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August 25, 2011

Huskies need a healthy Gaddy to emerge

The parents of Washington guard Abdul Gaddy don't have too much trouble keeping up with their son.

They live in Tacoma, Wash., about 30 miles from Washington's campus in Seattle, and when they can't make his games in person, they're able to watch on TV.

Keeping tabs on practice, though, is a different story.

After a Jan. 4 practice, Gaddy texted his mom saying he hurt his ankle and would miss a few games. His mom, Oseye Gaddy, didn't believe him and responded, "Stop playing."

He wasn't playing -- and he didn't play again last season.

When he found out the full extent of his injury, he contacted his mother again. This time, he told her that he had a knee injury; he had torn his anterior cruciate ligament.

"He was very emotional," Oseye Gaddy says. "He was in shock."

Gaddy, a five-star recruit who was the second-ranked point guard in the 2009 freshman class, had planted his left leg driving to the basket during a practice when he tore his ACL. It ended his sophomore season after 13 games.

"Oh, man, those were some of the toughest days of my life," says Gaddy, a 19-year-old junior. "Basketball is my life. I live for this game. This is all I want to do for the rest of my life because I have dreams of playing in the NBA.

"When that happened, when they told me I wasn't going to play for the rest of the year, it was tough."

The road to recovery is nearing an end for Gaddy -- and just in time, too. Washington needs Gaddy, the starting point guard and one of the Huskies' three captains, to take the lead on a young team looking to stay at the top of the Pac-12. After winning the past two Pac-10 tournaments, Washington is the only program in the league that has reached each of the past three NCAA tournaments.

Gaddy hasn't been fully cleared to rejoin the team. He's still prohibited from any contact, but he said he has been able to cut, jump and shoot.

When Washington hosted an open gym session at its arena in early July, Gaddy worked on his own to the side while his teammates played against former Washington center Spencer Hawes and former Kansas forward Nick Collison, both of whom are in the NBA.

to the point
The top 10 point guards in the 2009 signing class have had mixed success. Some already are in the NBA; others still are trying to find their footing in college ball. Here's a look at Abdul Gaddy's classmates in the 2009 point guard class.
1. John Wall, Kentucky
The buzz: The top player in the signing class also was the top player in the NBA draft. He was the SEC player of the year and the runner-up for NBA rookie of the year.

2. Abdul Gaddy, Washington
The buzz: Though his sophomore season was cut short, Gaddy has started 42 career games. He's not a star yet, averaging 3.9 points and 2.3 assists as a freshman and 8.5 points and 3.8 assists as a sophomore.

3. Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky
The buzz: A member of the SEC All-Freshman team, Bledsoe shared the freshman spotlight at UK with Wall and F DeMarcus Cousins. Bledsoe was the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

4. Elijah Johnson, Kansas
The buzz: Kansas has been crowded at guard in Johnson's two seasons on campus, limiting him to eight career starts. He'll be asked to lead a backcourt with Tyshawn Taylor this season.

5. Maalik Wayns, Villanova
The buzz: Wayns is another player who has been in the shadow of more established guards. At Villanova, it was Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Still, Wayns is the Wildcats' top returning scorer at 13.8 points per game.

6. Mfon Udofia, Georgia Tech
The buzz: Udofia began both of his seasons at Georgia Tech as the starter but twice lost his starting job -- after 25 games as a freshman and after 11 games as a sophomore. He has averaged 6.3 points and 1.6 assists in his career.

7. Lorenzo Brown, North Carolina State
The buzz: After spending a year at Chatham (Va.) Hargrave Military Academy, Brown started 26 games for NCSU last season as a freshman, averaging 9.3 points. He was fifth in the ACC in assists with 3.7 per game.

8. Peyton Siva, Louisville
The buzz: Siva was second in the Big East in steals (2.0 per game) and fourth in assists (5.2 per game) last season. He also averaged 9.9 points.

9. Raymond Penn, Oklahoma State
The buzz: Penn started 25 games in two seasons but was suspended late in his sophomore season for a failure to follow team policy. He eventually was dismissed and transferred to Texas Southern.

10. Tommy Mason-Griffin, Oklahoma
The buzz: Mason-Griffin averaged 14.1 points and 5.0 assists as a freshman, then made what turned out to be an ill-advised jump to the NBA. He wasn't selected in the 2010 draft, then was cut from a D-League team in January.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar expects Gaddy to be cleared in a matter of weeks, well before practice begins Oct. 15.

"If we had a big game tonight and he wanted to play, he'd play in that game," Romar says. "He's strong enough to go out and compete."

The kind of player Gaddy is when he returns could determine the course of Washington's season.

When Gaddy suffered his knee injury, he led the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.1-to-1. While he had had a disappointing freshman season, Gaddy had become a reliable playmaker for the Huskies. Gaddy also had more than doubled his scoring average from his freshman season (3.9 points per game to 8.5 points per game).

But when he returns to the lineup, he'll rejoin a different Huskies team. Guard Isaiah Thomas, the leading scorer and face of the program, is gone, as are big man Matthew Bryan-Amaning and swingman Justin Holiday.

In their place is a young, unproven group. The Huskies are looking for a big jump from sophomore guard Terrence Ross, a four-star recruit who emerged late last season by scoring at least 13 points in four of his last five games.

There's also a touted freshman class, which ranked 19th nationally. The seven-man class is led by five-star recruit Tony Wroten, who happens to be a point guard.

"The freshmen have been great in that they're trying to listen," Gaddy says. "They know I'm trying to help them, not hurt them. I'm trying to help them make an easier transition so when we start training camp and the season, they'll say, 'Abdul warned [us].' "

If Gaddy sounds like a coach, that's with good reason. He just needed time for a new attitude to emerge.

The early part of Gaddy's recovery from knee surgery wasn't uncommon: He was discouraged and immobile. His mother came from Tacoma to care for him and stayed at his apartment for two weeks before his father, who stayed for a week, urged her to return home.

"I was babying him," Oseye Gaddy says. "His dad said, 'It's time for him to do it on his own.' He said, 'The sooner you leave, the sooner it will take.' "

When he returned to the team, Romar gave him some small tasks to do from the bench -- watching certain players, keeping track of who got back on defense and so on. Gaddy said that helped him learn to watch the game from a coach's perspective, which isn't a bad trait for a starting point guard.

"You see things from a coach's perspective," Gaddy says. "You learn the coach is always right. When you look at it from the bench, the coach was right. He really does see everything."

This season, Romar is counting on more from Gaddy. The coach calls his point guard the "calm in the middle of the storm." For a team with so many young players and so much uncertainty, that's a big asset.

"We need his contribution for sure because he brings something just in running the team and the calm manner," Romar says. "We don't have a lot of guys who can do that. Everyone brings something to the table, and that's what he brings."

For now, Gaddy is only able to lead from the sideline. He doesn't have a feel for how his teammates will react in game situations or under pressure. Once his knee is ready to go, Gaddy hopes to pass on the lessons he learned from former teammates, such as Thomas.

"Those guys did whatever it took, whether it was diving on the floor or playing defense full court," Gaddy says. "Coming in as a freshman, that's the main thing you have to learn -- to play the blue-collar way like Isaiah did. They got it from Jon Brockman.

"It's on me. I have to tell them that we need to carry on that mentality."

David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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