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Originally published Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Huskies' Quincy Pondexter comes into his own

He's not a teenager anymore. Washington sophomore forward Quincy Pondexter turned 20 on Monday. And while age might be just a number, Pondexter's...

Seattle Times staff reporter

He's not a teenager anymore.

Washington sophomore forward Quincy Pondexter turned 20 on Monday.

And while age might be just a number, Pondexter's coaches and teammates said this birthday might have more than symbolic meaning.

"He's maturing now," said senior guard Tim Morris. "He's coming into his own."

Just in time for the Huskies, who will almost certainly be without star forward Jon Brockman when they play California in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament on Wednesday. Brockman's status was downgraded to doubtful Monday because of a sprained ankle suffered late in Saturday's double-overtime loss at Washington State. Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said the team will formulate a game plan "anticipating him not being in the game."

That might not necessarily thrust Pondexter into the starting lineup — freshman forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning could be a more logical replacement and Romar also mentioned center Joe Wolfinger.

But it will mean a greater dependence on Pondexter to score.

"I would say so," Romar said. "He's probably the most gifted [of the rest of the Huskies]."

Those gifts have been on mostly sporadic display during Pondexter's two seasons at Washington, however.

A consensus top-50 national recruit from San Joaquin Memorial High in Fresno, Calif., the 6-foot-6, 210-pounder hasn't yet reached the heights many thought might arrive quickly.

Pondexter admitted as much Monday: "It's been tough seeing other guys being real successful at other schools and just biting my teeth and wishing that was me. But my time will come."

Romar points to Pondexter's play of late and thinks better play is on the horizon. Romar says that the past three weeks "in terms of winning, impacting winning, this is the best basketball he has played."

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In the past three games, Pondexter has averaged 14.3 points and almost six rebounds, hitting 15 of 27 shots. He scored 12 points after halftime Saturday in Washington's double overtime loss to Washington State.

Pondexter has turned in some performances before that had observers and media, and even himself, thinking that the breakout had finally arrived, but Romar says he thinks this latest stretch has a lot more substance.

Pondexter has taken 17 free throws the past three games, making 13, indicative of being more aggressive going to the basket. And he has attempted only three three-pointers in the past eight games (out of 48 for the season), proof of what Romar says has been better shot selection.

"That's what he's learning — what's a good shot, what's a bad shot," Romar said. "What you can get, what you can't get."

Maybe the biggest lesson has simply been that he still had a lot to learn.

When Pondexter scored in double figures in nine of UW's first 10 games last season, all that talk of instant stardom, and early entry to the NBA, didn't seem out of line. But Romar saw defensive liabilities, and a greater need for refinement of Pondexter's offensive game, and eventually put him in a reserve role. Pondexter finished the season averaging 10.7 points, and 8.4 in Pac-10 play. His numbers this year are similar (9.5 overall, 9.8 Pac-10), but both coach and player see growth.

"He [Romar] is taking a lot of time in developing my game, making me a complete player, and I really appreciate it," Pondexter said. "Instead of just handing me the ball and letting me score 20 points a game, he's teaching me a little bit of tough love and helping me out in the long run."

And to those who have declared there was more hype than game to Pondexter, Romar says not to be hasty.

"Let's reserve judgment on Quincy Pondexter until he plays his last game here," Romar said. "Because I heard those same things about Nate Robinson, that he was crazy to quit football. And Brandon Roy, that he was crazy to think he could go to the pros out of high school. That he'd never be a pro. Not everyone is going to be O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love and James Harden. A whole lot of [players] don't start out like that but they finish pretty doggone strong. So that's my answer — let's wait until we see the finished product."

And maybe that will take two more years and make Pondexter the only member of the heralded Class of 2006 to make it to his senior season at Washington — center Spencer Hawes left after his freshman season for the NBA and Adrian Oliver and Phil Nelson have transferred.

"I'll make sure Husky fans are proud of what our class actually turns out to be, even if I'm the last one standing," Pondexter said.

NOTES

• Brockman watched practice on crutches, with his foot in a boot, and he said he still can't put weight on the injured ankle. And while he said he was holding out hope he could play, he said doubtful was "a good word" to describe his status.

• Guard Ryan Appleby said he suffered from a flulike illness last week but that he recovered — "I'm 100 percent" — before practice Monday.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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