Yesterday we looked at the Pac-12 South’s point guards – a group of talented underclassmen and steady upperclassmen. In the North, we about follow the same trend as there are a number of potentially explosive newcomers, most notably Tony Wroten, Jr.
I present, the point guards of the Pac-12 North:
Washington State: Reggie Moore had a bad sophomore season. His numbers were down across the board, he battled an injured wrist, and he was arrested. Then Klay left. And Angelo. It would appear the cupboard is bare in Pullman. It’s my belief, however, that Moore’s 2010-11 season was anomaly. Moore is just a season removed from being neck-and-neck with Derrick Williams for the Pac-10 FOY. He’s a quick guard and strong, a good distributor and finisher with a knack for getting to the line. Washington State’s success rides squarely on Moore. And evidently he is his own harshest critic which should translate to a big junior year. If indeed his health and confidence are back, Moore and the Cougars could surprise some people.
Washington: If one is good, then two is better. Junior Abdul Gaddy returns from knee surgery and will be helped by one of the most heralded point guard recruits in the country, Tony Wroten Jr. Gaddy has been slower to develop than most would have liked – he averaged just 4 points and 2 assists as a freshman. But he did double his freshman stats in year two before tearing his ACL. His new sidekick, Wroten, is an equally as heralded recruit – the 17th best player in the 2011 class. Not only does he arrive in Seattle with recruiting hype, Wroten has already been compared to Magic Johnson by his coach, Lorenzo Romar. Lofty to say the least, but Gaddy’s steady play and Wroten’s flash, could have an upset minded UW squad causing trouble. It also never hurts to roll out 6’3” (Gaddy) and 6’5” (Wroten) point guards.
Oregon: First dibs as the Ducks starter go to Garrett Sim. Dana Altman is handing the keys (and yes, you’re welcome for the Haarlow link) to his high octane offense to the senior point guard. While he’s not going to wow you with athleticism or shooting – 34% from three and 42% overall – the senior won’t turn the ball over, makes good decisions, and will hit his free throws. Sounds about right for a team with eight fresh faces, plenty of scorers, and a whole lot of under-the-radar hype. Many are calling Oregon a possible sleeper and Sim’s steady hand can go a long way in making that a reality. Then there’s also the talented Jonathan Loyd who didn’t quite live up to expectations last year but returns to Eugene ready to contribute in 2011-12. There’s some players in Eugene and Altman can coach. Whether they’re a sleeping giant or not, they’re going to be an interesting team to watch.
Oregon State: The Beavers have the luxury of having three returning players each capable of running the point. We’ll highlight Jared Cunningham here because he’s the most intriguing of their possible point guards – of all the Beavers for that matter – and he also did this. Many have picked Cunningham as a possible breakout star in the conference and, frankly, it makes sense, especially if he can improve his three-point shooting. Cunningham is obviously an explosive athlete (review that dunk), but he also uses it for defensive good – accumulating 85 steals and shattering Gary “The Glove” Payton’s OSU sophomore record of 72. With this dynamic athlete as well as the steady and improving Roberto Nelson and Ahmad Starks, Craig Robinson has himself quite a backcourt. In fact, they represent 43% of Oregon State’s scoring and assist totals from last year. A sign that OSU could be in good hands. Or not…
Stanford: Does this school just keep seniors around to play point guard? Jarrett Mann is the likely starter and he has some lofty shoes to fill amongst the litany of capable, stable, upperclass Stanford PGs. Remember Chris Hernandez, Arthur Lee, Michael McDonald, and Mitch Johnson? Yeah, all pesky winners. But Mann and the other Cardinal point guard candidates (Aaron Bright, Chasson Randle) will have some work to do. They don’t return the most talented group but rather one with potential. Mann isn’t going to make this team blow up, in fact he’s probably best suited in a backup role; but he’ll allow the Cardinal to start the season off in a controlled manner, befitting Johnny Dawkins’ style. Don’t be surprised to see plenty of Chasson Randle, either. The dynamic freshman can bring some scoring and a style that compliments their athletic bigs, Dwight Powell and Josh Owens. Bright received plenty of minutes last year and his game is similar to Mann’s, heady and steady, but brings some additional athleticism to the court. Stanford will be an interesting group and the point guard position is no different. Ultimately, the battle for playing time will only make this team better.
California: The steadiest of all the league’s point guards: Jorge Gutierrez. A pest, to say the least, Gutierrez is the type of player you hate on their team but love on yours. By no stretch is he the most talented player on the court but he is going to give big effort. He’s gutsy and tough and makes things happen; a dangerous combination for any player, let alone a senior on a talented team with high hopes. He’ll use his size as an advantage in defending smaller guards and to score when guarded by them. He needs to improve his assist/turnover ratio (4.5/3) or really just cut down the turnovers, but many have predicted Gutierrez to be the conference’s player of the year. If he is, look for Cal to top the standings come Pac-12 tournament time.