December 26, 2010 in Sports

Huskies guard has put freshman woes behind him

Percy Allen Seattle Times
Associated Press photo

Washington’s Abdul Gaddy (0) drives the lane as Long Beach State’s Corey Jackson defends in first half of a November game.
(Full-size photo)

SEATTLE – Abdul Gaddy’s reputation preceded him to Washington.

Long before he stepped on the court last year wearing a Huskies uniform, the then-17-year-old freshman was anointed a can’t-miss NBA prospect.

Recruiting services lumped him among the elite prep point guards in the class of 2009, and when he failed to live up to the hype, critics called him a bust.

“My freshman year wasn’t what I wanted it to be for me personally,” Gaddy said. “As a team we did well but, personally, I didn’t play as well as I know I can.”

The next step was to do something about it. Gaddy did just that.

“My mission this summer was to just get better every day, little by little,” he said. “Work on my shooting. Tons of shots every day. Work on my conditioning. Just everything. I think it’s paying off.”

Gaddy has dramatically improved his scoring average (10.2 points from 3.9), assists (4.1 to 2.3) and rebounds (2.2 to 1.4), while shaving his turnovers per game average from 1.7 to 1.3.

Offseason shooting drills with Washington 3-point record-holder Ryan Appleby helped Gaddy develop his touch from the field (57.7 percent from 41.7), on 3-pointers (48 to 15) and free throws (88.9 to 56.4).

On an offensively rich team – four players are averaging double-digit scoring – coach Lorenzo Romar said Gaddy is Washington’s most efficient player.

“Justin Holiday probably has been our most consistent player, but Abdul is right there,” Romar said, pointing to Gaddy’s shooting percentages and a assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5:1.”That’s pretty incredible,” Romar said “And he’s been playing pretty good defense. Across the board, he’s having a really good year.”

Despite Gaddy’s first-year struggles, he started 29 games last season because Romar anticipated the growing pains would pay dividends in the future.

“Last year was a learning year for him,” Romar said. “Sometimes people would question me, criticize me – why was he still in the starting lineup? Well, there’s some that you could play them 35 minutes a game and they’re only going to improve so much.

“There’s some others you feel like if they’re given an opportunity, they’re really going to flourish. That’s how I felt about him.”

Gaddy began the season unsure if he would start, but eventually won the job in training camp in part because senior Venoy Overton was recovering slowly from an offseason hamstring injury.

Through the first third of the regular season, there’s no doubt Gaddy belongs in the starting lineup. He’s also establishing himself as one of the top guards in the Pac-10.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound sophomore is third in the conference in turnover ratio and fourth in assists.

Romar has rewarded Gaddy’s improvement with minutes late in close contests. That rarely happened last season, when Overton usually finished games.

During a 63-62 defeat at Texas A&M, Gaddy helped engineer a late comeback that saw Washington cut its 10-point deficit to one. He had an assist for Washington’s final basket and sank a pair of free throws with 1:03 left for the game’s final points.

“Last year, I’m probably not out there, so just being out there helps my confidence,” Gaddy said after the game. “My coaches and teammates trust me to make the right plays, and I don’t want to let them down.”

Gaddy has started 38 consecutive games, which is the Huskies’ longest current streak.

After his first start as a freshman – a shaky 17-minute, scoreless outing on 0-for-4 shooting against Montana – he was benched for three games.

Since his return, Gaddy has become a fixture in the lineup because he’s adhered to his motto.

Get better every day, little by little.

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