The RTC Interview Series: One On One With Abdul GaddyPosted by jstevrtc on August 27th, 2010
Rush The Court presents the inaugural edition of One on One: an Interview Series, which we hope to publish weekly on Friday mornings throughout the year. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at email@example.com.
As Abdul Gaddy heads into his second season under head coach Lorenzo Romar at the University of Washington, he has a lot to prove. Ranked as the second-best point guard prospect in the class of 2009 (behind the #1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft, John Wall), Gaddy had a disappointing freshman season, averaging just four points and two assists per game despite starting in each of his team’s final 27 games. Romar said that as the season wore on, he noticed that Gaddy’s confidence dipped, and a big question on the minds of many college basketball fans is when will we see that calm, cool and confident Gaddy who earned such lofty appraisals in his high school and AAU days. Andrew Murawa, a contributor here at Rush The Court as well as our Pac-10 and Mountain West correspondent, talked with Gaddy earlier this week, and we asked him about the recruiting process, his freshman season, and what to expect from the 2010-11 version of the Huskies.
Rush The Court: When you came out of high school you were regarded as the second-best point guard prospect in the country behind John Wall. Did you pay a lot of attention to those recruiting rankings when you were in high school?
Abdul Gaddy: At the beginning, no. But, as I became the second-best point guard and all that, I kind of did pay attention. I thought it was a great honor for me, so I kind of got into it and thought it was pretty fun, just to see all the rankings, so I kind of got into it a little bit.
RTC: You played at events like the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic and the Boost Mobile Elite 24 at Rucker Park, where you got to play with and against some of those same guys in those recruiting rankings. What was that like?
AG: It was fun to play against those guys, the top-ranked guys in my class. They were all stout competition. They brought out my competitive nature. Having fun, playing the game of basketball against them, just to see how I measured up against them, was great. It was a good measuring stick for myself to see where I was at and how much better I needed to get.
RTC: Did those recruiting rankings put additional pressure on you in your first year at Washington?
AG: Yeah, a little. But, I mean, there is always going to be pressure no matter what. Going into college and succeeding your freshman year, yeah, there was pressure. I think it did add a little bit more, but I’d rather have that type of pressure. I think it was a good thing.
RTC: You had an eventful recruiting process, where you committed to Arizona twice, but due to a lot of the issues within their program, with Coach [Lute] Olson’s health issues and eventual retirement, you decommitted both times and wound up committing to Washington. Was that an additional headache for you in an already tough recruiting process?
AG: Yeah, it was. The whole recruiting process was real tough. But, you know, I ended up staying close to home, and I’m very happy that I stayed close to home. Coach Romar is a great coach, we have a great coaching staff, and we’ve got a great team. I have a lot of great teammates and I had played with a lot of those guys before I got here, so it was fun. But the recruiting process was difficult. Arizona was a school that I always wanted to go to ever since I was little, so it was one of those dream-come-true type things, but it didn’t really work out because of the coaching change and everything. But I’m glad I stayed close to home.
RTC: What other types of things were important to you in eventually choosing Washington?
AG: Representing my home state, that was a big thing for me. Coach Romar was my favorite coach that recruited me. He was always checking in with me and stuff like that, so that was good. Just staying close to family, I think that was the main thing, staying close. You know, my little brother, my little sister, they’re still here. I get to watch them play every now and then, because it is only a 30 minute drive from my house; they usually come up and see every home game. So I think that was a really big thing for me, to be able to have my family here to support me.
RTC: Your younger brother Donald is a senior in high school this year. What kinds of things did you learn in the recruiting process that you’ll pass on to him?
AG: I just told him, don’t really worry about it. The college coaches will come at you, so it is kind of like your world. You get to pick what you want to do, where you want to go, how you want to do it. So all you’ve got to do is go out there and take care of business, play the game of basketball, have fun, play the game you love like you always have, and just enjoy it, because a lot of teenagers don’t get that kind of opportunity. I just tell him to enjoy it and have fun with it.
RTC: Do you guys talk about your games with each other, do you guys give each other advice?
AG: Yeah, I talk to him all the time about basketball and stuff, about trying to get better. You know, that’s the thing about me and him, is we are always trying to get better all the time. This is the game we love, and we want to get paid to play this game, so we’re trying to get better every day, and we’re learning every day from different types of people around the game.
RTC: Last year at Washington, you struggled. Coach Romar said that as the season went on, he saw you lose confidence. Even though you started the last 27 games, you were often on the bench at the end of games. And given that one of the strengths of your game is your confidence, what do you think you need to do sort of get your mojo back and feel more comfortable this year?
AG: I just need to go out there and just play the game, be coachable, learn from Coach Romar. He told me a story about how he has been in this type of situation before, too, where he lost confidence, and he turned it around completely. You know, so it can be done. “It’s just a little adversity,” that’s what he tells me. “You were bound to have it some time, you’re young, you’re only 18 years old, people expect a lot of an 18-year-old.” Next year I’m going to be 19, so you get older, you get stronger, you get bigger, you get more experience. “Just go out there and play basketball like you always have,” that’s what he always tells me. “Just be comfortable, learn the game, just try to play like you’re the best out there.” And I’m going to try to do that this year, just try to play like I’m the best, and try to lead my team to win. I’m just trying to win. I want to win a national championship, that’s my goal.
