Huskies' lone senior playing final home games
This isn't the dream scenario Quincy Pondexter had envisioned.
Before the season began, Pondexter thought ahead to this upcoming weekend and his final home games at Washington. He let himself dream of cutting down the nets in his last home game and celebrating a second straight Pac-10 regular season title.
The reality is that there won't be any net cutting this weekend for Pondexter. Instead, the final two home games of Pondexter's career - the lone senior for Washington - are solely about keeping Washington's NCAA tournament hopes alive.
The Huskies (17-8, 7-6) have won five of their last six and need a final flourish to help bolster an otherwise lackluster NCAA resume.
Pondexter went so far this week as to say that as the Huskies' lone senior, he would take complete responsibility for Washington's failure if it doesn't make the NCAAs.
``This is my team, I'm the leader of this team and not going out on top is all on me,'' Pondexter said. ``To not end up in the tournament it would really leave a sour note on everything.''
It's a harsh personal assessment from the Huskies' leading scorer and emotional pulse. But he was in the middle of the scrum a year ago when Washington won its first outright Pac-10 regular season title in 56 years and a jubilant celebration ensued in senior Jon Brockman's final home game. It was an experience Pondexter cherished and expected to repeat this season when the Huskies were believed to be preseason favorites along with California.
Yet with three weeks left in the conference season, it's the Golden Bears in control and the Huskies scrambling just to get back in the postseason conversation.
``That's being a leader. I feel that way too. A leader of a team always feels like if you're not playing to your potential it's that person's fault,'' Washington guard Isaiah Thomas said. ``He feels that way and I'd feel the same way if we didn't. Just got to keep faith.''
While trying to ensure the Huskies a postseason bid in the final five regular season games, Pondexter can also strengthen his bid for conference player of the year consideration. That would have been wishful thinking earlier in his career when Pondexter let outside criticism affect his on-court performance.
The self-described ``hermit crab'' earlier in his career arrived in Seattle after being a high school star in Fresno, Calif., expecting it to be a brief stepping stone to professional aspirations. Instead he wasn't a presence on the floor for nearly two years.
It was the final six weeks of last season when Pondexter re-emerged, leading the Huskies in scoring as they charged to the conference crown and second-round appearance in the NCAAs. And much of that success has carried over to his senior season, when he's been asked to do a little of everything for Washington.
He's third in the conference in scoring at 20.4 points per game and third in rebounding, grabbing 8.1 per game, trying to make up for the loss of Brockman, the Huskies' rebounding machine the previous four seasons. In 15 of Washington's 25 games, Pondexter has scored 20 or more points.
And now in his final home games, Pondexter gets a chance to make up for two of his more disappointing performances in his senior season. Pondexter scored 23 points against UCLA, but the Huskies were stung by a buzzer-beating shot from Mustafa Abdul-Hamid as the Bruins pulled out a 62-61 win over Washington. Two days later, the hangover was evident as Southern California - Washington's opponent on Thursday - handed the Huskies their worst loss of the season, a 87-61 rout. Pondexter was held to two points on 1 of 10 shooting. While a forgettable performance, it's also one that gives Pondexter and his teammates a little extra motivation.
``We thought eventually this would be the type of player he would become,'' Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. ``We didn't know how long or how soon but that's why we recruited (him) to do this and he's doing it.''