What Has Happened to Husky Basketball? The Three Biggest Issues Facing This Team and Where The Dawgs Go From Here
The Washington’s men’s basketball team isn’t very good right now. Five games into a new season and they’ve already lost three times. They more closely resemble the Seattle Mariners than any other local ballclub these days and fans are pulling their collective hair out watching this squad play.
What the hell happened? This team used to be great. Head coach Lorenzo Romar used to pull in top-10 recruiting classes, used to guide his team to the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis, used to sit atop the conference as a perennial power each season. And then suddenly, it all changed.
Back-to-back down years have the Huskies in a precarious position. A third season of less-than-stellar performance seems to be on the horizon. Fans are questioning the direction of the program and answers — How? Why? — seem to be at an all-time low.
There’s hope for this team, certainly, but there are a number of obstacles blocking the path to achievement. The three biggest issues for the Huskies? We’ve compiled them right here.
Issue No. 1: Recruiting
It starts with recruiting, of course. If the pipeline is bare, the supply will eventually dry up. While Lorenzo Romar and his staff have continued to bring in the occasional heralded recruit (Nigel Williams-Goss, for one), the volume of talent has dwindled dramatically since the program’s heyday just a few short years ago.
In 2007, Washington inked a total of five high school players to scholarships, each of whom would play significant roles for the team going forward. That quintet essentially consisted of an entire starting five: center Matthew Bryan-Amaning; forwards Justin Holiday and Darnell Gant; and guards Venoy Overton and Isaiah Thomas (though Thomas would delay his enrollment until 2008 upon spending one year at a prep school). By contrast, in 2012 the Huskies signed absolutely no new players — high school or otherwise — as part of their recruiting class.
One missed season can impact a program for years. The effects of bringing in zero scholarship athletes a year ago are being felt right now with a roster punctuated by older players of average ability and younger players who are not yet comfortable at the college level. The gaps created by age and talent level are just two of the possible explanations for why this team has failed to play as a cohesive unit so far in a young season.
Where Romar and his staff have failed is in devoting a great deal of time and energy to sunk costs in the form of marquee recruits who have spurned Washington for other programs. Pursuing the likes of Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon looks sexy and feels great while the courtship process is ongoing. The fun ends, however, when the elite players align themselves with equally elite programs, such as Duke and Arizona in the cases of Parker and Gordon, respectively.
Though the Huskies have been able to land a handful of superstar prep players during Romar’s 11-year tenure at the helm, they have missed on many more. And the few five-star players who have committed to Washington have typically resided in the Greater Seattle area — Jon Brockman, Spencer Hawes, Abdul Gaddy (yeah, yeah), and Tony Wroten Jr. all come to mind. Attempting to sell an out-of-state prep superstar on the benefits of a program that has spent 60 years trying to make it past the Sweet Sixteen is not easy. The results of that sales pitch are evident in a basketball team struggling to regain a relatively brief flirtation with national relevance.
Issue No. 2: Depth and Injuries
An obvious after-effect of the problems with recruiting, this year’s Huskies lack the necessary depth to overcome injuries to key contributors on their roster. After losing forwards Desmond Simmons (arthroscopic knee surgery) and Jernard Jarreau (torn ACL) for extended periods of time, the Dawgs are left with just three healthy big men in their extended rotation: 6’9″ forwards Shawn Kemp Jr. and Perris Blackwell, and 7’0″ center Gilles Dierickx.
Many may pin the hopes and dreams of the 2013-2014 campaign on the decrepit right knee of the 6’10″ Jarreau, who was largely being counted on as an impact player this season. While Jarreau certainly has some talent in that slim, lengthy frame of his, his year-long departure should not be a season-killer for the Huskies. An undersized power forward who averaged just 3.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game in 2012-2013, the redshirt sophomore is far from a world-beater. On a good team, he’d be a role player. On this team, he was thrust into the spotlight before falling victim to injury. Now, he’s little more than an excuse, a reason this ballclub may not achieve the goals it set for itself prior to the first game. Make no mistake about it, though, Jarreau does not take this team from sub-par to above-average, no matter how the story may be spun.
The same can be said for the 6’7″ Simmons, who should return to action by late-December. A glue guy who can defend four positions on the floor, grab rebounds, and provide the occasional scoring boost, Simmons’ presence will certainly be missed through the non-conference schedule. But upon returning to the lineup for Pac-12 play, there’s no reason to believe the junior forward will be a savior of any sort for this club.
The Huskies’ depth was poor before any injuries were incurred. Those issues have only been magnified after losing a pair of rotational stalwarts early on. The fact is, this team wasn’t great to begin with. Now, though, they’re sadly worse.
Issue No. 3: Defense (especially interior defense) and Rebounding
Defense has never been the Huskies’ strong suit, but the ability and desire to flat out do it has seemingly regressed in recent years. This year is no exception, as the Dawgs can’t seem to guard anybody wearing an opposing team’s jersey.
Through five contests this season, Washington has relinquished an average of 87 points per game to its opponents, only two of whom (Indiana and Boston College) are considered major conference programs. That the Huskies are allowing points is one thing, but the way in which they’re allowing points is perhaps most egregious.
Nearly 60-percent of the points scored on the Dawgs this year have come as a result of two-point field goals. An additional 23.4-percent of points have come via three-pointers, while 18.6-percent of all points scored have been earned at the charity stripe. Those figures alone may raise an eyebrow, but digging a little deeper into the data is an eye-opening experience.
On two-point field goals, Washington’s opponents are shooting an impressive 58-percent. By contrast, the Huskies themselves are shooting just 46-percent on two-pointers. The 12-percent variance is staggering and accounts for much of the overall scoring differential in most ballgames. When you consider that the three-point percentage margin is just two-percent (opponents are shooting the longball at a 35.8-percent clip; the Huskies at 33.8-percent) it’s clear that two-point field goals have become UW’s Kryptonite.
Breaking the data down further, the opponent shooting percentages on two-point field goals by game are as follows: 50-percent (Seattle), 67-percent (UC Irvine), 46-percent (Eastern Washington), 62-percent (Indiana), and 65-percent (Boston College). In the three contests in which Washington allowed their opponent to shoot 60-plus-percent from two-point range, the Huskies themselves shot sub-50-percent from the same depth (and sub-40-percent in the Irvine game). On top of that, they’ve been out-shot from two-point range in every game but one, the victory over Eastern Washington, a day in which they posted a 54-percent mark of their own.
The reasons for these problems with two-point field goals? It goes back to the lack of frontcourt depth, for one, but also incorporates an inability the Huskies seem to have in finishing at the rim. They attack the rack, sure, but they have trouble converting drives to the hoop. Physical strength, it seems, is an issue.
Further evidence of the aforementioned frontcourt issues rears its head in rebounding statistics. Playing much of the year with four-guard lineups (and often aligning in a zone defense in an attempt to mitigate size restraints), the Huskies have struggled on the glass. Though they’ve corralled just two fewer offensive rebounds than their foes (58 versus 60), defensive rebounding is another story. Washington has been out-rebounded on the defensive glass 140-119 so far in the early going. This pain point was punctuated, bolded, and highlighted in the game against Indiana, in which the Hoosiers out-rebounded the Huskies 47-27 and cleaned up on the defensive window to the tune of 29-14. The result for the purple-and-gold was an 18-point defeat that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard might otherwise indicate.
Breaking the data down by game reveals a narrative that aligns with the two-point scoring issues. In every game but one — the Eastern Washington matchup once again — the Huskies have been out-rebounded by their opponents. Without big bodies to crash on missed shots, the Dawgs haven’t grabbed as many boards as they need to. Those missed rebounds will continue to haunt this Washington team as the season goes on.
The moral of this lengthy, somewhat tangential story? In the short term, interior play is a glaring weakness and must resolve itself if the Huskies have any hope of making noise this year. Key contributors must stay healthy and the team must keep doing well in the few areas they’ve had success in so far — three-point shooting, more or less, and guard play on offense (the Huskies own a satisfactory assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.4, which is better than that of their opponents through the first five games).
In the longer term, Coach Romar and his staff need to avoid putting all their eggs in the baskets of top-10 recruits, instead spreading their pursuit across a number of prep players more likely to actually select Washington as their college of choice. They also need to refocus their attention on local athletes who grew up watching the Huskies play, who fans might know by name, and who might inspire a following when they sign with their hometown university.
Once upon a time, Lorenzo Romar stumbled upon the formula for success almost accidentally, with a number of players he didn’t actually recruit. Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, and Mike Jensen represent four names the coach and his staff inherited at Washington. They also signify four Huskies who hailed from the Greater Seattle area. Fans wanted to watch these guys play and in turn the players responded by playing great for their fans. That spawned a lineage of local players donning the purple-and-gold who enjoyed similar success at UW, a pipeline that has all but dried up in the present-day. Fall back into that same winning formula, with recruits who want to be here, who understand the history of Seattle-area basketball and what it means to fans, who want to play in front of their hometown crowd, and things can improve.
There are habits of achievement that existed not too long ago inside Hec Edmundson Pavilion. It’s time the Huskies returned to those old habits.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
SSN Twitterbag: Antoine Winfield’s future, Mariner busts, the limit on what we’ll let fall in our beer, and more
It’s like a mailbag, but with Twitter. Because outside of work, no one sends emails anymore. To participate in future Twitterbags, look for the #SSNTwitterbag hashtag and follow along, @alexSSN.
Will Antoine Winfield sign [with the Seahawks]? -via @caseyc8
Winfield, a 35-year-old free agent cornerback just released by Minnesota, is one of the premier players at his position, even at this late stage in his career. A former All-Pro and three-time Pro Bowl honoree, Winfield reportedly worked out with the Seahawks just a few days ago.
To atone for my relative ignorance on Winfield’s contractual prospects, I went to one of the brightest football minds I know for some help. My buddy Curtis Crabtree (speaking of Twitter, follow him @Curtis_Crabtree) — who covers the Seahawks for Sports Radio KJR, as well as the west coast for ProFootballTalk — was able to provide some insight for us on the situation:
“Winfield would fill a big need for Seattle as a slot cornerback,” said Curtis. “Seattle has more cap space available than Minnesota and his release from the Vikings wasn’t particularly amicable. Minnesota is pushing hard to keep him, but the manner of his release may push him to head to the Seahawks.”
Winfield was released by the Vikings on March 12, a move made in large part to clear cap space. His termination was brought to his attention while he was working out at the team’s facility, hence the less-than-amicable separation.
With more money to offer and the potential of a Super Bowl season ahead, it certainly appears like the Seahawks may have the inside track on Winfield right now.
Is it still too early to call [Dustin] Ackley and/or [Jesus] Montero a bust? -via @AndyTheG
Yes. Without a doubt, yes.
Sure, both Ackley and Montero have struggled for the bulk of their tenures in Seattle, and have especially struggled of late. While each were deemed top prospects, both have been seemingly cursed by the expectations that come along with such lofty praise.
Though there’s still time for both Ackley and Montero to develop, perhaps most concerning is the fact that neither player has shown much in the way of improvement over much of the past year. Ackley has showcased a revamped batting stance that looks about as comfortable as a pair of skinny jeans, while Montero’s weight transfer has been atrocious, sending him flailing out in front of pitches before they’re halfway to home plate.
