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.