Any mention of Washington's basketball team in the preseason usually centered around Spencer Hawes. One of the most coveted recruits in school history, the five-star center from Seattle grabbed plenty of national attention.
Hawes was hyped as the dominating low post player the program always lacked. Hawes was the local kid the Huskies could build around after losing star Brandon Roy.
Perhaps the spotlight was pointed toward the wrong freshman. Or, at least it should have been shared.
Hawes is off to a solid start, averaging 11.2 points and a team-high 2.7 blocks per game. But small forward Quincy Pondexter has been the real surprise, averaging a team-high 17.2 points and ranking second on the squad with 6.8 rebounds per game.
"I think I surprised some people, but a lot of my success is due to Spencer," Pondexter told Rivals.com. "Spencer draws a lot of attention and kicks it out when double teamed. Guys like Ryan Appleby (junior guard) have helped me in transition, too."
That's vintage Pondexter, who was ranked the No. 48 prospect in the class of 2006 coming out of San Joaquin Memorial High in Fresno, Calif. Soft spoken and humble, the 6-foot-7, 220-pounder doesn't enjoy talking about himself and quickly deflects credit to teammates.
Washington coach Lorenzo Romar and his assistants were quick to offer Pondexter a message at the start of practice.
"They kept telling me to be aggressive and attack the basket," Pondexter said. "Even though I'm a freshman they wanted to make sure I wasn't passive."
In his first college game Pondexter kept driving to the basket, scoring all but one of his nine field goals in the paint. He finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the Huskies' 99-91 win over Pepperdine.
"That let me know I could play at this level," Pondexter said.
It also let the Huskies know they filled one of their biggest needs. With the loss of the multi-dimensional Roy and versatile forwards Jamaal Williams and Bobby Jones ? the trio combined for 43.4 points and 14.2 rebounds per game last season ? they lacked a do-it-all threat from the wing. That's why Romar and Co. implored Pondexter to be assertive.
Pondexter has been an ideal replacement. Long and athletic, the rookie excels on fast breaks but can also score from all over the court. He has also been a major factor on the boards and is a solid one-on-one defender.
"I think of myself as an energetic wing player who can do a lot," Pondexter said. "I can shoot the ball - although I need to improve that - attack the rim and lock up the opponent's best player. I love to do all those things."
If Pondexter keeps it up, he'll eventually start getting as much love as Hawes.
Hot Seat Heats Up
Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings might be the early favorite as the next college basketball coach to get fired.
Stallings entered the season on the hot seat, and the Commodores are off to a 1-3 start. Vandy hit a new low with a 70-62 home loss to Furman on Tuesday against former assistant coach Jeff Jackson.
The frontcourt was supposed to be Vandy's biggest weakness, but horrific outside shooting has overshadowed their problems on the inside.
Guards Shan Foster and Derrick Byars are shooting a combined 8-of-42 (19 percent) from 3-point range. Foster and Byars both shot 44 percent from beyond the arc last season.
Three Questions with Iowa freshman Tyler Smith
One of the most highly touted recruits in Iowa history, the 6-7, 210-pound Smith turned down scholarship offers from Kentucky and Pittsburgh to be a Hawkeye.
You played 10 minutes and fouled out of your first college game, but then looked spectacular in the next game, scoring 28 points, grabbing six boards and dishing out five assists. How do explain such a rebound?
"I was really nervous in that first game because I had been waiting such a long time for it. After graduating from high school I went to prep school for another year. I got a little excited and got into foul trouble. The second game, Coach (Steve Alford) told me just to play my game and not think so much."
What's been the toughest transition for you going from high school to the highest level of college basketball?
"All the traveling has been a big adjustment. We travel a lot of miles (Hawkeyes played in a three-game tournament in the Virgin Islands last week) and it wears you out. The scouting is new, too. The teams know all about you and what you like to do."
You could have played at several top 25 programs or somewhere with much more tradition and prestige. Why choose Iowa?
"(Assistant) Coach (Craig) Neal was the main reason. He didn't recruit me as just a player, but as a friend. I took a long time in the recruiting process because I wanted to get a feel for the coaches. Coach Neal would ask about my family members and not just about basketball. My dad was sick and he would ask how he's doing. I really appreciated that."
146 ? The number of points Kentucky gave up in the paint in three games in the Maui Invitational against DePaul, UCLA and Memphis.
9 ? The number of minutes it took Texas freshman Dexter Pittman to foul out of his first game against Alcorn State.
5 ? The number of double-doubles Alabama's Jermareo Davidson put together in his first five games. Davidson, who is averaging 14.0 ppg and 11.2 rpg, had 12 double-doubles all of last season.
Florida junior forward Corey Brewer (11.7 ppg) has mononucleosis and will probably miss a handful of games, including a visit from No. 3 Ohio State on Dec. 23. Florida center Joakim Noah (12.4 ppg) was feared to have mono after showing similar symptoms, but was recently diagnosed with an upper respiratory infection and isn't expected to miss any time.
Georgia Tech freshman Thaddeus Young (14.2 ppg) sat out the Jackets' win over Penn State on Tuesday with patellar tendonitis in his left knee. The injury isn't considered serious and he should be back soon.
Alabama's Ronald Steele (12.3 ppg), one of the nation's top point guards, has developed tendinitis in his right knee and was held out of their last two games. The Tide have rolled to easy wins over Texas Southern and Louisiana-Monroe without their star who should return soon.