Ackley will be granted plenty of time to work out his issues, with seemingly no other options at second base. (Unless the team wants to shift Kyle Seager over there and see what they have in a third base prospect, such as Nick Franklin; unlikely at this point.) Montero, on the other hand, is under the gun with 2012 first-round draft pick Mike Zunino off to a blazing start at Triple-A Tacoma. Fans are already eager for Zunino’s arrival, and if the organization is forced to promote him out of merit, it will likely be Montero that either finds his way to the minors or suffers from limited playing time.
Another factor in all this is Justin Smoak, who may be closer to “bust” status than either of his younger counterparts. Smoak is hanging by a final thread with the M’s, and if he can’t reveal any promise over the first few weeks of the season, his days in a Mariners uniform are undoubtedly numbered. Smoak and Montero are inextricably tied to one another in that each can lay claim to a finite number of at-bats in the lineup. Should Zunino arrive in Seattle and remain entrenched behind the plate, as expected, the team will need to find an alternate plan for Montero. Were he to shift to designated hitter, that would push Kendrys Morales over to first base, eliminating Smoak’s role with the ballclub. Longer term, the M’s may have plans to utilize Montero as a first baseman, since that is really the only other position on the field he could capably play.
Either way, one fact remains: Zunino’s arrival in Seattle will dramatically alter the roles of either Montero or Smoak, and possibly both. And it’s not so much “if” Zunino arrives as it is “when.” Between Montero and Smoak, will a bust emerge in due time? Probably so.
How much are you going to miss Abdul Gaddy running the point next year? -via @AZinSeattle
About as much as I miss Ed Hardy shirts, episodes of Gilmore Girls, awkward middle school slow dances, and Chone Figgins, combined. Good riddance.
What will our NHL team be called? Thunderbirds, or something new and fierce like Seattle Frozen Rain Droplets? -via @waltswarriors
First of all, nicknames that invoke nature or acts of nature are usually reserved for WNBA teams. The Sun, the Storm, the Sky, the list goes on. That said, a fiercer act of nature like Frozen Rain Droplets may have potential. Perhaps something even more geographically relevant — like Seattle Icy Pavement, or Seattle Drive Slow In The Rain — might be worth considering.
In reality, the favorites in the clubhouse so far seem to be Thunderbirds and Metropolitans, with Metropolitans getting the early nod. The Metropolitans reference is a tip of the cap to days gone by — the Seattle Mets were the first Stanley Cup Champions, after all — while the Thunderbirds are of course most pertinent to today’s generation of local hockey fans. Personally, I’m not really biased towards either nickname, which may mean we need something new altogether. Perhaps a naming contest is in order…
How good will Husky hoops in general be next year? Nationally ranked? Tourney bound at least? -via @AndersJorstad
Over the span of a few weeks, the Huskies have gone about revamping their roster in a curious fashion, putting themselves in the conversation for a return to Pac-12 relevance in 2013-2014.
Back in March, the Huskies landed a verbal commitment from JUCO swingman Mike Anderson, a 6-5 guard-forward who averaged 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds at Moberly Area Community College this past season. Though not a big name, Anderson’s résumé immediately invoked memories of another former junior college transfer from days gone by, Tre Simmons.
In addition to Anderson, it’s been rumored in recent days that UNLV forward Mike Moser will be playing his senior season on Montlake as a graduate transfer, meaning he’s eligible to contribute immediately and will not need to redshirt. Moser is finishing up his undergraduate studies this year and because of a prior redshirt season taken when he migrated from UCLA to Las Vegas, still maintains a year of NCAA eligibility. Though he’d only play one year with the Huskies, the 6-8 Moser would undoubtedly be a major contributor if healthy. Coming out of high school in the Portland area, Moser was heavily recruited by a number of teams across the nation, including Washington. Though Lorenzo Romar ultimately missed out on Moser, he may have a chance to secure the ex-Rebel for his collegiate swan song. You can read more about the impending transfer here.
With another senior, 6-9 power forward Perris Blackwell, set to make his Washington debut in 2013, the Huskies suddenly become an intriguing blend of young and old. Should C.J. Wilcox forgo the temptations of the NBA and return for his senior campaign, the Dawgs will boast a trio of fifth-year players who could lead them back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons.
Beyond the aforementioned additions, Washington brings in a freshman recruiting class led by McDonald’s All-American Nigel Williams-Goss, a 6-3 point guard from Happy Valley, Oregon. Darin Johnson, a 6-4 shooting guard from Sacramento, and Jahmel Taylor, a 5-11 point guard from Los Angeles, round out the crop of first-year players. Williams-Goss, especially, should have an instant impact, offloading some of the playmaking duties from returning redshirt sophomore Andrew Andrews, and likely assuming a fair share of the scoring duties, as well.
It will be interesting to see how the new players blend with the returning roster. With a marked improvement in talent, at least on paper, it will be up to Coach Romar and staff to mold personalities and ensure a comfortable working environment for all involved. Should this team play up to its potential, and more importantly play together, a return to the Big Dance and national relevance isn’t out of the question at all.
You seemed so confident about the Sonics next season. Are you still? -via @bryanwhite05
For months, I’ve operated under the assumption that the Sonics will be playing in Seattle in 2013. All of Kevin Johnson’s pomp and circumstance, all of the NBA’s rhetoric, and all the back-and-forth between the Maloofs and the city of Sacramento can’t change my opinion: I’m convinced the Kings are destined to become Seattle’s team before year’s end.
Sure, I’ve followed the saga on sports radio, in the news, on Twitter, etc., but I’m not letting the roller coaster ride sway me. I’d rather stay positive, trust the businessmen (and the lawyers) involved, and look towards that light at the end of the tunnel. I’m absolutely confident.
Regardless of how you may feel, however, we should have a better idea of where things are headed within the next eight days. Assuming everything goes according to schedule, we’ll know by April 20 whether we will or will not have an NBA team in the Emerald City next season.
Will Saved By the Bell ever do any 20- or 30-year high school reunion specials? -via @HuskyThor
This is one of those things that’s near and dear to my heart. Saved By the Bell is without a doubt one of my favorite sitcoms of all-time, and in recent years the people behind the show have gone about teasing us with the prospect of a reunion special on more than one occasion. Problem is, there are two holdups: Lisa and Screech, or more accurately, the real-life actors who play them, Lark Voorhies and Dustin Diamond.
Voorhies has battled her own personal demons, a battle that has been documented in the press over the past year or so. It’s rumored that she may be bipolar and, as a result, has all but given up acting while she sorts out her personal life.
Diamond is the cast’s pariah, an abrasive figure who has fallen out with just about all of his former Bell-mates. Whether or not he’d be on board for a reunion wouldn’t so much be determined by his own desires as it would by his standing with those he’d be working with. If Screech can’t get along with everyone else, a reunion project probably can’t be green-lit. While spinoffs of the original show have done okay without Lisa’s character (Lisa did not appear in recurring fashion during The College Years), the role of Screech has graced every SBTB-related project to date.
It’s been two decades since Bayside High School’s most famous class received their diplomas. A 20-year reunion would be well-received by an entire generation that still watches SBTB reruns to this day. For now, though, we continue to wait.
What is the limit to what you would let fall in a beer while still chugging it? Given that a sports beer is ~$8, when is enough, enough? We saw [the beer catch] but what about an earpiece, etc? -via @johng365
First of all, if you haven’t seen Wednesday night’s beer catch, go, now. It’s pretty amazing. Definitely worth a few seconds of your time. Catching a baseball in one’s plastic pint cup has got to be a bucket list item for any self-respecting, beer-drinking baseball fan. Would any of us not be willing to sacrifice a cold one for a souvenir as coveted as a foul ball? I like to think we’d all give up our beers for that.
This raises that all-important question, however: Where is that line on stadium beer sacrifice? A debate for the ages, without a doubt.
For me, personally, the cost of a stadium beer pales in comparison to a moment of infamy. Catching just about anything worth YouTubing in my drink would be valuable. But I’m a media whore, so naturally a bit biased. And this all assumes that a camera is in place to capture the moment of (glory?) glory. For instance, if someone chucked an earpiece into my Coors Light and it wasn’t recorded, then I’d just be some poor sap who wasted $8 or $9 on a now-tainted beer. The thought of guzzling a drink that may contain a fair amount of ear wax turns my stomach, so that beer is bound for the garbage either way. I can happily live with it, though, if I’ve found my way to the pages of Deadspin as a result.
If we operate under the hypothetical of a camera-free world, the list of things I’d let fall into my beer dramatically shortens. A baseball is still a definite yes, and likely rises to the top of the list when it comes to exciting beer finds. Anyone who’s ever taken a baseball home from the ballpark understands the excitement associated with that moment. Including me:
After the prospect of a foul ball gracing your beverage, the awesome sports-related paraphernalia you could drop into an already-full pint glass are few and far between. A hockey puck? Totally cool. A golf ball? Absolutely. A tennis ball? Sure. But then what?
A player’s mouthpiece? Eh, probably not worth it.
A batting glove? Maybe.
A wad of Bazooka chewed by your favorite player? Some might go for it, but not me.
A shooting sleeve? No.
Really, outside of a baseball, there aren’t many coveted stadium items that would warrant losing a beer over. If you want to open the book up to include the likes of a World Series ring or a $100 bill then yes, we can absolutely talk about ditching that ale you’ve been chugging. Beyond that? Well, let’s just be thankful for cameras and the world of social media. Because really, those fleeting seconds of fame and relevance are all that make an $8 waste of money okay.
Thanks to everyone for contributing their questions to this edition of the Twitterbag. Stay tuned via Twitter for our next Twitterbag request.
Filed under: Twitterbag
Editor’s note: Every now and then we like to feature guest writers here at Seattle Sportsnet. Today, we bring you a piece from Matt Holt (@TheMattHolt on Twitter), one of my good friends who also happens to be an unabashed Husky homer. You may have noticed lately that I (among others) have spent a good deal of time ripping on Abdul Gaddy. While Gaddy may have earned some of the criticism coming his way, Matt writes up a defense, of sorts, in favor of Washington’s senior point guard. Take a look and decide for yourself: Will Abdul Gaddy’s legacy at Washington be that of a failure, or one of success?
By Matt Holt
I get it. It is really easy to make fun of Abdul Gaddy. I mean, really easy. He came in as the No. 2 point guard in his class, he encountered lofty expectations, and we were told he was going to lead us to the Sweet 16 and beyond. Those predictions never came true and Abdul’s career failed to unfold as we wanted.
To many people, Abdul is the core of our Husky problems. The program fails because he has failed. While there may be some truth to the statements people are making about Gaddy, there may still be a way the Huskies can salvage this season and, in turn, Abdul’s career. And all it takes is a few key wins starting now.
I would imagine Abdul would be the first person to tell you that his Husky career has progressed in a way that he never could have imagined. When he came to Washington, pundits and fans alike expected him to be a two-and-done player. Due to the NBA’s age restrictions, we were all excited that Gaddy arrived at UW as a 17-year-old, forced to play a minimum of two years at the college level before entering the NBA Draft (or so we expected). The Huskies had a team poised to make deep runs into the postseason with established players like Quincy Pondexter, Venoy Overton, Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, and later on, Terrence Ross.
