From potential to realization, from a man to the man, Washington's Quincy Pondexter has become a fashionable debate amongst Husky supporters. Is he a star or a role player? Will he meet his potential or has he already met his potential? Can he and does he want to be that go-to-guy?
It's a lot of questions about a player who's been rather productive. The lone senior on the Husky men's basketball team, Pondexter has averaged right at or above double digits in scoring since stepping foot on campus and was second on the team in rebounding the past two seasons.
But people expected more and it was easy to see why. Rated the No. 15 small forward in the nation coming out of high school, Pondexter had an electric start to his career. As a freshman he went off for 25 points twice and led the team in scoring five different times. Each time he had a big game his arrival was announced.
Then he slumped badly as a sophomore and criticism began to pile up and it took a tole on the Fresno native. So much so, he briefly contemplated transferring.
"My sophomore year at the midway point I was real frustrated. My friends were leaving, Adrian Oliver just left and I was the only one left form our recruiting class," Pondexter explained. "Our team wasn't as successful as we thought we should have been. Of course those thoughts go through about every players mind, but not for one second did I really want to leave, I always wanted to be a Husky."
Pondexter stuck it out and finished that season with a 23-point, nine-rebound performance in a loss to Cal in the Pac-10 Tournament. Yet another sign of what he was capable of, it was again deemed a breakout performance and something he could carry into the following year and what was sure to be his breakout season.
But as a junior things against started slowly and Pondexter only scored in double digits once in the first five games, and disappearing against both Kansas and Florida in CBE Classic.
"Me and my friends always joke around that I have the most career break out games in the history of basketball," said a laughing Pondexter.
But Pondexter ignored the talk kept playing his game, kept playing within the system and eventually it all started to click. He was becoming the go-to-guy and not because someone anointed him, or because he proclaimed it so, he was becoming the man because of how he played. 20-point games became common down the stretch of their Pac-10 title run and he kept delivering when asked.
"It was heavy weight fight after heavy weight fight and there was Quincy Pondexter answering the bell down the stretch," said Husky head coach Lorenzo Romar "He doesn't have to prove anything to me."
In fact, Romar is surprised people still question Pondexter's ability to be the go-to-guy and leader.
"Usually people will remember the last thing you do, usually. But in Quincy's case people forget, and you have all heard me say it a bunch of times, just go back and look at the last nine games and he was our leading scorer and second leading rebounder. When we were on the road at SC he single handedly won the game for us offensively as the go-to-guy.
In the NCAA Tournament he was the best player on the floor in both games. It's something he's already done and I guess we lose sight of it because he wasn't nominated to be all-league. Justin Dentmon was all-league, Isaiah Thomas was our leading scorer and Jon Brockman was our all-everthing. People just lose sight of the fact that Quincy down the stretch led us in scoring and was our second leading rebounder. This is not a revelation all of a sudden this year for Quincy, this is how he finished up the year."
Pondexter has a swagger and confidence now that was missing early in his career. It's made him a better player on the court and a happier person off it. Always his toughest critic, Pondexter has put a lot of added pressure and stress on himself and not living up to expectations as a sophomore made life off the court even harder than on it. That has all changed and he's ready to embrace his final season as a Husky.
"I know that especially early in my career I never left my room and was just a hermit crab," Pondexter said. "Now I'm enjoying college life a lot more and having fun with my friends while I'm here. Now it's coming down to the end, and the biggest thing for me off the court was just relaxing and having fun instead of dreading it."
He's embracing the attention, he's embracing the moment and don't think for one second he' not ready for the challenge.
"You wait for this your entire career."