Replacing Jon Brockman has been a team effort for Huskies
Washington's game against No. 15 Georgetown on Saturday will be the team's first real test to whether they can truly succeed without big No. 40.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Jon Brockman would hate this story. He would argue against the merits of writing about him after so much time has passed, nearly nine months since his last game with the Huskies. Politely, Washington's all-time rebounds leader and No. 2 scorer would downplay his accomplishments and say something about a team being bigger than one player.
He'd suggest the attention needs to be on UW's men's basketball team, which travels to Anaheim, Calif., for a Saturday-morning matchup against No. 15 Georgetown in the John Wooden Classic.
It's Washington's biggest game in the post-Brockman era and the Huskies' first real test to whether they can truly succeed without big No. 40, who carried them on his square shoulders the past three years.
"Going into the season that was certainly the question on everybody's mind," senior captain Quincy Pondexter said. "How would we get along without Jon?
"There's been times when I thought, 'Man, it would be much easier to fight with him because he would do so many crazy things.' In a way, we needed those first few games to find out how it was all going to work."
After seven games, the 17th-ranked Huskies (6-1) discovered replacing Brockman, now a rookie with the Sacramento Kings who was unavailable Thursday, was going to be a collective effort.
They needed Pondexter to raise his scoring average 10 points to 22.
They needed guard Isaiah Thomas to average 20.3 points, up nearly five points from last season. And seven of the eight returning starters have increased their scoring averages.
"I've been aggressive at getting loose balls and shooting," Thomas said. "Just doing the things that Jon did. We knew coming into the season we were going to miss some of that.
"The big thing was finding a new identity without Jon. We haven't done it yet, but I think we're close. It takes more than a few games to do that, which is why Saturday is real big for us."
Without Brockman, the Huskies moved on. They had to. There was no other choice.
"It happens. Especially in college basketball," Pondexter said. "You have to get over it. Guys graduate. They go on to the next level. You've got to deal with it. You can't cry about it or anything like that. You just have to move on.
"That's what we have to do as a program. It's a collective effort. It would be a great team if we had him again this year, but we can't look at it like that and feel sorry for ourselves. We have to just rebound."
Of course, that was the question on everyone's mind. Who was going to rebound?
Thomas and Pondexter figured to increase their scoring to replace the loss of Brockman's 14.9 points per game.
But who was going to fight beneath the rim for missed shots?
"It's all of us," forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning said. "It's not just me. We've all chipped in and made a conscious effort to go to the glass and get rebounds. Even our guards."
Washington is averaging 42.1 rebounds, a slight increase from last season's 41.1 average. Washington's opponents average 30.4 rebounds, down from last season's 32.9.
• Pondexter has improved from 5.9 rebounds per game to 9.6.
• Bryan-Amaning is averaging 6.1 rebounds, a 2.1 increase.
• Five returning starters increased their rebounding average.
• And newcomer Tyreese Breshers, a redshirt freshman, is perhaps UW's best rebounder. He averages 3.5 in limited minutes.
"This is a different team, but I think as a team we're closer than we were last year, which is better," said the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Breshers, who is similar to Brockman in stature and provides the same physical toughness. "It's not really a falloff, it's just different."
Washington ran its offense through Brockman in the past, but this season freshman backup guard Abdul Gaddy is the floor general who directs traffic.
And in years past, it was a forgone conclusion Brockman would be the first to dive for a loose ball. This season every Husky, especially junior guard Venoy Overton, has made it a priority to sacrifice their bodies for a floor burn.
"When you've been the leader and captain of a team for three years like that, what you used to do, your personality rubs off," Pondexter said. "We're still a scrappy team that hustles and does all of the little things right. That's part of Jon's legacy."
Coach Lorenzo Romar said even now after so much time has passed he's reminded of Brockman.
"I think about Jon all the time," Romar said. "The first time was when Tyreese first started practicing with us this year and he had a few rebounds that you'd say: 'You know what, there it is.' We haven't seen that in awhile where you get a rebound and everybody else is cleared out and it was clear who's going to get the rebound.
"And I thought about him in the Texas Tech game where they didn't really have a lot of thick guys down low and I just thought Jon would have a field day in a game like that."
While they prepare for Georgetown and preseason All-America center Greg Monroe, the Huskies have thought about Brockman.
"Jon loves these types of games," Thomas said. "He [Monroe] might have been too small for Jon."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com