A true point guard who had put together an impressive prep résumé, fans expected Gaddy to come in, immediately display his leadership abilities, take control of the Husky offense, and be the team’s court general, even as a freshman. But stuff happened along the way. Abdul simply didn’t adjust to the college game as anticipated his freshman year. This isn’t anything new — players often struggle during their freshman year. Just look at a guy like former Oregon Duck Malik Hairston. Back in 2004, Hairston, then a high school senior, boasted to media that he was going to “Carmelo-ize” the University of Oregon (Carmelo-ize (v.): to win the National Championship as a freshman, then immediately turn pro at season’s end, a la former Syracuse forward Carmelo Anthony). Despite his verbal display of confidence, Hairston labored through his freshman campaign, then ultimately spent a full four years in Eugene — a far cry from his over-exuberant one-and-done prophecy. The point is, what Gaddy went through has happened before. And luckily for Abdul, at least, his struggles didn’t follow ridiculous self-made proclamations.
The unfortunate part for Gaddy came during his sophomore season. He got injured and his year was a total loss. As a result, we entered uncharted waters with this player: an unexpected junior year.
As a junior, Gaddy played okay. But it wasn’t his team. Looking back, we all know now that Tony Wroten controlled the 2011-2012 Washington Huskies. Our hopes lived and died on his left hand. When Wroten departed for the NBA after that lone season, it shifted the spotlight back onto the shoulders of none other than Abdul Gaddy.
That brings us to the senior season, wholly unexpected just three years prior. Very few thought we would ever get here with Gaddy when he first signed to play at Washington. And what happens to the Huskies in the year of the point guard’s swan song? We suck. We lose to teams like Nevada, Albany, Oregon State, Utah. Worse yet, Abdul plays badly. He makes terrible mistakes — egregious turnovers, stupid decisions, ugly shots. So we all blame him. We don’t blame Lorenzo Romar, or Scott Suggs, or C.J. Wilcox, or anyone else. Damn it, it is Abdul’s fault. It must be.
In the same way that the quarterback of a football team gets blamed when his team loses, the point guard is often at fault when a basketball team falters. So in a sense, it is easy to see why Abdul has found himself taking the brunt of fan angst. And at the same time, the venom Abdul has endured is very difficult to argue against — frankly, he has played badly at times. So as Abdul’s career proceeds to virtually go down in flames, one can understand why Seattleites may remember him the way we remember guys like Doug Wrenn, Bobby Ayala, or Vin Baker — players with a bevy of talent who just plain sucked.
But as I alluded to before, all of this can change. The Huskies, as a team, can salvage Abdul Gaddy’s career. And it can be done within the next two weeks.
On Wednesday night, Washington beat USC by a score of 65-57. Individually, Gaddy’s performance in victory wasn’t spectacular, but the team won and that’s all that matters. To date, the Huskies have won four of their last five contests. Behind the curtain, one could argue that a great deal of credit for the team’s mini-run of success should go to Abdul.
Over the past five games, the senior point guard has logged 28 assists, while committing just nine turnovers — an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.1:1, which is pretty damn good for a point guard. In addition, Gaddy has chipped in 8.8 points per game over that span, which may be below his season average of 11.0 points per game, but comes in tandem with the fact that he’s been making some far better decisions with the ball in his hands.
Record-wise, the Huskies currently sit at 17-13 overall (9-8 in conference play) and have an RPI of 82 (which improved by two points, up from 84, following the win over USC). Combine that with a strength-of-schedule of 43 and the Dawgs aren’t nearly as bad on paper as one might think. If Washington can magically go on a run and defeat UCLA in their final regular season game, then win at least two games in the Pac-12 tournament, their RPI will increase, their conference record will remain above .500, and they’ll reach the all-important 20-win plateau. And if we’ve been prone to lay blame upon Abdul Gaddy for the team’s struggles on the season thus far, then we must certainly be willing to give the man credit as this team’s court general should we find ourselves suddenly winning.
Gaddy’s recent run of inspired play could lead this reinvigorated Washington ballclub to the NCAA Tournament. And if that were to happen, Abdul’s legacy at UW would be changed forever.
If the Huskies can somehow manage to sneak into the Big Dance, Abdul Gaddy’s legacy will not be that of the heralded recruit with high expectations who failed, but of the scrappy senior point guard who led this Husky team from the depths of nowhere into a magical postseason. Believe it.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
Everyone has their line. One can only withstand so much anger, so much vitriol towards another human being before it becomes too much. Even if that venom is not directed towards you, even if it’s directed elsewhere, just witnessing the hate-fest from the sidelines can be taxing; it’s emotionally draining, to say the least. And while a part of every one of us may agree that harsh criticism can certainly be warranted, there is similarly a more humane part of each of us that aches when the subject of such criticism is repeatedly torn to shreds.
Thus we have Exhibit 1A in the form of Abdul Gaddy, Washington’s senior point guard who has come to personify the failures of a Husky Basketball season slowly spiraling down the drain.
Gaddy is a mercurial subject in that his personality would seemingly prevent him from becoming the target of pure loathing. He appears to be an intelligent, reserved, humble young man who utters nary a word of angst about his struggles. That alone makes him worthy of respect, no matter how much we may not like the guy. Anyone who can face adversity and bite their lip — especially with all the access to social media outlets that we enjoy today — is stronger than most of us will ever be.
But while there are certain traits about the young man that are distinctly not negative, there are few characteristics about Gaddy that beam with positivity. Abdul Gaddy, for all his reserved humility, is bland. And there’s no getting around that. If he possesses charisma, we don’t see it. If he exudes warmth, affability, and a sense of humor, we’re not exposed to that. His play on the court doesn’t show it, while his actions off the court aren’t well-known to fans. Part of that is his own doing (it is his personality, after all), and part of that is the university’s fault. Of late, the Washington Athletic Department has done a remarkable job at limiting media access to players, shielding them from the public eye (or, perhaps, ear) without much reason. Fans haven’t really been given the chance to get to know Gaddy the way they got to know guys like Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Will Conroy, Isaiah Thomas, and other stars of Husky Basketball past. The result is a disconnect between fans and student-athletes. That disconnect is a contributing factor in the, shall we say, misunderstanding of Abdul Gaddy. But at whose feet we lay blame for this misunderstanding — the player, the school, the fans, some or all of the above — is uncertain. What is certain, however, is that we don’t know Abdul Gaddy as well as those players we’ve liked. And that’s a problem.
Much like the players we accept or reject, Seattle sports fans are a curious bunch. For inexplicable reasons, this city gravitates towards athletes that possess a certain, indescribable je ne sais quoi. We frequently turn average backups (Willie Bloomquist, Doug Strange, John Jaso, Steve Scheffler, to name four) into cult heroes. On the flip side, we sharply critique even our most noted superstars (Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Shaun Alexander, to name three). We hate and we love all at the same time. We’re no different than most fan bases in that regard. But our ability to look past stats and demand something more from our athletes cannot be refuted. You can be a great player or a bad one; if you don’t establish some kind of footprint in the community outside the locker room, however, we won’t embrace you. And that’s really what it amounts to. We want our athletes to be human. We want to relate to them. Think about the uber-relatable success stories like Felix Hernandez, Matt Hasselbeck, or the aforementioned Robinson, guys who played at a superhuman level, yet were just like us in so many other ways. In contrast, consider Alexander, a man who set records running the football, yet was more or less run out of town when his play declined, in part because he never could completely warm up to the public. This is how we segregate our athletes in this city. Love it or hate it, it’s reality.
This leads us back to Gaddy, who once again finds himself as a unique lightning rod for our understanding of athletes. Aside from actual performance, he has distinctively emerged as a Shaun Alexander-type, an individual who hasn’t fully been embraced by fans for reasons that can’t necessarily be codified by numbers or big-picture analysis. But to better understand why this happens to be the case, we need to first understand the trajectory of Abdul Gaddy’s ascent to status, an arc that began to take shape four years ago.
Prior to the 2012-2013 Husky Basketball season, Gaddy was neither loved nor hated by Seattle sports fans. A talented prodigy coming out of high school, the Tacoma native was heralded as one of the most notable University of Washington basketball commits ever, which in and of itself places a heavy burden upon the subject of such accolades. Upon donning the purple and gold for the first time as a freshman in 2009, Gaddy was viewed as a cornerstone of Lorenzo Romar’s program. It was universally understood that Gaddy would be an NBA player someday. It was expected that he would not only succeed at the college level, but flourish. He’d become an All-American, he’d lead the team to the NCAA Tournament every year, the sky was the limit.
Gaddy’s freshman campaign was underwhelming — he averaged just 3.9 points and 2.3 assists per game — but not entirely unexpected for a first-year player fresh out of high school (one who, at 17, was younger than most of his peers, as well). His sophomore year got off to a more tantalizing start before he suffered a severe knee injury, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and ending his season after just 13 games.
As a junior, Gaddy returned from the ACL tear and its subsequent surgery and played okay. He tallied 8.1 points and a career-best 5.2 assists per game in what was basically written off as a comeback year, a mulligan if you will. Not only that, but with high-profile freshman Tony Wroten Jr. on the squad, Gaddy was a mere afterthought at his own position, let alone on the roster. And as teammate Terrence Ross evolved into an NBA lottery pick, Gaddy was all but forgotten about.
When Ross and Wroten elected to go pro after the 2011-2012 season, the focus quickly shifted back to the few remaining impact players that were left behind, Gaddy among them. Entering his fourth and final year on Montlake, and with a knee now fully healthy, anticipation began to ramp up once again for the Bellarmine Prep alum. It was as if the last two Husky squads hadn’t even included Abdul Gaddy — fans had forgotten the man existed until others began departing. Seemingly content to always take a back seat to more commanding players, Gaddy was now exposed to the masses as a leader prepared to make a name for himself. Whether he would be willing to take on the challenge was irrelevant. Expectations, though somewhat neglected in the two preceding seasons, had been in place for three full years; now was the time to fulfill them. At least that’s how so many people saw it.
The season began with a whimper. A loss to little-known Albany in just the second game quickly had fans second-guessing the makeup of a team without two of its best players from a year prior. Two out of the next three contests after the Albany disaster also yielded defeats for Washington, and thus full-on panic set in for fans.
It was around this time that people began noticing that not only was Abdul Gaddy on the team, but he wasn’t playing all that great, either. His reserved style was now being labeled “soft.” His even-keel temperament on the court was now a sign of dispassion and laziness. Did Gaddy even care? Had he ever cared? What the hell was he even doing out there? Where was the highly-touted recruit we had inked back in 2009? And who was this imposter we were staring at now, this staid mannequin of a point guard who had failed to live up to the hopes laid out for him at the beginning of his college career?
This is of course where we start to question what this criticism of an Abdul Gaddy tells us about ourselves. It’s an interesting discussion that divides sports fans on a daily basis, separating each of us into one of a few different factions, unique in their own composition.
