Big things were expected of Matthew Bryan-Amaning this season. Washington’s sophomore power forward was expected to play key minutes for a Husky ballclub with little frontcourt depth. The 6’9″ low-post presence would utilize his jump hook and leaping ability to produce a heavy dose of scoring on offense, and a 7’4″ wingspan with a knack for blocking shots to disrupt opponents on defense. Instead, the 20-year-old Bryan-Amaning saw his stats remain stagnant and his production regress over the course of the 2008-2009 season. With two years of inconsistency under his belt, MBA is the biggest area of concern for Dawg fans looking ahead to the 2009-2010 campaign.
Where did he go wrong? The soon-to-be upperclassman began the season in ominous fashion, missing the first three games of the year due to injury. Once Bryan-Amaning found the floor, the results were anything but pretty. In his first four games, MBA averaged 3.75 PPG while logging just under 13 minutes of playing time in those contests. Following that miserable stretch, the forward put together his best games of the season, albeit against weaker competition. In back-to-back contests against Texas Southern and Portland State, MBA recorded a combined 41 points and 17 rebounds. Two games later, against Montana, he chipped in 10 points while hauling in a season-high 15 boards, one of only two double-doubles on the year. Over his next seven ballgames, Matthew was up and down. At his highest during that stretch, Bryan-Amaning went for 17 points and six rebounds against Stanford; at his lowest he went scoreless against Washington State in 18 minutes, and notched just four points and collected zero boards in 36 minutes against California.
From that point on, Bryan-Amaning regressed significantly. Over the final 17 games of the season, including postseason action, MBA averaged just 3.5 PPG, and perhaps more disturbingly pulled in just 48 total rebounds, for an average of 2.8 RPG. Both those numbers were in decline from Bryan-Amaning’s season averages of 6.0 PPG and 4.0 RPG and best illustrate the drop in production from what was supposed to be one of the Huskies’ more productive players. One other interesting statistic to note is that 48% of Bryan-Amaning’s total points on the season were accumulated over the course of six ballgames; MBA recorded 92 of his 192 total points on the year in contests against Texas Southern, Portland State, Montana, Stanford, Oregon State, and USC, a striking imbalance in output.
Why did he go wrong? It’s a question everyone would like to know the answer to. What led to Matthew Bryan-Amaning’s decline in production? There is no clear-cut reason as to why this occured, but there are some indicators to be taken away from watching him play.
First, Bryan-Amaning lacks an ability to move his feet and establish position in the low block. He relies on a finesse game in the post, but his footwork is weak and predictable, and he often neglects to secure his domain (unlike Jon Brockman, for example) so he can receive entry passes. Once he does obtain the ball underneath, he employs one move and one move only: the spin. There are no pump fakes, no ball fakes, no face-ups, and no power dribbles. A one-trick pony.
Second, MBA is a subpar passer. Teams know that once Bryan-Amaning corrals an entry pass that he will be looking to score first, second, and third; distributing the basketball is not in this guy’s game plan. Because of that, opponents can comfortably and confidently double-team Bryan-Amaning on the block and usually come away with a positive result. In his 533 minutes of play this season, MBA dished out 21 assists.
Third, his offensive arsenal lacks variety. Not unlike his limited footwork, where he uses only a spin move, Bryan-Amaning has just one weapon when it comes to scoring the basketball: the hook shot. He rarely goes up to dunk the ball, rarely shoots jumpers, rarely lays the ball in; it’s hook shot or bust, and it’s usually a bust. The big man shot just 45% from the field this year, a surprisingly low number for an interior player.
Fourth, his attitude is suspect. While fellow second-year players Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton, and Darnell Gant matured both physically and mentally from last season to this one, Bryan-Amaning pulled a Benjamin Button and seemed to age backwards. Rather than come off the bench and scrap and claw for minutes, MBA approached the game in prima donna fashion, appearing overconfident at times and failing to do the dirty work such as box out for rebounds and play help defense in the lane. He had the demeanor of an entitled veteran starter, but produced like a career backup.
Where does he go from here? There are no guarantees for MBA heading into the coming season. Unlike this past year, where Bryan-Amaning had minutes fall into his lap because of a shortage of post players, next year should be a dramatically different story. Along with starters Darnell Gant and Quincy Pondexter, MBA will be battling redshirt freshman Tyreese Breshers for minutes, as well as incoming junior Charles Garcia (a JuCo transfer), and incoming frosh Clarence Trent. With six frontcourt players fighting for minutes, every ounce of playing time will be important and each practice will be key in determining a rotation. A lackadaisical effort or inability to perform in certain facets of the game will undoubtedly push MBA, or any other player for that matter, to the back end of the bench. That should be motivation enough to help turn things around.