Washington's Matthew Bryan-Amaning is adjusting to role coming off the bench
JC transfer Aziz N'Diaye will start for the fourth straight game when Washington plays at Texas A&M on Saturday. That means Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who is averaging 14.9 points and 6 rebounds, will come off the bench.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Washington @ Texas A&M, 1:30 p.m., ESPN2
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If it was a decision based purely on statistics, Matthew Bryan-Amaning would not only start for No. 21 Washington, he'd have a strong case to be the team's MVP.
The 6-foot-9 senior forward is second among Huskies with a 14.9 scoring average, tied for second with a 6.0 rebounding average and has a team-leading 60.3 shooting percentage.
He's also among UW leaders in blocks (nine), steals (nine) and double-doubles (two).
But it's no debate.
Coach Lorenzo Romar decides who plays, and at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Texas A&M Bryan-Amaning will come off the bench while first-year junior-college transfer Aziz N'Diaye starts for the fourth straight game.
"Matthew may want to catch me outside in the dark when I'm not looking and have a bat in his hand," Romar joked. "But he hasn't shown it. He's been great. He's had a great attitude.
"Initially when it first happened, you could see he was disappointed. He's probably still disappointed, but he's practiced hard. I thought the other night in the game, he played really hard. He's put forth great effort. He's been good."
You could argue Bryan-Amaning and the Huskies are better when he's been a reserve.
In the past three games as a backup, he's averaged 15.6 points and 4.3 rebounds while Washington (6-2) beat Long Beach State by 27, Texas Tech by 29 and Portland by 22.
In the previous three games at the Maui Invitational, Bryan-Amaning averaged 10 points and 4 rebounds and UW was 1-2 against Virginia, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 7 Michigan State.
"My approach doesn't change whether I start or come off the bench," Bryan-Amaning said. "I'm still trying to rebound and do the things needed to win games. Honestly, I don't worry about it. I let Romar decide that stuff, and when my number is called I'm going in to play as hard as I can."
While Bryan-Amaning has thrived as a backup, N'Diaye, a 7-foot sophomore, has regressed as a starter.
After stellar performances at the Maui Invitational, including a 10-rebound, 5-block game against Kentucky, he's averaging 2.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in the past three games.
Romar said N'Diaye hasn't hit the proverbial rookie wall. But he said N'Diaye, who sat out last season due to a left knee injury, has a bout of tendinitis in his right knee.
He's also had difficulty against smaller lineups and zone defenses, and his timing on offense with teammates is still developing.
"It's early in the year, still learning each other," Romar said. "We're getting better at it than we were the first week of practice."
Romar rewarded N'Diaye with a start for his hustle in Hawaii, but the UW coach hasn't explained entirely why he's stuck with the lineup, and has said Bryan-Amaning might regain his starting spot.
Even though Bryan-Amaning hasn't complained publicly, it's a sensitive issue because so much of Washington's success rides on his shoulders.
He's the only proven low-post scoring option and the Huskies can ill afford another mental meltdown, which took place his freshman season after he was yo-yoed in and out of the starting lineup.
"If this happened in the past, you know maybe he would have tapped out," senior co-captain Justin Holiday said. "But he knows what he has to do. He knows he's still a big part of this team, and him coming in and playing like that is even better for the whole team. I think he's handling it well."
Romar said he's not sending a message or punishing Bryan-Amaning. He also said balancing the rotation wasn't a reason for the demotion.
"As Matthew has gotten older, he'll recognize sometimes maybe he's not playing at his best," Romar said. "I think he can see it. To Matthew's credit, there's been times when he's corrected it himself without anyone saying a word, and that's showing maturity on his part."
So for now, Bryan-Amaning sits at the start of games and for now he's OK with the arrangement.
"I don't know why I'm not starting, but I know when it comes down to it in crunch time, coach is going to have me in the game," he said. "My minutes haven't changed. So I'm good."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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