For instance, there are some who think it’s fair to rip some athletes, but not others. This is best exemplified by the “college-versus-pro” debate, which essentially reasons that it’s unfair to ever critique a college athlete because college athletes, as we know, are amateurs. They are not paid professionals like their counterparts in the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, or the like. They are student-athletes and that’s it. As a rule, we do not take shots at them. Why is that rule in place? Why do some live by that rule? Who knows. You could argue that in some ways student-athletes are getting paid — they do earn a free college education, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars in most instances — but that rule won’t fly for the fans in this camp. Likewise, you could point out that Gaddy is a 21-year-old man (he’s a man by definition, not an adolescent in any form or fashion) who, despite his amateur status, is still much older than some of the paid professionals that a fan living by these morals would criticize. There are 16-year-old baseball players earning less in the way of financial value than college athletes, but because college athletes are “amateurs” and teenaged baseball players “professionals,” we can only reasonably pick on the teen pros, despite any age gap. This is one faction of fans in this discussion.
Then there are those who feel that it’s okay to criticize players of any ilk — amateur or professional, paid or unpaid, blue or green — so long as those criticisms aren’t aired publicly. Oh sure, behind closed doors we may call athletes every four-letter word in the book. We may say horrible, horrible things about these public figures with our friends, at a bar, in our own living rooms, but so long as we don’t record our thoughts or our words, so long as there’s no paper trail of our feelings, we’re okay. In essence, we can express whatever we want privately. But when we read it online, when we hear it on the radio or see it on television, only then are we moved to disgust. It’s a borderline hypocritical stance that blows the “think before you speak” mindset out of proportion. See no evil, hear no evil…but think evil all you want.
There are others whose criticisms know no bounds. Everyone’s a target, without limitation, without special “rules,” and without regard for much of anything at all. Much like the comedian who insists he’s not racist because he hates on every race equally, the fan who takes shots at every athlete can’t be viewed as a hypocrite for picking and choosing the times he delivers acrimony because he’s spread his malevolence around with particular aplomb. These individuals vary in their levels of sanity. At one end of the spectrum you have the enraged cynic, a fan who has been absolutely ravaged by failure throughout the course of his life and hates everything as a result, athletes included. At the other end, you’ll find a jokey jokemaker, someone who uses the convenient misfortunes of public figures as part of a niche role he serves to others, either as comedian, public voice, or something else. Regardless of where fans in this faction end up on the range of intellect, they are the ones who typically fuel this “ripping athletes” discussion more than everyone else. They are the leaders of the ensuing social movements that arise as a result of any team or athlete struggles, and because many of these critics are seen as respected voices (due to jobs in media or otherwise), they tend to spawn similar behavior from their respective followings.
The majority of sports fans can be thrown into one of these three groups. The Abdul Gaddy conundrum centers around the divide between each of these factions. There are those who won’t criticize Gaddy because he’s a college amateur; those who are okay with deriding Gaddy in their own homes, but not publicly; and those (like me, for example) who give zero f**ks about anything and would put Mother Teresa on blast if she committed more turnovers than assists.
About the only thing that unites all sides of the debate around Gaddy are the facts about his performance. Not only has his play remained relatively stagnant since his college career began, but it’s been particularly ugly at the most inopportune times. Late in close games and at critical junctions in contests, Gaddy has crumbled. The word “clutch” is ambiguously used to describe players who excel in pressure situations; Abdul Gaddy may very well be the opposite of clutch.
Fair or unfair, this assessment of Gaddy is accepted (begrudgingly, by some) by most fans. The argument then shifts to how we convey the agreed-upon assessment in reasonable fashion. The harsher the conveyance of our understanding of Gaddy (or any other athlete), the more likely it is that people will react angrily. You can call it “bashing,” you can call it “ripping,” but what everyone’s saying in one way or another boils down to this: Abdul Gaddy isn’t playing very well. After that, it’s all about interpretation.
Above all else, it’s the interpretation that gets to people. Assessing Gaddy in a 140-character diatribe laden with expletives will assuredly be seen as “bashing.” On the contrary, painting a picture of an unfortunate anti-hero burdened by unfair expectations and the potential after-effects of injury will be accepted as just. It comes back to that line of tolerance we all set for ourselves as individuals. There’s only so much each of us can take. And as the mercury rises in our barometers of permissiveness, we inch closer to that point where we can’t stand it any longer.
About the only thing all this “ripping” of Abdul Gaddy has told us about ourselves is that the outer-most reaches of our tolerance boundaries have been stretched. Gaddy has been so polarizing this season (on such a frequent basis, no less) that he’s caused us to react to our own reactions. His divisive play — call it poor if you wish, I know I do — has driven us to analyze our own behavior as fans. That’s damn near insane. But because it’s sparked such a debate of morality and righteousness, we have to talk about it.
Are you a better person because you don’t “rip” Abdul Gaddy? Maybe. But you might also be hypocritical or lacking in the courage it takes to share your opinions.
Are you a jackass for “bashing” Abdul Gaddy? Possibly. But you might also be revered for having the balls to speak your mind, openly and honestly, without fear of repercussion.
And are you even really “ripping” or “bashing” Abdul Gaddy when you convey your opinions on his performance? Or are you just stating the obvious, then leaving it up to the power of interpretation?
Our general understanding of Gaddy has led us to believe that he’s a bad basketball player. That’s based on expectation, hype, and ultimately, results. Were he a walk-on with no pedigree, we would have surely extended him a longer leash before criticizing. But certain elements of his performance — repeated critical late game flubs, for example — would have caused us to react negatively as fans no matter the background of our subject.
We hear it all the time. We’re individuals, we’re unique, we all see the world differently, blah, blah, blah. There may not be a better vehicle for displaying our individuality than Abdul Gaddy. So we can get mad. Mad about him, mad about how he’s understood or misunderstood, mad about other fans for their interpretations of him. Or we can just live with the fact that this dude, this individual, has tested us, has stretched us, and has temporarily divided us.
But know this: at the end of the day, when everything is said and done, we’ll always find our way back to a shared fanaticism of our team, be it the Huskies or otherwise. Because two months from now, Abdul Gaddy will be a former University of Washington student-athlete. And no matter how you view his legacy, no matter how you choose to remember him as a Washington basketball player, you — like me, like all of us — will reemerge as just another fan come April.
Until then, we’ll deal with one another and we’ll deal with Abdul Gaddy. And here’s hoping this situation doesn’t repeat itself next year.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
Fighting with people on Twitter is about as pointless as it gets. In general, you both come off looking like douchebags, and no matter how heated your discourse becomes, there is no governing body to determine who wins and who loses. You can’t really out-debate one another in 140-character blurbs, and about all you’ll end up doing is pissing off the people who mutually follow you and your sparring partner, victims of timelines filled with petty drivel. You can punch and kick and scream and get worked up over words on a screen and you’ll be no better for it when the day is done.
It doesn’t matter if you have 10 followers or 10,000; the size of the dog in the fight (or perhaps the size of the dog in the fight’s posse) doesn’t necessarily predispose either party to so much as a moral victory. Big or small, with entourage or without, one can find themselves receiving the brunt of another tweeter’s tweet at any given moment. And in those moments of fervor directly before one must decide whether to return fire with similar vitriol, reply with unexpected grace, or neglect to respond at all, there are likely no fewer than a hundred different thoughts running rampant through one’s brain. Ultimately, one’s fingers are forced to take action upon a keyboard or remain still, content to fold for the time being.
As an alumnus of the University of Washington, there’s no denying I love my school. I’ve been a fan of the Huskies since I was born. I grew up wearing purple and gold. I applied to no other university when I was in high school; I knew where I wanted to go to college. I’ve always known I was a Husky at heart.
In spite of all that, my love isn’t blind. No school, no institution, no organization is perfect; that includes UW. Were we relegated to incessantly believing in the perfection of all those things we truly care about, we’d be nothing more than thoughtless zombies, complacently satisfied with whatever came our way, determined to do nothing more than flat-line through our respective menial existences.
But we’re not that. Not at all. We’re human. And in being human, we live, we strive, we aspire, we dream, we think, we move, we act, we do. And so I implore you, before I go on, to consider the fact that you have been designed to be better than the product of a system, to be more than a servant to an organization, an idea, or a belief. You can choose to see the world through rose-colored glasses if you wish. But in doing so, you’ll never reach the potential you’ve been designed to achieve.
I love the University of Washington. But in the past few years, the University of Washington’s Athletic Department has done some stupid shit. I’ve alluded to this once before, but it’s a discussion that deserves to be brought up again. Because no one wants their school doing stupid shit. Especially not me. We need to talk about these problems that persist so we can solve them. And even if you’re not a Husky fan, you may want to follow along. These are issues that plague every school, every athletic department, every alum and every fan across the nation. So we’ll talk about this. And when we’re done talking, hopefully we’ll find ourselves on the path to resolution. Hooray, resolution.
These were the unsolicited tweets I received on Saturday night, shortly after the conclusion of the Husky Men’s Basketball game against Arizona State:
.@alexssn understand the frustration and will make sure I communicate what I’ve seen on twitter about the white shirts..
— Daniel Hour (@dhourr) February 3, 2013
.@alexssn but you might be taken more seriously if you weren’t bashing our student-athlete 24/7. Especially Abdul. Just my opinion.
— Daniel Hour (@dhourr) February 3, 2013
— Daniel Hour (@dhourr) February 3, 2013
In typical emotional fashion (well, typical for me, at least), I had spent much of the game lamenting the play of one Abdul Gaddy, disaster of a point guard that he’s been this year. Similarly, I had mentioned that I found the attire of the student section to be questionable, at best. While half the kids wore the standard purple, the balance had been dressed in unfamiliar white t-shirts. It wasn’t a big deal. But on TV it just didn’t look right.
The student section, the Dawg Pack, they wear purple. That’s just how it is. That’s how it’s always been. And on the rare occasion that they don a different shade, the continuity of that visiting color spans the continuum of the bleachers we see prominently displayed on our TV screens. Baseline to baseline, the students usually wear the same color. I helped build that Dawg Pack. I’m familiar with how it works, I’m up to date on its legacy, and I care about what goes on there. It’s important to me. And so on this particular evening I expressed my frustrations — we’ll call them frustrations, but I wasn’t frustrated so much as I was compelled to just opine (imagine that) — on both Gaddy and the look of the student section.
It was then that the responses you see above were prompted. I thought for a minute about whether to fire back, reply graciously, or follow the Thumper rule (if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all), before deciding to lob grenades of my own.
I did a little quick research and found that Daniel Hour is a 2007 UCLA alum who is currently in charge of New Media and Recruiting Services for the University of Washington. UCLA sucks, so that was strike one. This guy clearly doesn’t grasp the “social” aspect of new media, so that was strike two. And he had kinda pissed me off, so that was strike three.
But that wasn’t all. This morphed into like two full at-bats.
Strike four was Hour bringing Gaddy directly into the conversation by mentioning the young man’s Twitter handle. Here you are trying to protect a student-athlete from criticism, so your way of doing that is by exposing him to the venom felt by fans? Makes perfect f**king sense, right? (No, it doesn’t.) Now even if the kid wants to avoid the negativity surrounding him, he can’t. Because a member of the athletic administration, of all people, has forced him to face it head-on. Brilliant.
Strike five was Hour telling me I “might be taken more seriously if…” As if my goal in life and on Twitter has always been to be taken more seriously. I’m not you, dude. I don’t have sex through a hole in the sheets.
