NCAA BK

Heralded UW recruit Abdul Gaddy not starting - yet

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SEATTLE (AP)

Abdul Gaddy is getting something he hasn't had since he was a freshman in high school: A seat on the bench. Rated the nation's No. 2 point guard last year, the high school All-American reneged on his commitment to Arizona after coach Lute Olson did not return there. Gaddy's choice to stay close to home at Washington became a huge coup for the eventual Pac-10 champion. Yet when the guard-laden No. 14 Huskies open their season Friday night with their highest preseason ranking since 1985, Gaddy won't be starting. And he's fine with that. For now, at least. "Being a McDonald's All-American is a great honor, but I'm just trying to contribute to the team here," Gaddy said. "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar never promised me a starting job." He can promise plenty of playing time. Washington is beginning its season by playing three home games in three nights, starting with Wright State in the Athletes In Action Classic. The Huskies will immediately learn more about their depth, and about how Gaddy is adjusting to what he already feels is a much quicker college game. They are facing a conference tournament-like pace in November. The four-team, round-robin event at Hec Edmundson Pavilion will be the only time this season Washington will play on consecutive days - until, they hope, the Pac-10 tournament in March. This weekend includes Saturday night's game against Belmont and Sunday's against Portland State, which has made the NCAA tournament the last two seasons. Last season's Pac-10 coach of the year likes the immediate challenge. "Thrown into the fire right away," Romar said. "It's definitely something we can draw from later when we play in the Pac-10 tournament." The weekend triple became more of a challenge when most of the team came down with the flu last month. With seven players out, Washington couldn't conduct a full practice until a week after preseason drills began. Once full health returned, Romar made the unprecedented decision to practice on nine consecutive days into last week to make up for lost time. This weekend will help show if the remade Huskies are still behind. They are moving from an offense that centered on departed, rugged star Jon Brockman inside to a more wide-open game dependent upon Isaiah Thomas' driving and scoring. "I don't know if you ever feel like you're ready," said Romar. "It's like getting ready for an exam and you wonder 'Did I study enough and am I ready?"' Gaddy already appears to be the controlled, understated complement to the flamboyant Thomas, a fellow native of Tacoma, Wash. Some are already comparing the teen to Brandon Roy, Washington's ultra-smooth former Pac-10 player of the year who is now starring for the Portland Trail Blazers. Asked what Gaddy provides coming off the bench behind Thomas and Venoy Overton, a relentless pest on defense, Romar said simply: "That calmness." "Your offense is in good hands because he's not going to make many mistakes," the coach said. "He's going to get the ball to the right people. He's going to calm everyone else down. If things aren't going well he can take over the game himself, so he has got that uniqueness about him." Like he did with Thomas last season, Romar said he is going to back off directing how Gaddy should play. That approach worked well last time he used it: Thomas was the Pac-10 freshman of the year. "You kind of give Abdul the blueprints to what you want your house to look like, and then you decorate it the way you want. That's what you do with him," Romar said. "You'll have a pretty nice, custom-decorated house, too, because he knows what he's doing." ---
Tagged: Washington

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