The Third Option
March 1, 2010
SEATTLE - For much of the year, the Washington Huskies have turned to Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas for much of their scoring. The duo accounts for 45 percent of the Huskies points, giving the opponent the sense that if they shut them down their chances of winning would increase ten fold.
Lately, Matthew Bryan-Amaning has been punching holes in that theory. After an inconsistent start to the season, MBA has apparently turned the proverbial corner. Over the last six games, the London native has averaged 13.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks per game. He has strung together double-figure point totals in all six of those games - the longest such streak in his three-year Husky career.
'With Quincy and Isaiah, you know what you're going to get. So if I can help down in the post and give us a third option, it's real helpful,' says Bryan-Amaning.
MBA claims he really isn't doing anything different, but clearly he is. He is not shying away from contact down low in the blocks and is gaining much more confidence in his shot. He is shooting a team-best 65% (34-52) during his current six-game stretch and is quickly emerging as one of the top big men in the Pac-10 Conference.
'I've just been working hard, really,' says Bryan-Amaning when explaining his improvement. 'I haven't changed too much, shots are just starting to fall. I'm making the same types of moves and I'm just being real aggressive on the court.'
Perhaps MBA's best minutes of the season came in the first half against Washington State on Saturday. He flashed an array of post moves and shots against the Cougars and had 15 points by the break - including 12 in the first 10 minutes when UW was able to get out to a double-digit lead. He finished the game with 17 points and 12 rebounds, his first double-double of the season.
The turning point for MBA might be traced back to the Jan. 23 game at USC. While the Huskies suffered their worse defeat of the season that night - 87-61 - MBA scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds. Two nights earlier, he played a season-low four minutes and was scoreless in a loss to UCLA. The 'benching' served as a wake up call for the low-key Bryan-Amaning.
'It taught me that nothing is given to you and you've got to work hard,' says MBA. 'It's a long season and you just have to keep fighting through everything that is going on during the season.'
After starting the first 13 games of the season, MBA was moved to the bench. Now he finds himself firmly entrenched back into the starting lineup. He's been there for the last four games and hopes to keep it that way. He also hopes to keep on being considered one of the top big men in the league, all while keeping the big picture in his head.
'It's fun to get a little bit of recognition,' says MBA, who was nominated for Pac-10 Player of the Week for his efforts against WSU, 'but we've just got a lot of stuff going on as a team that we need to get done.'