And strike six was Hour alluding to the idea that I bash Gaddy 24/7, which is ridiculous because even if I wanted to bash Gaddy 24/7, Twitter would be over capacity at some point along the line and I wouldn’t be able to do it. Plus, Hour doesn’t even follow me on Twitter and never has, so how would he know that I spend most of my time taking jabs at the Mariners, cracking jokes at almost everyone’s expense, initiating dialogue on Saved By the Bell, and just generally being a grab-ass, smarmy, semi-antagonistic, arrogant punk most of the time? He wouldn’t. So why he pretended he did was beyond me.
Oh, and one final thing. You’ll notice those first two tweets start off with a period. They don’t read “@alexssn,” they read “.@alexssn.” Seems innocent enough, but that’s a big deal on Twitter. Those two dots preceding each of those tweets allow everyone who follows Hour to view said tweets on their timelines. Were he to omit those two dots, only those few individuals who follow both he and myself would see these particular tweets. The reason Twitter acts in this way is so that two parties can carry out a back and forth conversation without polluting the feeds of their entire combined following. Hour structured his tweets in such a way that he wanted everyone to read them. He was hoping for support in his attack on me. It was a bitch move. He got one person to publicly agree with him. Dozens upon dozens of others, however, began to tear him a new asshole.
The problem with the UW Athletic Department is that they’re just slightly out of touch to what their customers, the fans, want. Sure, they’re giving us a new football stadium, and that’s great, but that project was well underway long before the current regime came to power. This was an undertaking that Todd Turner put into motion. He was the starting pitcher and we’ve now tapped the bullpen to close this out. In fairness, the relievers are doing a great job.
The new stadium has cast a shadow long enough to obscure many of the warts of the current Athletic Department. That’s not unprecedented with an infrastructural upgrade of this magnitude, but at the same time we shouldn’t allow the administration to rest on its laurels simply because of one massive erection.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing the Athletic Department right now is the attitude of absolute entitlement that seems to rain down upon all of us laypeople. The administration isn’t afraid to impose its will upon, well, everyone, whether they’re dealing with students, alums, or (especially) media.
Media interactions are perhaps best exemplified through the department’s now-infamous “Twitter rule”, as well as the friendly banter I shared with Hour. Those are seemingly forgivable transgressions from a fan’s perspective; who really cares about the media, anyway?
But the missteps in dealing with students and alums? That’s a different story. Let’s start with the students.
While Saturday night’s t-shirt episode is one isolated incident, the purveying feeling from members of the Dawg Pack is that the administration only cares about them because a) they’re a source of revenue, and b) they’re marketable as all hell. In fact, that t-shirt episode served as Exhibit 1A for the marketability of the Dawg Pack. It also served to display the resistance of the students, who aren’t content to just guzzle the Kool-Aid the admins are trying to force down their throats.
The counter-argument would of course be that in order to pay for projects like the new football stadium, the university needs to uncork previously-untapped revenue streams. That’s certainly true, and definitely understandable. But messing with something as organic as a nationally-recognized student section that kind of sprung up on its own seems to go against the spirit of college athletics. I’d wager that most students would probably be willing to pay a little extra in ticket fees if it meant they didn’t have to be exploited. And you can’t tell me there aren’t other ways to make money, ways that won’t noticeably hurt the fan experience on gameday.
Failing to respect the students now will come back to bite this regime in later years. Those students will grow up to be potential donors who won’t have any reason to give back to UW Athletics if they felt mistreated during their time on campus. That’s a dangerous path for any administration to embark on.
In addition to how the students feel, there are semi-recent alums like myself who see through the glitz and the glamour of that structure coming to fruition near the corner of Montlake and Pacific. When we compare our own college experience to that of those current students, we notice a clear difference. As someone who grew into adulthood while jumping and screaming with my friends in that student section before it became a meal ticket, I can tell you how impactful that experience was. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for all the blemishes on Todd Turner’s record at UW, the one thing he was great at was relating to students. He made us a priority, and as a result we delivered on gameday. What reasons are there for students to deliver now? That’s a question I doubt the Athletic Department is prepared to answer.
For many alums my age, the biggest issue we all agree upon is that the administration seems to be over-saturating the game environment with its ongoing quest for cash. That’s not really anything new, but perhaps it’s just more glaring than it used to be. There’s a certain purity to amateur sports that’s being threatened. Maybe it’s all across the board and Washington’s just part of this machine. Either way, the fan experience has taken a back seat to dollars and cents. And as fans, we have to hope that doesn’t become the trend.
What Daniel Hour represents is the elitist attitude perpetuated by the current UW Athletic Department. It’s the idea that the shopkeeper can tell his patron what to buy and he’ll simply buy it. That he doesn’t have to understand what his patron may want or may need, because at the end of the day, he knows more than his patron ever will.
This is an attitude that may not have affected all Husky fans, but certainly affects my contemporaries, students and alums alike. They’ve told me so face-to-face, on Twitter, and via email. They feel this every day. They feel like they’re being ignored and talked down to by the Athletic Department. That’s not good, and it’s certainly not sustainable for the long-term success of UW Athletics.
There’s no Husky fan who wants to see the school suck at sports. Our football team has improved in recent years (some would say it hasn’t improved enough), but in many other areas, most glaringly Men’s Basketball, the level of play has declined. There will always be ups and downs with any athletic program; to expect perennial success might be ideal, but it certainly isn’t the status quo.
That said, the success of the football program has come as a direct result of funding and money — the current administration has shown a commitment to devote financial resources to football that the previous administration could not or would not display. Again, this is all great, but where’s the sustainability in that financing? The university has seemingly patched together funds on the fly (thanks to donations, et al) that won’t be there five, 10, or 15 years down the road because of one simple fact: the customer isn’t being serviced the way he or she needs to be. And if the customer isn’t being serviced the way he or she needs to be, then the customer will be unhappy. If customers are unhappy they won’t come back, and if they don’t come back they won’t spend money. Which leads us to a whole new set of problems of what to do when the money runs out. Because seriously, what do we do if and when the money runs out?
I’m not saying this will happen, but it could. Just look at Daniel Hour. For every person like Hour working in the Athletic Department, there are bound to be a few pissed off fans. I know I don’t like the guy. I know a number of my Twitter followers don’t like the guy. So what happens if he’s just following orders? That means there are others like him, willing to burn their customers for…for what? For the good of the program? To “protect” underperforming student-athletes who won’t even be here in a year? There’s no method to the madness — it’s just bad customer service, pure and simple.
The reality is this. As time goes on, the younger generation will continue to grow up. We will replace the rich, old people who donate bushels of money now. We will become those rich, old people. And if we’re unwilling to part with our cash as rich, old people because we don’t like how we were serviced way back when? That’s an issue that begins to take on plague proportions for the university.
I’m not here to tell the Athletic Department how to do their job or how to treat people. But they should know that in a few years, they’ll need us a whole hell of a lot more than we need them. If that’s not reason enough to change the culture, then what is?
Filed under: Husky Basketball, Husky Football
Found this footage of the Husky Men’s Basketball team running an inbounds play. This is clearly something they’ve struggled with for quite some time. The form is nowhere near textbook. It’s rather disappointing, to be honest.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
You gotta be kidding me with this shit. Every single game this season has been a waste of time. The UW men’s basketball team has been atrocious. Simply atrocious. They lack talent, they lack ability, they lack excitement, and worst of all, they lack effort. How can you so blatantly lack effort when you suck? If you suck, and the results prove you suck, you better be willing to work your ass off to overcome obvious shortcomings. So far, the Huskies haven’t shown much desire to do that.
I’ve watched Husky basketball for the majority of my life. I can’t remember a team that strung together more heartless performances than this one. Each time they take the floor, they look like zombies. Like they don’t want to be out there. Like they don’t care to be out there. Like they’d rather be doing almost anything else besides playing basketball. I haven’t seen emotion. Not a smile, not a scowl, not happiness, not anger. Nothing. It’s embarrassing. It’s demotivating. It’s flat-out unfortunate.
I imagine these players work harder in practice than they do in games. They have to. If they were putting their cool jackets on to cruise through practices the way they do through each and every contest, they wouldn’t live long enough to see gameday. They’d be running so many lines, so frequently, that the odds of survival would be stacked against them. So this can’t be an everyday thing. They have to give some sort of effort in practice.
What the hell happens on gameday, then? What the shit is going through their minds when they put on their jerseys, lace up their shorts, and watch the ball go up at tipoff? Are they thinking about school work? Are they thinking about their girlfriends? Are they pondering the meaning of life? What is it? What can be so goddamn important that it prevents this team from trying?
Win or lose, this year’s rendition of Washington basketball is a disappointment. If you’ve watched Husky teams from the recent past — teams led by the likes of Todd MacCulloch, Donald Watts, Will Conroy, Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Bobby Jones, Jon Brockman, Isaiah Thomas — paying witness to this abomination makes you sick. Just sick. Show us something. Prove that you want to wear our jersey, that you want to sport our colors, that you want to represent our school, our city. Prove something. ANYTHING! Signs of life would be appreciated.
I hope this Husky ballclub hears the critics and gets pissed off. Be mad at “the haters,” gentlemen. Be mad at me. I’ll be the one to tell you you suck right now. I’ll be the one to tell you how uninspiring your effort has been. I’ll be that guy. Get mad at me. Get upset. Use it as fuel. Then take it out on your opponents. For all of us. Because we can’t watch this right now. It’s a joke.
You can quit. You can tell us to f**k off and leave you alone. You can ignore us. You can make excuses. You can use the “we’re just kids” claim. You have options here. You can take the easy way out. Or you can do something about this disgusting display of sport that’s played out before us over the past two months. It’s up to you. We’re just spectators. And this — this grotesqueness — is what we’ve been talking about when we spectate. It’s harsh. It probably hurts. But it’s reality. Do something about it.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
Okay. That wasn’t the best Seattle sports weekend. The Huskies (both the football and basketball editions) lost, the Seahawks lost, and word came out on Sunday evening that both Hawks starting cornerbacks — Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner — are facing four-game suspensions for performance-enhancing drug use. So yeah. Admittedly, things could get better.
Scrolling through the Twitter timeline over the past 24 hours has revealed varying stages of grief from Seattleites. We’ve seen everything from denial, to anger, to depression, to acceptance. Some fans are ready to jump off a ledge, some are cursing out anyone who so much as talks to them, some are claiming it’s all a conspiracy, some have the blinders on and refuse to speak one ill word about any of our downtrodden ballclubs, some are coping with humor, and some are just plain sad. No matter one’s progress through the grieving process, it’s clear that these are dark times for us right now. And so as a result, I’m here to offer perspective.
The other day, I got these new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sleep pants. They’re great. The thing about sleep pants is they’re often too heavy, too warm, and too cumbersome to serve any purpose to me whatsoever. Not so with these pants. They’re thin, cool, and stamped with the likenesses of Donatello, Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. In addition, they have this flap in the front which allows a nice breeze to flow into and out of my attire. The flap also provides easy access for other things, which for purposes of modesty I won’t go into detail about. Regardless, these pants are great, they were a cheap Black Friday purchase, and they make me happy in ways that my sports teams cannot.
