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Originally published October 10, 2011 at 10:02 PM | Page modified October 11, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Steve Kelley

Huskies point guard Abdul Gaddy has regained his confidence

Washington point guard Abdul Gaddy, recovering from a knee injury and regaining his confidence, is taking the ball to the basket aggressively in workouts.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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A lane opened to the rim. It was one of those isolated moments in the chaos of an informal pickup game. A microsecond when Abdul Gaddy had to make up his mind to be aggressive, or be cautious.

This was his first game back after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee. Open gym, about a month away from the beginning of Washington men's basketball practice. Instinctively he went into the paint, the same way he had since grade school. But something in his subconscious told him to stop, and he pulled up and kicked the ball outside.

"When we first started playing, I didn't want to go all the way to the basket," Gaddy said recently, sitting in a room behind the Edmundson Pavilion basketball floor. "If I'd go into the paint and there were too many people, I would just stop and pass it out. I wouldn't go all the way in and try to finish. There was just a little bit of that."

There was an evolution to Gaddy's confidence.

"Each day I gained a little more," he said. "I'd try it one time and I'd score at the rim and start to think, 'OK, I can do it.' All it takes is that one time. But that first time I went in and finished, I kind of surprised myself. I wasn't sure I could do that."

Gaddy remembers thinking, "Wow, that just happened." His teammates kidded him, saying, "Did you see what you just did?"

"It was just a matter of getting the confidence back," Gaddy said.

On Friday, Abdul Gaddy will open practice with the Huskies, confident in his repaired knee, unafraid to take the ball hard to the basket, ready to fearlessly finish at the rim. But it took months of rehabilitation, both physical and mental, to get this far.

On the last play of practice on Jan. 4, Gaddy made that same drive. He tried to step around a defender and his knee buckled. He tumbled to the floor in the lane and stayed there for about five minutes.

The pain, he says, was tolerable, but not knowing what that pain meant was frightening. He limped into the training room, had an MRI that night and was told he needed surgery. His season was done. And Gaddy cried for his loss.

"I got it all out in about an hour, and then I moved on from it," Gaddy said. "Coach (Lorenzo) Romar was there with me and he was kind of speechless. He finally said, 'There aren't any words to say, except, I can't wait to have you back next year.'

"When things are going well, you don't even think about something bad happening that fast. I found out it can happen in a split second. But you have to keep on moving forward, and that's the approach I took."

Gaddy heard from all of his NBA pals. Jason Terry called. So did Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford, Will Conroy and Rodney Stuckey. Periodically they checked on his progress. Gaddy's teammate Isaiah Thomas and his former Bellarmine teammate, Avery Bradley, pushed him whenever they could.

"I told Isaiah that since I was hurt, I wanted him to play like he was two people," Gaddy said. "And he played great, and I couldn't ask for more than that."

Athletes are predisposed to follow directions. Gaddy, one of Romar's most coachable players, went about his rehabilitation the same way he had gone about preseason preparations.

Every day, Monday through Friday, he was in the training room, suffering through the torture it takes to get back on the floor.

And a month ago, nine months after the injury, he was cleared to play basketball.

"I'd never really missed a game before," Gaddy said, "and last year there were times, sitting on the bench, when I would get so upset, thinking I could have been the difference in a game. I just wanted to be out there. All I could do was attack my rehab really hard. I wanted to come back as fast as I could. I wanted my knee to be stronger than it was before."

In his sophomore season, Gaddy was emerging as the kind of aggressive point guard Romar envisioned. He was leading the Pac-10 in assist-to-turnover radio. On a team loaded with scorers, he was averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 assists. He had made 41 straight starts and felt more comfortable than he had as a freshman.

"I took more control of the team," he said. "My freshman year, I was young, 17 years old, and I was learning at the same time I was trying to be a leader. I kept thinking, 'How are these older guys going to follow the lead of a 17-year-old?' Things just didn't click right away.

"But last summer, I made a promise that I wouldn't let that happen again and last year, I was shooting the ball well. I was taking care of the ball. I was a more mature 18-year-old and I felt like I had more control of the team."

And then his knee buckled, robbing him of more than three months of basketball, taking away his conference season, stealing his postseason.

But now Abdul Gaddy is back, ready to to show us how far he and his game have come.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com.

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About Steve Kelley

Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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