With the regular season now wrapped and the Pac-12’s seniors having played their final home games, we’re taking a tour across the conference and bidding this group of seniors farewell.
People love tragedies. We may act like we don’t, but we do, or we at least find tragedy stories engrossing and sports fans are no different. We don’t love, but are fascinated by the stories of people who had it all and either threw it away or lost it tragically. Case in point, Len Bias and Ben Wilson provided two of the most popular documentaries in the 30 for 30 series 25 years after their passing.
One of the most common and modern Greek tragedies that exists in the world of college sports right now is the 5-star, future All-American recruit who fails to live up to expectations, but particularly those that flame out in spectacular fashion. It seems that if you aren’t going to live up to expectations that it is, in the words of Neil Young, better to burn out than fade away. But what happens to those that fade away? What is their story?
I don’t know if I could think of a better athlete that exemplifies the idea of fading away as opposed to burning out than Abdul Gaddy.
I’m sure no one, absolutely no one, needs to hear about Gaddy’s hype coming out of high school by comparing his position ranking when compared to John Wall’s, but as pretty much every Pac-12 basketball fan knows, he was a big time recruit and to sum it up simply, he didn’t really pan out, but he also wasn’t a bust. It’s kind of hard to carve out an identity as a journeyman player in a sport that only gives you four years, but that’s kind of what Gaddy is. He is kind of like a college version of what Kenny Anderson was in the NBA and for as much scrutiny as he has faced from Husky fans for his inability to become just a little bit less good than the aforementioned Wall they all should have an appreciation for him.
In the transfer-happy world that college basketball has become, it now seems like every player, especially a 5-star type recruit, who isn’t immediately crowned a star at his respective school is out the door to another almost immediately. I’m sure there were numerous times when Gaddy could have done this and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were times when he really thought about doing this, and who could blame him?
But he didn’t.
For whatever reason, good or bad, he stuck it out in Seattle and when this season likely ends for the Huskies early in the NIT or in one of those god awful tournaments that begins with the letter C, Gaddy’s meaningful basketball career will almost assuredly be over and unlike most players who had careers like his, he will be largely remembered by Husky fans and probably not positively.
But I don’t really think that is fair, especially if you think of it this way.
Of the six five-star-caliber players ever signed by Washington, I would say that Gaddy has had the third-most overall valuable career for the Huskies – behind Jon Brockman and Quincy Pondexter but ahead of Tony Wroten, Spencer Hawes and Martell Webster who never even ended up playing. Maybe I am just searching for ways to sugar coat Gaddy’s career, but the truth is that because of the NBA, Gaddy actually was fairly decent when compared to the other most hyped players that the Huskies have signed.
With all of this said, there is some tragedy in Gaddy’s story and it took place in January of 2011 when he tore his ACL and knocked himself out for the rest of the season. He was arguably performing about as well as he had throughout his entire career and was fitting into the role that fit him best. As a distributing point guard for superb talents like Isaiah Thomas, Terrence Ross and Mathew Bryan-Amaning (Okay, not all superb talents) that could mask his scoring inabilities. The Huskies were rolling and one would have to wonder if having a healthy Gaddy on that team would have pushed the Huskies to a better regular season record and further in the NCAA Tournament in which they were knocked out by North Carolina in a heartbreaker.
So there you go, Gaddy’s story does kind of fit into the neat package that we crave so much and assuredly will gorge on in many segments during the tournament in between the same insurance company and AT&T commercials that are shown repeatedly.