There’s this game I play. It’s called Word Whomp. It’s kind of a stupid game. So stupid, in fact, that I hide all Facebook-related posts about it so no one will see that I’m playing, or when I’m playing, for that matter. I’m very private about my game-playing. Anyway, this Word Whomp game, I’ve been playing it for years. It’s an absolute time-killer. Which isn’t always a bad thing. I’m no athlete. I’m not one of those “no days off” guys. There are days off. I need to kill time occasionally. And this game helps me do that. The objective is basically to form as many words as possible from a selection of six letters given to you onscreen. You have two minutes to achieve this. Should you manage to form every possible word, you win the game. And when you win, there are these animated gophers that do backflips across the page. It’s awesome. Extremely fulfilling in a borderline non-sensical way.
I have a DVD of the Husky basketball triumph over then-No. 1 Stanford in 2004. I queue it up whenever things aren’t going so great, no matter what those things may be. When Tre Simmons knocks down a barrage of threes in the second half to give us all the momentum we need to win, I swell with emotion every time. It’s one of the greatest games, irrespective of sport, that I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll watch it tonight. And it will be fantastic.
There’s this. If you need a laugh, go ahead and fill out your application and submit it. Or better yet, make a similar application for a friend of your own. You’ll feel great when it’s all said and done. And everyone will get to chuckle at the expense of someone else. That’s always fun.
It’s sunny outside. It’s not warm by any means, but wouldn’t you know it, it’s not raining. For November in Seattle, that’s near-incredible. I couldn’t be more thrilled about that. And at the end of the day, after I’ve hit the gym and used up all the caffeine I’ve been sucking down like oxygen at work, I’ll sit in a hot tub and do absolutely nothing. That nothingness won’t last forever. Eventually I’ll have to return to the somethingness of everyday life. But for that brief moment in time when I’m sitting there achieving my lifelong dream of doing nothing at all, I’ll be at peace. And my knees won’t hurt, my muscles won’t ache, and my head won’t be swimming with priorities and deadlines and requirements for the days ahead. It will be glorious.
The point is, the sun came up today, we were all still alive, and our happiness was still controlled by no one besides ourselves. I’m not saying you can’t be upset about the state of our sports teams — if you’re a fan, you probably should be. I’m just saying that we need to keep it all in perspective. I’m a huge sports fan. I’m a little disappointed right now. But am I unhappy? No. Am I going to let a few bad breaks take a hold of my entire existence? No. None of that. And I feel better because of it.
There are any number of things in your life that will bring you joy. Find them. Embrace them. Life isn’t perfect. Sports aren’t perfect. We can’t control wins and losses, talent, ability, results, effort, the choices others make, any of that. But we can control how we feel. And really, that’s all that matters.
Now come on and help me find a nice woman for Ryan Divish. His biological clock is ticking…
Filed under: Husky Basketball, Husky Football, Seahawks
Earlier this week, we found out that the University of Washington athletic department has imposed an interesting policy regarding sports and Twitter. Basically, media members reporting on any Husky basketball or football game are limited to the number of times they can tweet during a contest. Yep, it’s like that.
As a proud UW alum, I’ve been schooled on recognizing stupidity. And this is about as stupid as it gets.
Putting clamps on those giving you the time of day? Really? If there’s anything we all know, it’s that in America, the media cannot be controlled. You can’t stop the media, you can only hope to contain it. And yet trying to contain it usually doesn’t work out so well.
Knowing that this will undoubtedly spiral into an abyss of long-running jokes and never-ending punch lines, I figured I’d take the opportunity to ask my alma mater why on earth they’d want to censor their guests. I’ve come up with 11 questions. I was allotted no more than that.
11. Do you want the media to hate you?
Professional media members are trained to be objective, judicious, fair, equitable, and unbiased. At the end of the day, however, professional media members are still human. They still have emotions. They still have preferences, prejudices, ethics, morals, and personal beliefs. Yet there are people out there who are crazy enough to think that a credential and a paycheck somehow turn a living, breathing being into a robot. Which, unfortunately for the naive, is just not true.
I can’t speak for those credentialed media members tasked with reporting on Husky athletics, but I can give you my opinion on the subject as an outsider: If someone who wasn’t my immediate colleague imposed unnecessary job restrictions upon me, I’d go to work each day hoping against hope that that holier-than-thou bastard came down with a raging case of crabs. I imagine that many of the media members who have had Twitter limits imposed upon them might think along similar lines.
Fact is, when you’re in for a long season, which the Husky basketball team very well may be, the time is not right to make enemies with journalists. For some odd reason, the University of Washington doesn’t seem to care. This will backfire. The school has already received negative national press on the matter. With each ensuing loss to teams like Albany, it can only get worse. Godspeed, UW.
10. What happens if every credentialed media member reaches his or her tweet limit before the game is done?
Seriously. What happens then? I want to know. Because I think it’d be funny as hell. And personally, if I’m a media member, I’m conspiring with all my cohorts and picking one game to test this theory. Here’s what I suggest:
Everyone blow through 20 tweets by halftime. Go silent throughout intermission and shortly thereafter. Certainly, someone affiliated with the university will have to take notice. Where did the coverage on our game go? Why is no one talking about the Dawgs? Panic ensues. Holy crap, someone realizes, they’ve used up all their tweets! At this point, you either repeal your incredibly ill-advised Twitter law or risk looking like goons to all those fans who depend on Twitter — and in turn the media — for updates on the game.
Do it. Come on, media. I know you’ve got it in you. They can’t rescind ALL your credentials. Unionize. It’s time. We shall overcome!
9. Have any of the credentialed media members ever really hurt your product by over-tweeting?
If anything, most beat writers might take themselves a little too seriously. To my knowledge, they certainly aren’t saturated with emotion during a game they happen to be covering. They aren’t fans. They don’t react to every blown call, every skirmish, or every go-ahead basket the way we do. So what damage can really be done by tweeting upwards of 21 times a game?
I don’t see it. Maybe you want to drive people to your university-hosted online chat or other content you control. But that’s awfully petty, don’t you think? If I want to read your in-house writer (Gregg Bell, a true talent and one of the most upstanding gentlemen in the biz), I will. And I do. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be privy to full disclosure from others covering the game, too. Why can’t we all just get along?
8. Do mentions directed at other Twitter users count towards the tweet limit during a game?
Here’s the rub about Twitter. If I issue a tweet that leads with another user’s Twitter handle, that tweet can only be read by those followers of mine who also follow that user I’m directing my tweet towards. God, just reading that last sentence makes almost no sense at all. Let me try to give you an example. A tweet reading as follows will only be viewed by users who mutually follow me and @UW: “@UW is a great place to go to school!” See that? Only my followers who also follow @UW would see that tweet. That’s how the product was designed. It’s called a “Reply” in the Twittersphere. Plain as day, I hope.
So, in essence, if I reply to another Twitterer (Twit? Twittee?), only a limited number of my followers will even see that tweet. Is it really fair to count Replies towards the 20-tweet limit? Probably not. Have you taken this into consideration? Probably not. What we have here is an old-fashioned Mexican standoff. Or something like that. I don’t know. I’m not Mexican.
7. Do tweets unrelated to the game itself count towards the tweet limit during a game?
Let’s say I’m covering the game and I want to know what one of my buddies is up to. I tweet to my pal and say, “Yo, @RyanDivish. Are you coming to the game tonight, or are you catching up on the latest episode of Gossip Girl?” That tweet has nothing to do with the game itself. Yet I’ve posted it during the contest. Am I being a charged one of my precious 20 tweets for issuing my inquiry? These are the questions people need answers to!
6. What are the different levels of punishment a violator of the 20-tweet rule can expect to incur? And similarly, what specific actions will trigger each level of punishment?
Sure, we’ve heard about media members getting “reprimanded” for exceeding 20 tweets in a single game. We’ve also heard that the university might go so far as to pull a violator’s credential, if need be. But there’s quite a bit of grey area in between those two levels of comeuppance. It doesn’t seem like we have any real guidelines for issuing discipline. I’d like to offer my assistance in helping clear things up.
Here’s what I feel like we should do to those who overstep their bounds (or over-tweet their timelines, you might say), based on the number of tweets they issue during a single game:
Tier 1 Punishment: If 21-30 tweets are issued, the violator is subject to a public flogging of sorts via the @UWAthletics Twitter account. Call out said violator’s Twitter handle, then bash him or her incessantly over the course of 140 characters.
Tier 2 Punishment: If 31-40 tweets are issued, the violator is subject to a one-game Twitter ban. They are also required to don Harry the Husky’s mascot costume during that one-game ban and wander around the arena doing whatever it is mascots do.
Tier 3 Punishment: If 41-50 tweets are issued, the violator is subject to a two-game Twitter ban and must also post a TwitPic of himself/herself wearing a sign explaining his/her idiocy, much like the dogs over at DogShaming.com.
Tier 4 Punishment: If 50+ tweets are issued, the violator is subject to losing his/her credential. Furthermore, he or she must also spend a day officiating UW intramural basketball, which is arguably the worst punishment anyone can receive.
5. Do you really think this is going to get more people to either a) come to games, or b) watch them on TV?
Because I feel like that’s the end goal here. I think you believe people are getting a free pass via Twitter, following along with reporters providing insight to the goings-on at Hec Ed, instead of paying to attend the contest, or even watching on TV. And to you, that free pass equates to potential revenue lost. Hence, the Twitter limitations.
Prove me wrong, I suppose, but I see no other logical explanation as to why a credentialed media member’s tweets would be limited.
And do any of us really believe that limiting a journalist’s ability to report on the game will drive up attendance or TV ratings? No. No one thinks that. Give up the dream.
4. Did you really think this rule through before imposing it? Or did some suit at the top come up with it, while everyone else just sat around a table and nodded out of fear and/or apathy?
You don’t have to answer either of those questions. They’re rhetorical.
3. Is this all Todd Dybas’ fault? Do you guys not like Todd Dybas?
Before Tacoma News-Tribune beat writer Todd Dybas became the inaugural media member reprimanded for over-tweeting, we didn’t even know this tweet rule existed. Dybas took over the TNT’s Husky beat this year, after our good friend Ryan Divish was on the job last season. Initially, I thought maybe you guys just had a problem with the TNT (there’s some history here, as a Google search will reveal), but Divish was never busted for his plethora of tweets in the past. So what’s the deal?
Clearly, it’s Dybas. You guys don’t like him. Fair enough. But what did he do to warrant this treatment? I want answers. We all do. You’ve turned this man into a martyr! Don’t you realize what you’ve done?!
2. Why do you feel the need to stifle the creativity of talented wordsmiths?
If I had to think before I issued every tweet (and believe me, I don’t), my tweets would suck. So if someone told me I could only tweet 20 times a game, you bet I’d start considering my syntactical ejaculations before blasting them unto the web.
It’s the same for any media member. With only a score of tweets to work with (that’s Abraham Lincoln speak for 20), a reporter has to carefully evaluate the importance of each in-game update before he or she goes through with it. That’s ridiculous! How is anyone supposed to know if reporting on a CJ Wilcox trey is worth five-percent of a tweet allotment?
Not only that, but each tweet issued is probably going to lack for flavor. We won’t hear about the comical bench antics, the reactions from the Dawg Pack, or any other color commentary that might allow us to, you know, connect with our team on a more personal level. Instead, each one of those 20 tweets will strictly be relegated to play-by-play. That’s damn unfortunate.
