Gone: G/F-Terrence Ross, PG-Tony Wroten, PF-Darnell Gant
The early exits of Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten to the NBA Draft set the defending Pac-12 champion Washington Huskies back this year as they easily lose their top two players from a year ago. Still, Lorenzo Romar's team has enough talent to finish in the upper half of the conference and compete for a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Even though Ross and Wroten are now playing at the next level, Washington still has a veteran backcourt led by senior point guard Abdul Gaddy. The Tacoma native has failed to live up to lofty expectations but is a poised floor leader who brings more control to the team's offense than Wroten's often out-of-control play. As a result, the Huskies will switch half-court offenses relying less on motion and more on Gaddy's intelligence. Don't expect the them to run and gun as much as they did a year ago either.
Flanking Gaddy on the wing will be sharpshooters C.J. Wilcox and Scott Suggs. Wilcox flew under the radar playing alongside Ross and Wroten a year ago, but still shot 40% from distance and will become the team's go-to option. Suggs sat out all of last season due to a broken foot but can also sling it from deep, connecting on 45% of his triple tries during his junior campaign.
Mark McLaughlin was supposed to be a huge scoring threat on the wing after transferring in from Tacoma CC. He led the community college ranks in scoring last season averaging 28.4 points per game, but decided not to enroll at Washington adding to his odd venture as a college basketball player. With McLaughlin not in the fold, seldom-used sophomore Hikeen Stewart and redshirt freshman Andrew Andrews are the only reserve guards.
There is quality depth up front led by seven-foot senior Aziz N'Diaye, who has steadily improved as a scorer but can still be more dominant as a rebounder and shot blocker, if he can stay out of foul trouble. Sophomore Desmond Simmons figures to replace Darnell Gant in the starting lineup. Like Gant, Simmons has a decent face-up game that can stretch defenses and open up things inside for N'Diaye.
There are plenty of options off the bench including sophomores Shawn Kemp Jr., Martin Bruening, and two-sport athlete Austin Sefrian-Jenkins, who will join the team after the Huskies' football season ends. Redshirt freshman Jerrard Jerreau gives Romar another option off the bench.
Washington added even more size to the roster with the additions of San Francisco transfer Perris Blackwell and Gilles Dierickx formerly of Florida International. Blackwell is a bruiser at 6-9, 280 pounds who was honorable mention All-West Coast Conference last season while Dierickx is still very much a work in progress. Both guys must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Guard play will once again spark the Huskies, and while they have a solid trio of Wilcox, Suggs, and Gaddy, the team's overall talent does not stack up to what Romar has coached the previous few seasons. Still, Washington has the potential to be in the tourney picture come March.
Player to Watch: C.J. Wilcox, SG
Wilcox won't hide in anybody's shadow this season and should be the focal point of the Huskies' offense and, as a result, every opposing defense. The kid can flat out shoot the rock and moves very well coming off ball screens in catch and shoot situations. A breakout season in the Northwest could have him turning pro after this season.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/17 vs. Seton Hall (Hall of Fame Classic)
11/18 vs. Ohio State/Rhode Island (Hall of Fame Classic)