The last great Husky basketball team was from the 2010/2011 season. Isaiah Thomas’ last year, MBA and Justin Holiday playing big minutes; Wilcox, Ross (as a Freshman), Suggs, Overton, Gant, Aziz, all rounding out a deep and quality roster that saw this team run the table through the Pac-12 Tournament (with IT’s Cold Blooded moment against Arizona one of the most iconic single plays in the program’s history), nab a 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, and lose in the Round of 32 by three points to an Elite Eight-bound North Carolina Tar Heels team.
THAT … was a fun Husky basketball team.
Every year since then, I’ve tried to talk myself into this being a fun basketball team to watch. As my expectations dwindled, I at least had hope that there’d be some entertainment value to those teams. The 2011/2012 season saw two NBA prospects (Ross & Wroten) lead the team to a regular season conference title; but a first round exit in the Pac-12 Tournament relegated that team to the N.I.T. The 2012/2013 season was built around C.J. Wilcox and not a whole lot else; they were bounced in the first round of the N.I.T. We had hope for the 2013/2014 season with Wilcox in his senior year, alongside heavily hyped Nigel Williams-Goss, Andrew Andrews in his second year, and JuCo transfer Perris Blackwell rounding out our front court with some other hold-overs we hoped would see some natural improvement. That team wasn’t even good enough to qualify for the N.I.T. Which led us to last season, where we bottomed out with a mighty 5 conference wins. NWG returned for his second season, Andrews was an upper-classman, Robert Upshaw transferred here and looked like the real deal, and Shawn Kemp went into his senior season. By all accounts, last year’s team should have been something special, or at least A LITTLE better than it was. Instead, Upshaw got kicked off the team, and the rest of the roster never really meshed.
Which brings us to this year, where the only notable hold-overs are Andrew Andrews and Donaven Dorsey. Romar’s incoming Freshman class was one of the highest rated in the country (and maybe his highest rated ever), but with that comes a lot of uncertainty. Would Romar be able to mold everyone into shape in time? Would the players play well with one another? Or, would they all be playing for themselves, in hopes to parlay their individual successes into NBA stardom?
It’s taken me a while to want to write about this Husky team, because aside from Andrews, I didn’t know much at all about these guys, aside from what I read in the newspapers. But, reading about basketball is nothing compared to watching it, and soaking it all in. I can say, from what I’ve seen so far this season, there’s A LOT to like.
For starters, I just have to say this, Andrew Andrews is playing out of his mind. As the only senior on this team, he’s had a lot on his plate since the minute last season ended. And, he has absolutely come through like gangbusters! I’m sure everyone respects Romar and the other coaches, but basketball teams need on-court leaders, and Andrews has been that and then some. When you factor in all the youth (six Freshmen playing regular minutes, with a transfer – Dime – also new to the program), this team was only going to go as far as Andrews was able to carry them, especially early in the season, when everyone was just getting used to playing together.
So, what has Andrews done? Well, he’s leading the team in minutes (33), points (21.7), and free throws attempted and made (189 & 159, respectively). He leads all guards in shooting percentage (.401%), and he’s second on the team in rebounds, assists, and steals per game (6.2, 4.7, & 1.4 respectively). Andrews has always had the reputation as sort of a loose cannon when it came to the way he’d jack up crazy shots, but you don’t score over 1,500 points in your career by passing the ball all the time! He’s currently ranked in the Top 10 of all time Husky scorers, just ahead of legends Detlef Schrempf and Brandon Roy. Right now, he has 1,513 points. If he manages to average 20 points per game the rest of the regular season, he’ll end up with 1,733, which would put him just ahead of IT for 7th all time. An extended Pac-12 Tourney run, with a likely N.I.T. or NCAA Tourney appearance, and it wouldn’t be impossible to see him get up into the 1,800 range (he’d need to finish with 1,805 to tie Jon Brockman for 3rd all time).
In short, Andrew Andrews will go down as one of the greatest Huskies of all time. I know points aren’t everything, and he’s played on some pretty bad teams the last three years; if he weren’t having the year he’s having now, with the success this team is having so far, I don’t think we’d be having this conversation. But, he IS having the year he’s having, and this team IS successful so far, and Andrew Andrews is the biggest reason why. If he’s able to lead this team back to the NCAA Tourney – after so many years in the wilderness with supposedly more talented players (Wroten, Ross, NWG) – then I don’t see how you don’t include Andrews in the same breath as the greats like IT, Roy, Brockman, Pondexter, Nate Rob, and the rest. Here’s a guy who’s loyal, who stayed through his senior season, who was forced to play behind some highly-recruited 4-star prospects, who’s now shining the brightest when given the opportunity to lead his own team. He’s the consummate Romar Guy, who has improved each and every year of his college career, and is finally reaping the rewards of all that hard work. He’s one of the best players in the Pac-12 right now, and absolutely deserves to be in the discussion for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
This was going to be a different post, but sort of morphed into a love letter to Andrew Andrews. I dunno, I feel like a lot of Husky fans are skeptical about the guy. Like he’s all of a sudden going to fall apart, watch his field goal percentage plummet, and start jacking up even more crazy shots to compensate. Do the haters not see how he’s getting so many of his points at the free throw line? 38.5% of his overall points are from free throws! That’s crazy and awesome! He’s going to find a way to get his and contribute to this team’s success, even if he has an off shooting night here and there.
But, probably more importantly, as this season continues, there’s going to be less and less of a need for Andrews to be The Guy. As players like Dejounte Murray and David Crisp start to assert themselves, and as our bigs get more comfortable with the college game and the way fouls are called … I mean, we’re already starting to see those guys step their games up. But, going forward, I would anticipate there will be less pressure on Andrews to carry the whole team. He’ll be free to play within the flow of the game and continue to contribute in his usual ways, with the peace of mind to know that it doesn’t have to be ALL on him.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about the rest of the team, as Husky Basketball Week prattles on.