Old School Husky
Abdul Gaddy brings his smooth game to Washington.
Abdul Gaddy has an impressive basketball resume: All-State, Washington state Gatorade Player of the Year, McDonald’s All-American, and the list goes on. For a player who is so used to being “The Man”, it would only be somewhat natural that Gaddy would seem a bit apprehensive about the situation he is entering as a heralded freshman at the University of Washington next season. After all, the Huskies are returning the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in guard Isaiah Thomas who took the conference by storm averaging more than 17 ppg a year ago. For one of the best players in the country, it would seem like an unfavorable situation to join a team where you are no longer the primary offensive option, but must defer to a teammate.
If you think Gaddy has thought about that for even a second though, then you would be wrong.
“He’s a very good scoring guard,” Gaddy says. “I think I can help him get his shots a lot easier and get him more points. I think he had to work harder for his points last season because he was working with other scoring guards in the rotation. I want to get him his shots.”
Feel free to reread that last paragraph if you want just to make sure you were able to digest everything he said. Abdul Gaddy, a consensus top-20 player in his class, considered by most to be the second best point guard in the country, actually wants to distribute the basketball. Sure there are stellar point guards that enter the college game every season who are gifted passers, but so many of them still hanker for the opportunity to put up the kinds of scoring numbers that will land them on the magazine covers. Not the smooth floor general out of Bellarmine Prep though.
On his list of goals for his freshman season, right after winning a national and Pac-10 championship, Gaddy lists leading the conference in assists as his most important objective. Whether or not he is able to achieve that mark is many months away from being determined, but if last season is any indication, the odds are stacked against him.
Looking back at the top point guards who were freshman last season, few of them even saw significant playing time due to established floor generals playing in front of them. Some of the more notable names were Kemba Walker (behind A.J. Price) and Larry Drew II (behind Ty Lawson). Working in Gaddy’s favor is the fact that he will likely be handed the reins to Washington’s offense from day one by head coach Lorenzo Romar. Still, even if he should fall short in his lofty goal to lead the conference in assists, the mere fact that Gaddy shows such an unbridled enthusiasm for passing the basketball is worth getting excited about if you’re a UW fan. But what is it about giving the ball away that drives him to continue doing it?
“I don’t really know,” he says with a rush of blatant honesty. “It’s fun being able to put the ball in the basket, I can do that, but just seeing my teammates score brings an excitement to me because I get to see them happy. That feels good to me. I always want my teammates to feel good on the court, I don’t want them to feel like I’m staying away from them or not passing them the ball. I want to keep everyone happy on the court, that’s my goal. If I keep them happy on offense then they’ll help me out too. If I miss an assignment on defense, they’ll be there to back me up. I help them, they help me.”
Defense, Gaddy says, is not one of the stronger parts of his game right now and it is something that he will be working hard at leading up to the season. Still, one can’t help but be impressed with the manner in which he talks about his position as a point guard. His mature understanding of the position is quite evident on the court as well.
Gaddy’s game can best be summed up simply as smooth. Scouts rave about his control of the game; he never seems rushed, but always exists at the right pace. His athleticism doesn’t blow spectators away but he utilizes it well. At 6-3, Gaddy has excellent size for a point guard and he has brilliant court vision, making him a coach’s dream. All of these traits and more are part of the reason why Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is saying that Gaddy may be the most coveted player he has signed in his eight years with the program.
It’s also part of the reason why pundits are already talking about Washington as one of the heavy favorites to win a Pac-10 conference, that while still strong, lost a tremendous amount of talent to the NBA this year. Gaddy isn’t oblivious to the expectations that accompany a heralded recruiting class joining forces with an already strong team, but he does take a wearied tone when discussing them.
“There’s always pressure with stuff like that, but you have to live with it; it’s all about winning. Everyone is always thinking about winning the next game or taking home a conference championship and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
This kind of talk will likely become something that Gaddy gets used to since as long as he is a Husky, UW will be in the mix in the Pac-10, and the talented freshman isn’t going anywhere for at least two seasons. Being one of the youngest players in his class, Gaddy won’t be 19 when the early entry deadline arrives next year, making him ineligible for the draft according to the NBA’s age limit rule. Clearly last year’s freshman class showed a bit of a reverse trend when it comes to the one-and-done fad with a plethora of talented youth actually turning the League down for another season of hitting the books, but Gaddy is one of the few high profile recruits who won’t even have the option.
Rather than worrying about another year of class and living in a dorm room rather than pull a million dollar paycheck, Gaddy is taking a much more practical approach to his minimum two-year stint at the college level.
“I’m looking at it as a positive because it’s going to allow me to further my education and it gives me more time to mature and become a man,” he says.
Imagine that, a player who is already the man is now focused on the task of becoming a man. It seems that mature, old-school approach Gaddy takes to the game of basketball has found its way into his approach to matters off the court as well.
With two years – and maybe more – of Gaddy running the show in Washington, Husky fans would be wise themselves to keep their calendars open for the month of March in the upcoming seasons.