Last night against the woeful Oregon Ducks, Washington's Terrence Ross looked like the team's most talented player. The wiry freshman from Portland led all scorers with 25 points. He coolly drained three-pointers, attacked the rim with a variety of acrobatic maneuvers, and slammed home a spectacular alley-oop pass from Isaiah Thomas. It was the Huskies' first game without sophomore starting point guard Abdul Gaddy, who will miss the rest of the season after injuring his knee in practice. With Gaddy gone and Ross flourishing with additional minutes, it's easy for fans to talk themselves into thinking the loss equals addition by subtraction. Unfortunately, that just doesn't add up.
Along with Thomas--who quietly turned in one of his best performances of the season yesterday, with 20 points and nine assists--senior Venoy Overton was delegated point-guard duties. Overton is a tremendous player, but his frantic style is not suited to a calm, controlled half-court offense. In the open floor, Overton is lightning with the ball in hands. But last night, when he was forced to bide his time, he passed the ball into the stands on three different occasions.
Gaddy, as just about everyone knows by now, was rated as the second-best high-school point-guard recruit in America his senior year at Tacoma's Bellarmine Prep. He was 17 for most of his freshman season, and he struggled mightily under the impossibly high expectations. With a year's experience and a summer of intense training, Gaddy looked like he'd made the leap this season.
Ross was facing a somewhat similar situation in the first part of this season. He too was a highly touted recruit who initially had a hard time grasping the ins and outs of Lorenzo Romar's system. After the game last night, Romar talked about how Ross finally "stopped thinking" and let his athleticism and instincts take over.
Romar said the same was true for Gaddy. He said he was thankful that Gaddy was injured halfway through the season rather than before, so that he had time to rebuild his confidence and prove to himself and his many detractors (including The Daily Weekly's own Mike Seely, who "officially" declared Gaddy a bust around this time last year) that he is the standout player he was advertised to be.
Romar joked about Gaddy's serene, almost sleepy, style of play, and how essential it was when the Huskies "get a little helter-skelter." "He kept us in control," Romar said. "Abdul has such a calming effect on our team. Tonight there were times I looked at him [sitting on the bench] out of the corner of my eye. I don't know why, maybe to calm me down."
When the Huskies face tough defensive teams later in the season--especially come tourney time, when every possession is life and death--they're going to need to channel Gaddy's serenity and take care of the basketball. If they don't do that, they'll almost certainly lose--no matter how many points Terrence Ross scores.