Huskies' Quincy Pondexter has grown into leadership role
Once inconsistent, Washington's only senior is more than ready to step up and lead young team.
Seattle Times staff columnist
Boy, Quincy Pondexter became a man fast.
He talks like a sage now, like someone you need to listen to, like someone who knows — knows much, knows better, knows right. Instead of wearing athletic gear Wednesday, the ol' Washington senior forward should've donned a button-down sweater and dangled a pipe from his mouth.
Consider Pondexter the new poster child for growing up, college style. Not too long ago, he was erratic, inconsistent and prone to lapses in effort if he wasn't scoring. At this time last year, before the start of his junior season, you would've never imagined him being where he is today. You would've never imagined him being the undisputed leader of the Washington men's basketball team. You would've never imagined him being the stabilizing presence, the consistent bright light, the reason you can trust the Huskies to make good on their enormous preseason expectations.
Yet here Pondexter is anyway, mature and motivated, ready to finish his collegiate career triumphantly.
"It's something I've been waiting for since I got to the University of Washington — to be the leader, to be the guy here," Pondexter said. "And it's happened. It goes by so fast here. It's a blink of the eye, and you're done.
"I think I've learned from some of the great leaders, from Jon Brockman, and I've seen Brandon Roy when he was here. And I think I'm ready to hold the position."
He must be prepared. This season, Pondexter's leadership won't be considered a luxury. It's vital. He's the only senior on the roster. The Huskies have only three juniors, which means that nine of their 13 players are freshmen or sophomores.
Can the younger Huskies grow up quickly? If their grown-up forward leads them properly, they just might.
Asked what being a leader means to him, Pondexter said: "It means you can't have any bad days. That's pretty much what it comes down to. You have to be the heart and soul of the team, on and off the court. You have to be the motivational leader. You have to be another coach for these players, and I have to take pride in everything I do."
Coach Lorenzo Romar knows Pondexter can handle the responsibility. Romar witnessed the forward struggle the second half of his freshman season and almost all of his sophomore year. But as a junior, his work ethic and understanding of the game increased dramatically. In the NCAA tournament a year ago, Pondexter was the Huskies' best player and averaged 21.5 points in the two games.
During preseason workouts, Pondexter has been a standout, in condition, in pickup games and with his voice.
"He's had every range of emotion that you can have the last three years," Romar said. "He's been through a lot, and he can use that — he has used that already — to be a good leader. When things aren't going well, he knows how to recover. He's stepped up in a big, big way."
He played well for Team USA this summer in the World University Games in Belgrade, Serbia. He also trained with former Huskies guard Ryan Appleby to improve his shooting and ball handling. He says he has more guard-like skills now.
You will notice a significant change in Pondexter's shooting form. Romar helped him change it shortly after Pondexter had hernia surgery this year. He used to shoot from behind his head; now he starts his shot in front of his head. The shift in mechanics has led to a smoother, more fluid shot.
Now, he's ready for his ultimate goal: To leave his mark.
"I've definitely had struggles," Pondexter said. "I think any player coming into college and having built-in expectations as soon as you get to campus, I think it's always going to be tough. But you know what? I can't look back and say I'm disappointed with how the first three years went because, man, how many kids would be happy enough to average as many points or as many rebounds or be a part of a team like this?
"This is just an honor to be in the position I'm in now."
Strange as it may have once sounded, the title "senior leader" fits perfectly now.
Boy, Quincy Pondexter became a man fast.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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