Abdul Gaddy's college career lasted two years longer than planned, but he wouldn't have it any other way.
TACOMA — The doors swung wide open and Abdul Gaddy knew what was next.
About a dozen young boys dashed onto the basketball court at Al Davies Boys & Girls Club, nearly toppling anyone in their path.
“That used to be me,” he said, smiling. “I took the bus here after school. We’d get a little snack or something and have to wait until they opened the gym.
“Then we’d run in here as soon as those doors opened. I would be the first one to grab a ball and run out there. I’d probably try to dunk or something on one of those smaller rims. But mainly, we’d just shoot for hours.”
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It’s a good memory for Gaddy, a senior point guard for the Washington Huskies. Life was so much simpler then.
Before the five-star recruiting ratings and the lofty expectations and before the season-ending knee injury and the on-court setbacks, he was a boy with a basketball, playing the game he loved with friends.
“That’s when basketball was stress-free,” he said. “Nobody would tell you that you had a mandatory workout. Or you had to rehab, or things like that. You didn’t have to worry about anything.”
Certainly not about your legacy and the impact he would have on the Washington men’s basketball program.
But with his college career coming to an end, now is the time to ask. How will UW fans remember Gaddy?
He is perhaps the most decorated high-school recruit to sign with Washington since coach Lorenzo Romar took over in 2002. His athletic achievements as a child are nothing short of amazing.
Born Abdul Kehandi-Basit Gaddy Jr. on Jan. 26, 1992, he grew up in a faith-based family in East Tacoma. His parents raised three kids on working class wages. Abdul Gaddy Sr., is a security guard at a casino; his mother Oseye is a customer service representative at FedEx.
They never excelled at sports, but Gaddy was naturally gifted and won national acclaim at Tacoma’s Bellarmine Prep, averaging 25.3 points as a senior and 23.2 his junior year.
He was a McDonald’s and Parade Magazine All-American. He was The Associated Press and Gatorade state player of the year as a senior.
He played in the Jordan Brand Classic and was named co-MVP at the Nike Global Challenge in 2008. He also played with the USA Junior national select team.
And with those achievements and accolades came lofty expectations for someone so young — just 17 when he arrived at Montlake. He was smooth, and played with a composure and elegance that belied his age.
Still, it didn’t help that Romar likened the 6-foot-3, 195-pound point guard to Magic Johnson, and recruiting services ranked him the No. 2 prep point guard behind John Wall.
In retrospect, those comparisons did more harm than good, but Gaddy welcomed the attention.
“You want to be compared to the greats and measured against the best players in the country,” he said. “I’m a competitor, and in my mind, I’m just as good as they are.”
Truth be told, Gaddy was never supposed to play his senior season at Washington.
He originally agreed to play at Arizona, but backed away from the Wildcats after coach Lute Olson retired. Gaddy planned on playing two years at UW before turning pro.
However, he struggled making the transition to the college game. Even though he started 29 of 36 games as a freshman, he averaged just 3.9 points and 18.2 minutes.
His sophomore year started with a bang before the worst thing in his life happened. He tore ligaments in his left knee on Jan. 4.
The biggest setback in his life set the stage for the biggest comeback.
“With basketball it’s been easy for him all his life,” Oseye said. “He overcame every challenge. I told him, ‘God is going to give you a test one day and you’re going to have to pass that test. You’ve had it easy from elementary through high school. This is your test. You got to be able to overcome it. You have to have faith.’ “
Nine months later Gaddy was back on the court for the 2011-12 opener. Not better than he was, but certainly no worse.
As a junior, he thrived as a playmaker who averaged 5.2 assists. Still, Gaddy watched underclassmen Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. take over the scoring responsibilities while he averaged 8.1 points.
Now he’s a senior. Ross and Wroten are gone to the NBA. By all accounts, this should have been Gaddy’s season to shine.
He’ll finish third on Washington’s all-time assists list, but he has been unable to dominate like he did in high school, when he once scored 42 points.
At times he has been turnover-prone and hesitant to assert his authority.
He’s averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 3.1 turnovers and 31.5 minutes, which are solid statistics for most players.
Gaddy’s modest season wouldn’t draw the ire of fans if Washington (15-13, 7-8 Pac-12) wasn’t in danger of missing the NCAA tournament for a second straight year. The Huskies begin a three-game homestand at 12:30 p.m. Sunday against Washington State (11-17, 2-13).
Washington’s problems aren’t entirely Gaddy’s fault, but he’s been a lightning rod for criticism.
“When you’re winning, everything is fine, and when you’re not, the blame goes to the coach and the point guard,” he said. “I get that. Plus, I’m a senior and a captain. I get it. It comes with the territory.
“When you pick a school like Washington, you’re going to be judged against your peers. Guys like Isaiah (Thomas), Brandon Roy and Will Conroy. … So it’s all fair game. I’m a big boy. I can handle it.”
Romar added: “When kids are in high school and college, I think it’s crazy to viciously attack someone if they have a bad month or bad season. They’re not getting paid. There probably would be a lot who would disagree with that.
“That’s what you get for buying a ticket to be a fan, I guess. As an athlete, that’s what you sign up for. People will be critical.”
Last Saturday at Arizona State, Gaddy finally silenced his naysayers.
He led the defensive charge that nullified high-scoring guard Jahii Carson. Gaddy also made the game’s two biggest plays in the final minutes to secure the win — draining a long jumper and dishing an assist for another basket.
He finished with 13 points, seven assists, five rebounds and no turnovers in 32 minutes. It was arguably his finest performance as a Husky.
“I thought he played with as much confidence in belief in that game as he has in his entire career,” Romar said.
Gaddy said he was just making the right play and having fun, which is something that’s been missing this season.
He insists the final chapter of his basketball career isn’t over. Not yet.
And no matter what happens on the court, Gaddy says his story will have a happy ending because he’s set to receive a sociology degree in June.
“First in my family to graduate from college,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from so many people these past four years.
“I came here a 17-year-old kid and I’m leaving as a 21-year-old man. No matter what anyone else says, I can honestly say I wouldn’t change anything.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen.
|Comparing the top point guard recruits|
|Abdul Gaddy was ranked the No. 2 point guard recruit in 2009 by ESPN.com. A look at how the top six have fared:|
|1. John Wall||Kentucky||Led Wildcats to NCAA Elite Eight turning pro and being taken No. 1 overall in 2010 NBA draft.|
|2. Abdul Gaddy||Washington||Started 105 of 112 games he’s played. Career averages: 7.6 points, 2.3 assists.|
|3. Maalik Wayns||Villanova||Played three seasons before turning pro. Playing in the NBA Developmental League.|
|4. Tommy Mason-Griffin||Oklahoma||Turned pro after his freshman season. Went undrafted.|
|5. Peyton Siva||Louisville||Preseason All-American and three-year starter. Second on school’s all-time assist list.|
|6. Elijah Johnson||Kansas||Struggled early in career, but started past two seasons. Emerging as leader for Jayhawks.|