The ball was rolling loose across the court in the final seconds of Washington's 56-point win over Portland State this week, and guard Scott Suggs dived after it.
That, as much as anything, explains why he was on the court in the first place.
He didn’t get out there much as a freshman. But three games into his sophomore season, Suggs is averaging 17.3 minutes per game – most among UW’s nonstarters.
“He earned it,” coach Lorenzo Romar said Tuesday. “I think the main thing is he caught our attention on the defensive end. … When he got his opportunity he made the best of it. So when guys do that, you reward them.”
Last season, Suggs mostly watched from the bench as fellow freshman Isaiah Thomas became a starter and a star, and while Elston Turner established a role in the rotation.
Meanwhile, Suggs appeared in 18 games, averaging 4.7 minutes.
“It was a hard season,” he said. “I had never really sat on the bench like that before. So it was an adjustment. There were times I was struggling. But I think it was a good learning experience for me, and I just used that as motivation this summer.”
Back at Washington (Mo.) High School, Suggs wasn’t just on the court, he often dominated it. He won the Mr. Show-Me Basketball award as Missouri’s best player and the Mr. Basketball award from the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association. He averaged 22.5 points as a senior and was ranked the 11th-best shooting guard in the nation by Scout.com.
In other words, he was very much to Missouri basketball what Thomas had been to high school basketball in the Puget Sound region.
Yet, Thomas burst onto the college scene as Pacific-10 Conference freshman of the year, while some whispered about Suggs being the freshman who didn’t pan out.
But amid his own accolades, Thomas noticed how well his teammate was handling adversity.
“I can’t even deal with not starting,” Thomas said. “But he dealt with it. He’s a great teammate. Last year, he was always cheering everybody on, and you couldn’t tell he was upset. Now it’s time for him to shine.”
Suggs said he never doubted his decision to become a Husky: UW was the right place, and it was simply up to him to make it work.
He said he retained faith that Romar hadn’t given up on him, and he believed he could give his coach what he wanted.
“We talked this summer and I just asked him where does he see me?” Suggs said. “Each year is a new evaluation of everybody. … I think a lot of it was defense and just being committed to playing hard all the time and playing aggressive. I tried to focus a lot on that, and it has helped me get out on the floor again.”
Three games into the new season, Washington’s statistical leaders are: Thomas, 24.7 points per game; Quincy Pondexter, 11 rebounds per game; and Abdul Gaddy, four assists per game. As a team, the 14th-ranked Huskies (3-0) are outscoring their opponents, 93.7-67.3, outshooting them, .490 to .466, and outrebounding them, 41.3-23. … Thomas will be on the regional cover of the Sports Illustrated college basketball preview that will appear on the West Coast today. SI ranks the Huskies No. 9 in its preseason poll, and names Thomas to its All-America third team. Other regional covers feature Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State and Villanova. … After playing three games in three days over the weekend, the Huskies now play just once more over a stretch of two weeks: San Jose State at 8 p.m. Friday at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. “I think the timing is great,” Romar said. “We were able to play three games and get a really good idea where we are and where our deficiencies are and kind of what this team has a chance to be and now go have … nine practices and only play one game in the midst of those. We would like to see progress in these next two weeks.”