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Pondexter coming into his own
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"Everything I did, it looked like I was going in slow motion,” Pondexter is now able to say with a chuckle.
Pondexter has always come along at his own pace — almost exclusively in the shadows. Back at San Joaquin Memorial High and on the summer circuit, he played with the 7-foot McDonald’s All-American Lopez Twins — Brook and Robin. For the first three years in college at Washington, it was Jon Brockman’s team.
Finally, Pondexter is The Man at U-Dub.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound senior is averaging 21.9 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Huskies, who are back on track after a couple of early-season losses to Texas Tech and Georgetown.
Gone are the shadows and the history of the shy high schooler who was poked fun at for his lack of athleticism.
"He’s always been so indecisive,” Roscoe Pondexter said of his son. "But the talent has always been there.”
Pondexter grew up an Arizona fan — partially due to the playing style and largely because his father suited up for Wildcats coach Lute Olson back when he was coaching at Long Beach State.
"I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Pondexter said.
But there was one small problem.
"They didn’t think I was that good,” he said. "They recruited me, but the offer was there and then it wasn’t there."
"They ended up getting Chase Budinger,” Pondexter added. "I went my way, and I think they did just fine with Chase.”
Pondexter arrived on campus in 2006 as a top 50 player, but he was inconsistent in his first 2 1/2 seasons, never quite living up to his potential.
"It’s definitely been up and down — especially from the beginning,” Pondexter said.
Then, something finally clicked when Pac-10 play rolled around last season.
"It was harder to come out and assert myself scoring when we had guys like Jon (Brockman), Isaiah (Thomas) and Justin (Dentmon),” he said. "I wanted to wait until Pac-10 to make my mark.”
Pondexter quietly scored in double-figures in 17 of the 21 league contests, including the Pac-10 tournament, and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down this year.
"He was a different guy,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. "He averaged about 16 points per game the last half of the season. What he’s doing now he started to do last season.”
Pondexter hasn’t just shed his label of being a guy whose production didn’t match his potential. He’s also become a leader and even a spokesman.
"This is his team now,” Romar said.
In an era in which players are covered with body art, you won’t find a single tattoo or piercing on Pondexter’s body. He said he’s never tasted alcohol and hasn’t smoked, either.
"I can still go out and have fun without drinking or smoking,” he said. "I promised myself I wouldn’t do it.”
That promise came while he lived in Fresno and saw the mess that was going on with Jerry Tarkanian and the Fresno State program, which was filled with troubled kids and was ultimately placed on probation.
"My dad was a special assistant to the athletic director at the time,” Pondexter said. "Watching all of that made me realize that I couldn’t do any of that.”
At a recent black-tie gala attended by many of the school’s “money people,” Pondexter served as one of the emcees.
"He did a phenomenal job,” Romar said. "He’s really grown up.”
He made a one-day appearance in The Nutcracker this week and is a broadcast journalism and sociology major with a 3.0 GPA who has visions of becoming the next Charles Barkley or John Salley.
But that career will likely be put on hold as Pondexter has become that rare senior who has gained the respect of NBA personnel.
Romar said that he’s put the work in and can be found in the gym working on his game for an hour or two following nearly every game.
"He’s not athletic like Vince Carter or LeBron,” Romar said. "But he’s right after that.”
Brook Lopez is with the New Jersey Nets, Robin is with the Phoenix Suns and Brockman is also in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings.
Pondexter, the only player in the Pac-10 to rank in the top five in scoring and rebounding, has finally emerged from the shadows.
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