RTC: I’ve got a quote here from Coach Romar about your game. He says: “The innate abilities that he has in terms of running a team, passing the basketball (and) understanding tempo, those aren’t things he needs to work on. Those things are at a high, high level, and if he complements that with his shooting and continues to work on his quickness, he’s going to continue to develop.” Are those the two things that you’ve been working on this off-season, and is there anything else you’ve been working on?
AG: Yeah. I’m trying to be a more aggressive player. Because, the things that I do naturally are those things that he said. Those things are already there, so I just need to maintain them, those are sort of natural for me. I’m making sure I’m working on getting faster, getting quicker, getting stronger. I’m getting a lot of reps with my jump shot. That strength and stuff is coming with age; as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten stronger, but I’ve also been in the weight room all summer, so I think those things will start to fall in place.
RTC: You mentioned your age. You were 17 at the start of last year and didn’t turn 18 until January 26th. Do you think that made it harder for you, coming into college a year earlier?
AG: Nah, I think I was ready for the game. I was ready for it, I think, even when I was a junior in high school. It is just a matter of learning the game. I didn’t pick it up as fast as I could have. But I eventually did, and we ended up going down the stretch and winning some games and I learned the game and learned how the college game is. I learned a lot from Coach, and I think I’m going to take all of that ahead to the next season. So, I mean, I think being 17, going in as a freshman is a good thing because you learn at a young age and it gives you more ability, especially as a prospect for the future. Being young, you have more room for improvement.
RTC: Looking forward to the season, you’ve got this early-season trip to Maui and a possibility of a matchup with Kentucky who your teammate Isaiah Thomas has made a few choice comments about, given your program’s recent run-ins recruiting-wise with Kentucky. How excited are you for the Maui, which is always one of the big early-season tournaments, and how excited are you for the prospect of facing Kentucky?
AG: That will be fun. That’s like, the most fun thing that I can imagine, playing those guys. It will be a hostile environment, especially with the whole recruiting thing with them, playing against those guys. Plus, they are a top program. You know, we want to play with the best, and you’ve got to beat the best to be the best. It will be a fun experience for me, I know that. I’m just going to go out there and play as hard as I can so our team can win the game and the tournament. That’s what we’re trying to do. I think as a team, we’re trying to reach our potential, especially down the stretch towards March Madness and everything, but we want to come out way stronger than we did last year when we started slow. We want to start out really good and just maintain that type of play through the whole season.
RTC: Is the better start specifically a big goal for your team? Last year, you know, you didn’t really as a team hit your stride until February, when you really picked things up. Is that a focus for your team this year?
AG: Yes, our goal this year is to figure out our roles earlier than we did last year. We were kind of mixed up with our roles, like, “Who does this, who is going to do that?” And I think we got into it in late February, that’s when we went on that nine or ten game winning streak. I think we want to find that sooner, we want to find our roles early. So I think that will be a big thing for us, and I think that Maui tournament will definitely force us to do that.
RTC: Your backcourt teammates, Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton, both have a tendency to be a little more vocal on the court than you. Is their influence good for your development?
AG: Oh yeah, their influence is great. They’re great teammates. I love playing with them. I learn from them every day. You know, they’re older than me, they’ve been in the college game longer than I have, so I just learn through them every day and try to get better. I get to compete against them every day; that’s the only way to get better, and both of those guys are competitors. I just love going against them every day in practice.
RTC: Specifically, going against Overton, that guy has a reputation as a nightmare for opposing guards defensively. Do you feel like if you can succeed against a guy like that in practice, you can go up against just about anybody in the game?
AG: Yeah. Venoy is a great defender. That’s what he does. That makes it a lot easier during the games for me, it’s like, “Oh, this is a lot easier than going against Venoy.” You know he has a knack for it and it’s something he loves doing. He takes pride in his defense and shutting down the other team’s best player. That’s what I love about him, that’s what I learn from him — how he plays defense, how he figures out his opponents when he’s on the defensive side. I learn a lot of things, a lot of tricks from him. But going against him every day in practice, that is good for me, because he gives ball pressure everywhere.
RTC: What kind of goals do you have personally for yourself this year, and what kind of goals do you have as a team?
AG: For myself, I just want to be a better player. I just want to be able to be in the games and play more minutes, help my team down the stretch. I want to accomplish some goals, like I want to be first- or second-team Pac-10, those types of things. But as a team, I think our goals are just to play hard every day, to define our roles early so that we can go into conference play with a lot of confidence. Then, especially going down the stretch, start winning some close games; I just want to win our conference, make the tournament and try to win a national championship. But we’ve got to take it one day at a time and just keep getting better every day.
RTC: Lastly, you are friends with Avery Bradley and you guys were former high school teammates. When you talk, what kind of advice does he have for you?
AG: He just tells me every day, just play hard, play like it’s the last time you will ever play. He tells me that every day, “Just play like you were in high school, play like you’re the best out there. That’s what made you good in high school, that’s what will make you good now.” That was our goal, you know, for both of us to make it. He’s made it already. He got drafted, and he’s going to play in the NBA next season. And I have the same goals as him, I want to be right there with him. I think that’s just motivation for me.