1. Do you really want non-credentialed members of the media like myself tweeting our asses off during games because our credentialed brethren cannot?
Challenge accepted, friend. Challenge. Accepted.
Filed under: Husky Basketball, Husky Football, Top 11
A year ago, we had the Wroten Workout Plan, in honor of Husky Basketball player Tony Wroten. It was a fairly simple plan. For every turnover committed by the freshman point guard, participants would perform 25 push-ups as penance for the miscue. Likewise, 25 push-ups would also be performed each time Wroten made a free throw, though those push-ups would certainly be more of the celebratory variety. So if at game’s end Wroten had knocked down five free throws and committed five turnovers, all of us loyal Wroten Workout Planners would owe 250 push-ups for the young man’s effort. It was a great way to stay in shape while committing the sins of most sports fans watching a game — those being the snacking and beer drinking that come along with couch-sitting.
Oddly enough, the Wroten Workout Plan not only caught on, but it worked, too. People actually got a little muscle in their upper body thanks to Wroten’s performances each game. On top of that, it gave us something to do while watching the Huskies play. It made us active. It kept us engaged when we otherwise may have lost focus on the contest playing out in front of us. And in the end, it was fun. Sports should be fun. Being a fan should be fun. We need more fun in our lives.
As fate would have it, Wroten bolted for the NBA during the spring and left us WWPers with a void in our season-long exercise routine. With Wroten’s departure came the death of the Wroten Workout Plan. Which got me thinking about how we could still get our push-ups in this year, despite the fact that Wroten would not be with us.
With Wednesday’s exhibition game against Western Washington, the new season is very nearly upon us. And so it happened that with the new season, Body By Aziz was born. And for those of you looking to get on the newest workout plan that will soon be sweeping the nation (or at least a small portion of Seattle), I encourage you to watch Husky games with a keen eye on senior center Aziz N’Diaye. Here’s how it works:
Keeping alive the spirit of the Wroten Workout Plan, we’ll have both punitive and celebratory push-ups owed for two separate acts committed by Washington’s big man.
Should Aziz head to the charity stripe and miss a free throw (not make a free throw, as was the case with Wroten a year ago), 25 push-ups are due from all participants. Those are our punitive push-ups. It gets better, though, Husky fans.
Should Aziz help out the squad by hauling in a rebound, a celebration will ensue and 25 more push-ups will be due from the masses. Yay, rebounds.
So to recap, here’s a simple formula to remember as you watch ballgames:
Any Aziz rebound = 25 push-ups.
Any Aziz missed free throw = 25 push-ups.
With any luck, we’ll be pushing-up in celebration of big nights on the boards that lead to UW victories. Missed foul shots? We don’t want anything to do with that, but begrudgingly will drop to the ground and give 25 reps as punishment for Aziz’s shortcomings at the line.
So get your Body By Aziz this winter and improve your overall well-being. Guys, you’ll get girls with that added muscle. Girls, you’ll get guys with that toned physique. And most importantly, we’ll all get fit as we enjoy Husky Basketball. Win or lose, we’re all a little healthier by game’s end.
The 2012-2013 season officially gets underway on Nov. 11. Mark your calendars, and get your practice in now. Only 17 days left!
Filed under: Husky Basketball
I read an article on Tony Wroten’s less-than-clutch performance down the stretch in Thursday’s loss to Oregon State and felt compelled to respond. As this feeling of compulsion rarely overwhelms me, I decided to follow through on my emotion with an actual response. I can tell you’re as impressed as I am by this turn of events.
All jokes aside, there’s something very real and intriguing about the player that Wroten has become over the course of this past season. So before we address the specific moment in recent history that has inspired such debate, let’s go back in time to last fall, when the Husky faithful was first formally introduced to No. 14…
From the moment he arrived on the campus of the University of Washington, fans seemed to take Tony Wroten with a grain of salt. The six-foot-five-inch point guard was a supremely talented prep superstar with a history of interesting, albeit relatively harmless, decisions away from the court. Skipping a high school Spanish class, then unwittingly revealing an academic scandal through Twitter as a result of a braggadocious post about said truancy might be the first interesting decision that comes to mind with Wroten. The teenager’s perceived legacy, however, was seemingly defined before such a violation ever occurred.
He is a Seattle native with a big personality. And in a world where social media fuels big personalities, Wroten became a victim of his own online persona while growing up. It didn’t help matters that many of the fans exposed to his burgeoning persona are the same individuals who loyally support the purple and gold of Washington. To pretend that first impressions don’t impact a relationship, however distant that relationship may be, is certainly naive. When Wroten committed to the University of Washington, he engaged in a relationship with a fan base that was essentially committed to supporting him. Unlike many recruits, though, Wroten’s accessibility (through the internet, as well as his geographic proximity) allowed a significant portion of that fan base to form predispositions about the enigmatic freshman before he ever put on his college uniform. And in many cases, those predisposed opinions were of the negative variety.
There is a certain bias that can occur with people who have left a negative impression on you. You’ll be more cognizant of their flaws, you’ll look for the things you don’t like about them, and you’ll often fail to recognize their positive traits. Throughout the course of this season, a large contingent of fans have had this attitude towards Wroten. It’s not up for debate. This is obvious following every game. One need not search any farther than Facebook, Twitter, or the message board community for evidence. Fair or unfair, Tony Wroten, as a player and a person, has had to endure more scrutiny than perhaps any other player in University of Washington basketball history. And much of that comes as a direct result of the impressions he left on people while maturing as a Seattle-area high school student.
The bigger societal issue is whether or not kids should even be allowed to make fools of themselves in the public spectrum when they’re young, dumb, and apt to say and do things they’ll later regret. If there was some online forum that chronicled everything we had said or done as teenagers, half of us probably wouldn’t have jobs, let alone the ability to succeed in front of others. The meshing of Wroten and Twitter was as caustic and ill-advised as Bobby and Whitney and clearly has had a lasting impact on the local perception of who the 18-year-old (yes, he’s still only 18) truly is.
But I digress. We don’t need to consume ourselves with society’s problems in an article about a basketball player. What we have before us today are simply the outcomes of one individual’s actions and one group of people’s reactions to those actions over an extended period of time. Most of us were first introduced to Wroten when he was a freshman at Garfield High School. We’ve had four years to formulate our ideas about this phenom. Whether or not our ideas are just is irrelevant by now. Ideas can change, and as Wroten continues to grow and develop as a person, those ideas will likely morph into something different. But for now, this is what we have at our fingertips.
He is frustrating because we make him frustrating. First and foremost, that needs to be stated. If we knew nothing about Wroten’s past, if we had no idea that he was a highly-touted recruit, if we were unaware that he even existed in the Twittersphere, we’d likely be more willing to accept Tony Wroten as the remarkable talent he is. So to that end, we’re guilty of being tormented by our own preconceived notions. That’s where we find ourselves with regards to Wroten’s stat line from Thursday’s game: 29 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four turnovers, one steal, two blocks. By all accounts, that is an incredible game. But I’m no hypocrite. I’ll own up to my own immediate assessment of Wroten after the contest. As I told my brother on Thursday night, those were the ugliest 29 points I’d ever paid witness to. And I’ll stand by that today.
Why do we do this to him? A dude puts up 29 freakin’ points and we want more? How can we be so greedy? These are questions I, myself, struggle to find the answers to. It doesn’t seem right to demand so much of somebody. But then I start thinking about not just how talented he is — because Wroten really is that talented — but also how great he and others have made Tony Wroten out to be. Our expectations of greatness are shifted when greatness is often achieved. The bar is continually set higher, and thus we demand our overachievers to keep on overachieving. The odd thing with Wroten, though, is that many see him as a perennial underachiever. Why? Well, quite simply, the Tony Wroten Hype Machine has spiraled out of control.
Tony Wroten wants you to know he’s great. That’s all well and good, young man, but when you fail to live up to your own billing, people are disappointed. Likewise, the sports media also wants you to know that Tony Wroten is great. There are so many people telling us Wroten is great, including the man himself, that we reasonably start to expect greater. Which leads us to the closing minutes of Thursday’s defeat.
Wroten missed four straight free throws in the waning minutes of Washington’s loss. In less than 24 hours, those four absent baskets have radiated brighter and brighter in fans’ understanding of this particular ballgame. Refer back to Kevin Pelton’s article that I linked at the top of this piece. That article alone served to address such an isolated incident — those four free throws and the essence of “choking” — that lost in the shuffle was the remaining majority of Wroten’s performance. To counter the failure of that isolation, Pelton has reminded readers to consider the success of the preceding 38 or so minutes of Wroten’s basketball life.
But what about the ugliness of those 29 points I mentioned? Sure, we can turn a blind eye to four missed free throws. We’ve been instructed to do that, so we’ll obey. But what about the turnovers? All four of those came in the first half, when the Huskies dug themselves a hole that ultimately proved to be insurmountable. And they were egregious. A lazy pass that was picked off by the opponent, a bullet into the first few rows of seats that appeared destined for no recipient dressed in Washington’s home whites. What about the decisions with the ball that came at the expense of the other four teammates on the court at any given time? Too many times, it seemed, there were possessions in which no other Washington player touched the ball besides Wroten. Is that good team basketball? Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Don’t get me wrong. The line Wroten put up is impressive. But in looking at that impressive line, we tend to focus on the points, all 29 of them. I liken this to a pitcher’s wins in baseball. Sure, it’s a number we can use to gauge a surface idea of a player, but does it really tell the whole story? Not at all. Wroten’s impact on this particular game was measured two-fold: either a) you thought he choked because he missed four late-game free throws, or b) you thought he was great because he tallied a hefty number of points. I’m challenging you to think outside the box. If you witnessed his performance first-hand, would you really, honestly believe Wroten played as well as he could have? Consider the gray area between the black and white.
The game, those 29 points, those four missed free throws, they are a microcosm of the Tony Wroten conundrum. We love him, we hate him, we acknowledge his past, we forget his past, we are completely torn apart by who this guy is. I’m telling you that aside from those two examples — the points and the charity shots — and with no regard for our preformed ideas about the freshman point guard, Wroten could have played better on Thursday and is deserving of some criticism.
On a greater level, however, we need to get better about how we condemn and condone an individual like Wroten. We can’t critique his play, it seems, because that makes us “haters” (as the players, themselves, would say). On the flip side, we can’t love the guy if we hate him, so that makes us hypocrites when we try to throw any accolades his way. Is it really that cut and dry?
I like Tony Wroten. I do. I don’t like everything about his past, but I realize he’s still developing as an adult. We were all 18 once. We should be able to relate to that. At the same time, it’s my right as a fan and as someone who understands basketball to opine about any player’s play. It just is. It’s part of what makes fandom great.
If nothing else, Tony Wroten is teaching us about the psychology of fanaticism. He may stick around for his sophomore year or he may leave school when this season is finished. Regardless, one thing is certain: what he does or does not do will definitely, without a doubt, inspire a reaction.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
My gut feeling is that the Huskies will — yes, will — be going to the Big Dance. They’ll make it and it will totally be undeserved. I liken the Dawgs making the NCAA Tournament to a reckless teenager being bequeathed a brand new BMW by his wealthy, oblivious parents…right after he totaled the last BMW they previously gave to him.
