A breakout stretch at the end of last season gave Washington's Quincy Pondexter the confidence to be a leading candidate for Pac-10 Player of the Year. Now he wants to finish what he started.

The breakout that put Quincy Pondexter on the path to become the Pac-10’s leading candidate for Player of the Year began this time last year.

The Huskies traveled to California, where UW’s junior small forward, who had been mired in months of mediocrity, started an amazing 14-game run to finish the season.

During the span, he ignored the pain in his lower abdomen and became Washington’s best player. Better than seniors Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year award winner Isaiah Thomas.

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Pondexter averaged 15.4 points down the stretch, scoring at least 20 points in six games. He carried UW to wins at USC and against Mississippi State in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“Everything started to click,” Pondexter said. “I found myself. I found a confidence.”

After the season, doctors determined the stomach pain was a sports hernia, and Pondexter underwent surgery, which delayed offseason workouts.

Once he recovered, Pondexter trained with former UW guard Ryan Appleby, sharpening a spotty jumper that was the weakest part of his game.

Still, the turning point in his development may have been being named to the USA team that played last summer in the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan led a roster that included Ohio State’s Evan Turner, West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Mississippi State’s Jarvis Varnado.

Pondexter averaged 7.9 points and started in three of seven games for Team USA, which captured the bronze medal.

“That let me know that not only can I play with those guys, I could give them a pretty good game,” he said. “It really gave me a lot of confidence.”

Early this season, Pondexter gave notice that he’d outgrown the supporting role in which he averaged 12.1 points and 5.1 rebounds as a junior.

He scored 25 points in Washington’s second game, 29 in the third, 30 in the fourth and a career-high 31 in the sixth contest.

“You can sometimes see it coming,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “With Quincy, you could see it coming.”

No one is happier for Pondexter’s success than his father, Roscoe, who refused to let his youngest son make the same mistakes he did.

A former California Mr. Basketball and college All-American, Roscoe starred with his younger brother Cliff at Long Beach State. Before their senior years, they declared for the NBA draft.

Taken 16th overall by Chicago, Cliff played three seasons while Boston selected Roscoe in the third round. He never played in the NBA and had a 10-year career overseas.

“To leave (school) too early, the only thing you can say is you went to school to play basketball and didn’t get a college degree,” Roscoe said. “We talked about finishing what you started.”

Roscoe, 57, went back to school 20 years after he left Long Beach State to earn a degree in sociology around the same time he worked as a prison guard nicknamed “Bonecrusher.”

“He knew what I did, but we very seldom discussed it,” Roscoe said. “That wasn’t a life for him, and he knew that.

“When we talk, it’s not about basketball. It’s about life and how you handle yourself. He’s done a fantastic job with basketball, but he’s done even better in the life department.”

Perhaps it’s fitting Pondexter returns to the Bay Area a year later as Washington’s leader. If the Huskies (16-7, 6-5 Pac-10) defeat the Golden Bears (15-8, 7-4) Thursday night, then they’ll move into a first-place tie with Cal.

“In a way, that’s where it all started,” said Pondexter who expects 50 or so family and friends from his home in nearby Fresno, Calif., will attend the game. “Kind of like coming full circle I guess.”

Earlier this week, Pondexter won his fourth Pac-10 Player of the Week award, joining a select quintet including Gary Payton who won the award four times in one season.

“Before the season started I felt Quincy was going to have a strong year,” Romar said. “I didn’t know he would be doing it to this level. He’s really, really having an outstanding year.

“The only thing missing right now is finishing at the top of this conference for him. I think that can cap it off as really a special, special season for him not counting what could potentially happen in an NCAA tournament.”

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com