TUCSON, ARIZ. - Abdul Gaddy practiced at McKale Center on Saturday. But he was wearing Washington's purple, not Arizona's red and blue.
For a long time, Gaddy had wanted McKale to be his home court. And for a while, it looked like that was going to happen.
But when Arizona coach Lute Olson announced his retirement, Gaddy put away his dream of being a Wildcat. And that’s why he will be in the visitors’ locker room today when No. 24 Washington visits Arizona in a Pacific-10 Conference match.
“I just see it as another game,” Gaddy said. “I’m just trying to get ready for the game. We’re trying to bounce back from the Arizona State (loss on Friday).”
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Gaddy knows it may not be just another game for Arizona fans, especially the ZonaZoo student section, which may not care why the prized recruit from Tacoma changed his mind.
“There were a lot of things going on here at the time: coach changes,” Gaddy said. “I didn’t know who the coach was going to be this year. It became Sean Miller, but I didn’t know at the time. I wanted to make my decision kind of early, in the early signing period. Washington was the second favorite, so I happened to pick Washington.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar said there was nothing wishy-washy about Gaddy’s decision-making. Even as an underclassman at Bellarmine Prep, Gaddy made it clear that Arizona and Washington were his top two choices – and in that order.
“When I was a sophomore, Arizona was my dream school, and that was kind of the school I was waiting to hear from,” Gaddy said. “Washington had already offered me. (I told Romar) that if Arizona doesn’t come after me after this summer I was going to commit to Washington. He was (once) a kid, and he had dreams too, so he kind of understood. And then they just happened to come that summer.”
More specifically, Olson came calling. And that was crucial to Gaddy.
In 24 seasons at Arizona, Olson had not only turned the Wildcats into a perennial power, but he had demonstrated his ability to develop point guards. Gaddy had watched the parade of Wildcats – Jason Terry, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby, Jason Gardner – and he wanted to follow in their footsteps.
However, when Olson announced a one-year leave of absence in November 2007, and then decided to make it permanent in October 2008, UW passed UA on Gaddy’s list.
“When he told me he wasn’t going to coach there, I pretty much wasn’t going to go there,” Gaddy said.
“... He knew how to coach guards, he knew how to send his guards to the NBA. When he left ... I just wanted to come to a school where it was more of a for sure thing.”