This version of the Huskies has been given chance after chance after chance. Amazingly, they’ve continued to blow those chances, one after the other, only to later pay witness to good fortune falling squarely in their lap.
Take, for instance, the Pac-12 regular season championship. Heading into the final days of conference play, Washington had a golden opportunity to win the league title outright by knocking off an embattled UCLA team. They squandered that opportunity, thus putting their fate in the hands of the California Golden Bears. A Cal victory over Stanford meant Washington would share the title with the Bears; a Cal loss meant the Huskies would be blessed with the crown. As we all know now, California lost and Washington signed for a shiny package delivered at their doorstep. They won the Pac-12 title, but did they really earn it? I guess that depends on one’s perspective.
All year long, the Huskies have been frustratingly maddening. They lose games they should win, win games they should lose…they’re a manic roller coaster ride of constant anxiety. There are a bevy of reasons for this, of course — excuses, more or less — which any Kool-Aid-sipping fan can rattle off with relative ease: this team is young, they’re inexperienced, they’ve been beset by injuries here and there, the list goes on.
But what it really comes down to is the fact that a) this ballclub has underachieved, and b) they’ve failed to capitalize on the reality of their circumstances. What are the reality of their circumstances, you ask? The answer to that can be found in a down year for the Pac-12, a disappointing journey through the non-conference slate (including three straight losses, at one point), games that have been lost in the closing seconds due to mistakes or poor execution (see: Marquette, Nevada, California, UCLA, etc.), and winnable contests that were simply blown (see: Nevada, South Dakota State, Colorado).
No, no team is perfect. Yet this year’s Huskies have fallen far short of anything even remotely resembling excellence. Worse yet, they’ve come across to many fans as entitled and deserving in their pursuit of whatever it is they’re after (ask each player his goal for the season, and I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone gave you a different answer). One can’t really put statistics behind the definition of attitude, but the Dawgs have lacked any apparent desire to try hard or give a spirited, passionate effort consistently throughout the year. That might be the most disheartening fact of all. They don’t seem to care. And for any fan of the school and the ballclub, that absolutely…sucks.
All that said, I’ll reiterate my original point: Washington probably will make the NCAA Tournament. No regular season major conference champion has ever not made the Tournament; this would be a first. And in order for the Huskies to really get snubbed, a substantial number of bubble teams would have to win their conference tournaments, or at least put up strong showings this weekend, which in all likelihood probably won’t happen.
But do they deserve the trip? If the history of this season is any indication, worthiness won’t matter. Going dancing will simply be the latest gift for the 2011-2012 Washington Huskies.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
(Winners of each matchup listed in BOLD.)
Game 1: Washington State (8) vs. Oregon State (9), 12:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 7
Player of the Year candidate Brock Motum leads all scorers with eight points as the Cougars knock off the Beavs 17-12 in first-round play. Announced attendance for the tournament’s first game is 22. A quick head count of everyone in the arena reveals that only 19 people are actually present, however.
Game 2: UCLA (5) vs. USC (12), 2:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 7
The Bruins continue their stick-up-their-ass, inspired-by-scandal run to the NIT by throttling the Trojans and their bevy of backcourt munchkins. Reeves Nelson buys a ticket and sits courtside, but is later removed from the premises after rushing the court and setting a hard pick on one of his former teammates.
Game 3: Stanford (7) vs. Arizona State (10), 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 7
Coming off a huge win over Arizona, the Sun Devils look to capitalize on the momentum and make noise against the Cardinal. Unfortunately, they are still the Sun Devils. And Herb Sendek is no better than Maurice Sendak (he wrote Where The Wild Things Are, you know) at coaching basketball. The Tree moves on.
Game 4: Colorado (6) vs. Utah (11), 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 7
There are 344 NCAA Division I basketball teams. Of those 344 teams, 140 will make a postseason tournament (NCAA, NIT, CBI, or CIT tournaments) in 2012. That still leaves precisely 204 teams that will not make a postseason tournament. I like to call those 204 outsiders “the 59-Percent.” Utah is part of the 59-percent.
Colorado wins 137-22. Don’t quote me on that final score.
Game 5: Washington (1) vs. Washington State (8), 12:00 p.m., Thursday, March 8
I want to believe in the Huskies. I really do. But we all know how hard it is to beat a team three times in one season. And this isn’t just any team. This is the rival. This is Washington State. These jerks are going to want to beat us more than any other team in the tournament.
The Cougars have only one player that needs to be controlled: Brock Motum. Motum has totaled 34 points against the Dawgs in two previous meetings this year. The Huskies, on the other hand, have had significant contributions from a variety of players, including Terrence Ross (30 points, 14 rebounds at home in Seattle), Tony Wroten (21 points on the road in Pullman; 13 points at home), C.J. Wilcox (16 points in Pullman), Aziz N’Diaye (12 points, 8 rebounds at home), and yes, even Darnell Gant (13 points, 8 rebounds at home).
If the Dawgs bring the will to win (and for the love of God, let’s hope they do), their excessive firepower should be enough to give them a narrow victory over the arch-nemesis.
Game 6: Arizona (4) vs. UCLA (5), 2:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8
With the home crowd behind them and that stick still firmly entrenched in their collective behind, the Bruins will upset the Wildcats and send Arizona into the NIT on a sour note. Whatever this is, it’s like the opposite of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.
Game 7: California (2) vs. Stanford (7), 6:00 p.m., Thursday, March 8
After taking down the Golden Bears just four days prior, will the Cardinal have the ability to channel the magic for a second time in one week? No. The answer is a resounding negative. Cal is playing for their NCAA Tournament hopes. And Stanford? They’re playing to avoid the CBI, I suppose. Either way, fifteenth-year senior Harper Kamp will put the Bears on his back and carry them to his proverbial bear cave.
That was an incorrect use of the word “proverbial,” by the way. There’s no proverbs about bear caves, as far as I know.
Game 8: Oregon (3) vs. Colorado (6), 8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 8
In the world of zoology, a buffalo would easily trample a duck.
In my dreams, the Buffaloes would easily trample the Ducks.
In reality, the Ducks will, in all likelihood, very easily trample the Buffaloes. It defies the laws of nature, no doubt.
I hate Oregon.
Game 9: Washington (1) vs. UCLA (5), 6:00 p.m., Friday, March 9
Ben Howland can keep that stick in his ass. I’m fine with that. But his team will lose this game. Twice in one week over Washington? Three victories on three consecutive days? No. Not going to happen. Goodbye, UCLA.
Game 10: California (2) vs. Oregon (3), 8:30 p.m., Friday, March 9
Jorge Gutierrez will one day win the NBDL’s Sixth Man of the Year award. He’s that good.
I hate Oregon so much I want the Huskies to play them for the Pac-12 title. So…down goes Cal!
Devoe Joseph will score 30. I hate that guy.
Game 11: Washington (1) vs. Oregon (3), 3:00 p.m., Saturday, March 10
Ask any expert who they think presents Washington the biggest challenge in the Pac-12 Tournament and they’ll tell you it’s Oregon. Oregon, they say, could beat the Huskies.
If Oregon wins this game, the Pac-12 likely sends three teams to the NCAA Tournament. Oregon, as league tournament champions, would receive the conference’s automatic berth. Washington would undoubtedly get an at-large bid by this point, as could Cal. For the Pac-12, which has endured speculation that only one team would be sent to the Big Dance all season long, this would be fantastic news.
But come on. You really think I give a damn about the conference when Oregon’s in the mix? Hell no! I hate Oregon! Has that not been iterated enough? Shall we reiterate? I. Hate. Oregon.
I’m not picking those Duck bastards, are you kidding me?
Washington, for the win! Pac-12 regular season champions! Pac-12 Tournament champions! We’re going dancing! A and K all the way! Hooray!
Go Dawgs. We got this.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
A big thanks to Josh Liebeskind for writing this article about the Dawg Pack and yours truly. I’m no expert on journalism, but if I was in charge of handing out Pulitzers, well, I’d at least consider Josh’s story.
Seriously, though, I’m flattered to have this…thing…I used to do featured in the newspaper of my alma mater. Makes all those classes I skipped (and the two extra years of undergraduate education, my Redshirt and Medical Redshirt years, as I like to refer to them) totally worth it.
Couldn’t be more appreciative of the opportunity to sit down and talk with an up-and-coming writer about the goofy things in my past. Please give the article a read if you get a chance. Thanks!
Filed under: Husky Basketball
The problem with the Husky Basketball team is that they appear to not give a shit. In any sport there will always be wins and losses. That’s a given. But win or lose, you can only hope that your team gives a shit every time they play. So far this season, the Huskies have failed to prove to me — and to many others, I’d imagine — that they are among the shit-giving elite in college basketball. That’s not good.
As a collective unit, this year’s squad resembles Matt LeBlanc in Joey. After Friends, that guy completely mailed it in. He used to care. And then Joey came along. At which point, he more or less gave up. NBC was still signing off on his paychecks. That’s really all that mattered. Lazy bastard.
Since the Huskies neither star in a sitcom spinoff nor get paid, I can’t imagine what’s motivating them to take the court these days. Maybe it’s the free gear they get, the nice kicks they wear, or perhaps all the hot college chicks they get to bang. I don’t know. I am not a psychologist. All I see is a lack of effort, hustle, and desire. Which leads me to question the heart of the entire program.
When things go bad for this team, the body language tells the whole story. Players sulk. They pout. They mope. They walk around, frankly, like losers. Nothing about the collective attitude of this ballclub screams “winner” when the rain starts to fall.
Adversity is an impossible hurdle for this team to overcome. One could make the argument that they’re young and aren’t mentally equipped to handle heavy doses of adversity. That would be a fair argument. But the fact is, the talent of this group should outweigh any emotional obstacles they could face. It’s like they say in high school. If you just show up and put in a little effort, you’ll get at least a “C.” In the figurative sense, the Dawgs aren’t coming to class and they certainly aren’t putting forth much effort, hence the continued failures.
For evidence of this, one look no further than the defensive end of the court. The Huskies are committed to some Godawful form of defense that we have never seen before. It’s not man, it’s not zone…it’s basically five guys playing rover. It’s pitiful. No one guards anybody. Luke Ridnour, who once got crossed over by a paraplegic, would laugh at this team. They are that abysmal. They have relinquished an average of 74.4 points per game to their opponents, most of whom aren’t even that good. Which is absolutely tragic. Because all defense really is is effort. And if defense isn’t being played, then effort isn’t being given. That’s damn unfortunate.
The thing about not giving a shit is you can’t hide it from the masses. The Dawgs have played poorly before, but rarely has it inspired this much venom from the fan base. I can see what’s on my Twitter timeline and my Facebook feed. People are pissed off. And it has nothing to do with the losses so much as it has to do with the way the team is losing. No one wants to watch the uninspired. No one wants to watch the heartless. Yet that’s what we’re being asked to do with these Huskies.
Like Joey before them, the Dawgs are on the verge of being canceled. It’s still too early to write off the entire year, though. There’s a chance, however fleeting, that Washington could make a run at the NCAA Tournament. Until these players decide to play with passion, with desire, with energy, and with attitude, however, it will not matter one bit.
This team is a lost cause if it doesn’t start to care. We’ll just have to see how badly they want it.
Filed under: Husky Basketball
Tags: Husky Basketball