conditioning improve quickly enough.
#11 Matthew Bryan-Amaning: 6 feet, 9 inches. 240 pounds. Junior
MBA is being pegged by many as a guy ripe for a breakout year, and when you look at his size, athleticism and the talent that he has flashed at points, you can make a good case for that. Between his freshman year and his sophomore year he took a step forward, but it wasn't much more than a baby step. His numbers all went up, but so did his minutes so you'd expect that to happen. But for the University of Washington to be a legitimate threat this year it would be huge if MBA did in fact take a giant step forward.
MBA is hands down the team's best shot blocker, but at times he is far too aggressive going for blocks and occasionally abandons his defensive footwork, which leads to fouls, which MBA drew more often than any Husky. One thing that MBA flashed last year was his interior passing. There were a number of times when he'd draw a defender into the air and dump it to the other post player (usually Brockman) for an easy layup. A lot of that was Brockman knowing where to be and when to be there, but it's a skill that a lot of big men simply don't have and never learn.
Against inferior opponents such as Texas Southern, Portland State and Stanford, Matthew put up some big numbers, yet when the bigger opponents were on the floor he disappeared. He averaged just 1.8 points a game and 2.2 rebounds a game against Cal/UCLA/Arizona State/WSU. He put up just 2.75 ppg and 2.75 rpg in postseason play, and most of that production came against Stanford. This season MUST be different for MBA. He will be counted on to contribute regardless of what color the opponent's jersey is.
Bryan-Amaning will likely be the team's starting center, but if he cannot avoid the fouls that plagued him last year he will not be able to stay on the floor long enough to become a significant contributor. If his touch has softened around the rim he has the talent to, at times, be a monster.
#44 Darnell Gant: 6 feet, 8 inches. 225 pounds. Redshirt Sophomore
A returning starter, Coach Romar has made no guarantees that Gant will be a starter again this year. After putting on weight in the offseason and working on his midrange jumper, he is going to be more of a complete player. Last year Darnell was primarily a defensive player, using his height and length to match up against other opponents' big men and wings, block shots and pull down rebounds, but he was almost a non factor on the offensive end. He could dunk the ball, but that was about it. He frequently took a 15 foot jumper, but it was a shot that defenses were glad to let him take because it didn't fall often. If he has added that 15 footer to his repertoire as has been indicated then he will be able to keep defenses honest.
Gant's added strength will show up in the rebounding column, and the only thing stopping him from playing bigger minutes last year was his offensive ineptitude. If he can be even competent on offense this year, he'll be relied on to play a lot of minutes when MBA is on the bench due to foul trouble.
#22 Justin Holiday: 6 feet, 6 inches. 180 pounds. Junior
Listed as a forward, Holiday is really more of a perimeter player. Last year he was called on to come in and shut down the opposition's hot hand, as Holiday is one of the better defenders on the team due to his combination of length and quickness. One of his other strengths that was evident last year was his passing. When the Dentmon/Thomas/Overton trio was having trouble making entry passes because larger defenders were exposing their lack of height, Holiday was far and away the most dependable player on the team, and he almost always put the ball in a place where the post player had an excellent look at the basket. Justin's biggest weakness was his lack of offensive contributions. He was capable around the basket, but his perimeter shot left something to be desired. Word is that's exactly what he's been working on, so improvement in that area would give the team another player who can knock down 3's consistently, which is something this team desperately needs.
Look for Holiday to play virtually the same role he did last year. He'll be the 7th or 8th man off of the bench, and matched up against the opponents best wing player. The Huskies will also use him as a 4 once in a while, running a small and quick lineup with 3 guards, Holiday and Pondexter at the 5. We know what we're getting from Justin Holiday. He's the type of player coaches love: he's smart, can do a little bit of everything, is an excellent defender and isn't going to hurt the team when he's on the floor.
#20 Quincy Pondexter: 6 feet, 6 inches. 215 pounds. Senior
The lone senior on the squad, big things are expected from Pondexter this season. He has the talent to be not just one of the best players in the conference, but one of the best players in the nation. It's just a matter of him putting it together for an entire season, and with his height/strength/skill combination, there's no reason for him not to. There were times last season where he was unguardable, and as the season wore on he got better and better. In the tournament last year, Quincy was the team's best player, putting up big numbers against Mississippi State and following that performance with a double-double against Purdue. Those are the kinds of performances that will be expected and needed from Q-Pon if the Huskies are to be a contender again this year.
Word is that this year Quincy will again be experimenting with the 3 pointer. He pretty much avoided shooting them last season, as with Justin Dentmon's hot hand there wasn't much need for Pondexter to join in. But with Dentmon graduating and the team searching for its consistent deep threat, don't be surprised if Quincy puts up some threes, especially early in the season when the team is still finding its identity. If he can hit 3 pointers consistently, look out Pac-10.
#5 Brendan Sherrer: 6 feet, 9 inches. 240 pounds. Sophomore
Sherrer is a walk-on. He shouldn't factor into any important games this year, but if the Dawgs get up big on an opponent, expect the Dawg Pack to chant for Sherrer to come into the game. And hey, he's tall.
#12 Clarence Trent: 6 feet 5 inches, 225 pounds. Freshman
Trent is an extremely athletic player. He's thrown down many dunks in his career, and the Midnight Madness dunk contest that Isaiah Thomas won is said to be the first in Trent's life that he's ever lost. He uses his athleticism and hard work to make up for his lack of ideal height and is a strong rebounder. The question about Trent is his offensive game. His midrange jumper is decent, but much like Gant last year, teams probably won't show it much respect, and his interior game needs polish.
Trent went to a prep school last year, and those guys are usually more ready to come in and contribute faster than your run of the mill highschooler (see: Isaiah Thomas), but Trent may simply not be far enough along in his development and have too many talented players ahead of him to carve out minutes in the rotation. If Breshers struggles getting into playing shape, Romar may have to go to Trent for rebounding assistance and added depth, but with a healthy roster Trent figures to be the 10th or 11th man. And on a Romar coached team that usually means playing time is scarce.