Abdul Gaddy did most of the talking when the Washington men’s basketball team gathered Tuesday for a players-only meeting arranged by the seniors.
This is what happens when teams lose six of seven games. Players gather. Doors close. Emotions spill out.
Sometimes the conversations are heated. Tears shed. Muted voices turn to shouts. Sometimes there’s a physical encounter. And then there’s some kind of resolution.
The meetings can also be counterproductive, making a bad situation even worse.
But Gaddy had to take the risk. What did he have to lose?
The season is quickly winding down, and Washington is on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble.
He told the Huskies to forget about the turnovers, the slow starts, the inconsistent efforts, the sputtering offense and the slumping defense.
Forget about the naysayers, the fans and the coaching staff.
And forget about No. 23 Oregon, which visits Alaska Airlines Arena at 8 p.m. today.
His message was simple: play hard.
“The main thing we want to do is we want to go out there and play as hard as we can and give it all we got,” Gaddy said. “Leave it all out there. We don’t want to come into a locker room after a game and not be tired.”
The leadership from Washington’s three soft-spoken seniors on and off the floor has been questioned. Their on-court performances have also been criticized in a season filled with disappointment.
Aziz N’Diaye is a lead-by-example player, and the 7-foot center leads the Pac-12 with 11 double-doubles.
Gaddy and Scott Suggs, UW’s co-captains, have struggled offensively. They’re supposed to relieve pressure from junior guard C.J. Wilcox, who has been held below his team-leading 17.7 scoring average in the past five games.
Gaddy began the Pac-12 season in a shooting slump. He’s scored in double figures in five of the past six games but struggles as a floor general. He’s second in the conference with 78 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Suggs’ 16-point, second-half explosion Sunday at USC had Husky fans wondering where that kind of performance has been this season.
Before facing the Ducks (19-5, 8-3 Pac-12), the Huskies (13-11, 5-6) needed to confront their doubts.
“When you’re winning, you don’t think you can ever lose,” coach Lorenzo Romar said. “When you’re losing, you start to doubt when are you going to win the next one.
“So we have to make sure we avoid that. Don’t let that happen.”
That’s what Tuesday was about. The Huskies spent an hour and 15 minutes on the court getting ready for Oregon, which beat Washington 81-76 on Jan. 26.
But perhaps the most important preparation occurred earlier inside the UW locker room.
“We just got to keep faith and keep playing as hard as we can,” Gaddy said. “We feel that anything can happen.”
Said Romar: “Within our team … we still have hope.”
When you’re ninth in the Pac-12 standings you use words like hope and faith. The us-against-the world metaphor gets tossed around. Despite long odds, Romar is still dangling an at-large NCAA tournament berth in front of the Huskies to keep them motivated.
“I still feel like we can finish out and finish strong,” he said on his weekly radio show. “Finish strong in conference, there’s enough teams that we’re playing against that would be considered quality wins.
“We already have a few quality wins. I still think we can be OK. But it starts against Oregon. We can’t fall on our face anymore.”