The latest subject of our Hoops Q&A series is Washington's Isaiah Thomas, who was the Pac-10's Freshman of the Year in 2008-09 after averaging 15.5 points per game. Thomas, a pint-sized (5-foot-8) guard who got his first name after his father, a Lakers fan, lost a bet on the 1989 Lakers-Pistons NBA Finals, is the leader of a Huskies team that's considered a co-favorite (along with Cal) to finish atop the Pac-10 this season. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation:
Luke Winn: [Your freshman backcourt mate] Abdul Gaddy Twittered yesterday that you need a haircut. Agree or disagree?
Isaiah Thomas: Disagree. That guy needs one more than I do. He needs a fresh cut ASAP.
LW: He specifically referenced your fro-hawk.
IT: I have small fro-hawk going right now. Coach [Lorenzo Romar] won't let us grow it out too big.
LW: What, are there measurement restrictions on fro-hawks at Washington?
IT: Up until this year, [Romar] didn't let us do anything like that. I had one over the summer, and it got long before I got it cut. Then we had picture day a couple weeks ago, and I was thinking to myself, "I'm going to cut it again before [Romar] can even say anything." But he came up to me and said, "I've been thinking long and hard about it, and it's a new look for young guys, so if you keep it short and clean-cut, you can have it."
LW: That's nice of him. Speaking of you and Abdul Gaddy, who was a big-time recruit -- people are excited about the prospect of seeing you two alongside each other in the backcourt. How do you envision that tandem working?
IT: I just envision a lot of, I guess, highlights. With a guy like [Gaddy] handling the ball, you don't know what can happen, and with a guy like me having the ball too, it's going to be fun to watch. Abdul is as good as advertised, with what he does with assists and creating [opportunities] for people, and I'm probably more of a scorer, so we're both going to be able to do what we do.
LW: Specifically, how is the ballhandling going to be divided? You were the point last year, with Justin [Dentmon] playing off the ball, but Abdul is more of a true point. I'm curious about how that's going to work.
IT: The way coach put it to us was, whoever is the outlet, is going to be the one bringing the ball up the floor. It's not going to be like, Abdul is bringing it up this time, and I'm going to take it the next time -- it's just whoever gets it goes, and vice versa. Nothing too complicated. We know we can both get out and run.
LW: And where does Venoy Overton -- who also spent time at the point last year -- fit in?
IT: Venoy's one of the best at setting the tempo. He's hyper and rowdy and quick. He's more of a bring-the-ball-up type of guard, too. Last year we switched it up all the time, and it was fine.
LW: You and Abdul are both from Tacoma. How far back does your relationship go, and at what point did you start talking with him about Washington?
IT: We've known each other since the fourth or fifth grade, but he was on the younger AAU teams in the same program [Friends of Hoop], so we didn't play together much. We always worked out together, though, and we knew each other's games.
It wasn't until all that happened at Arizona [with Lute Olson stepping down, and Abdul backing out of his commitment] that I really talked to him about Washington. I had been committed to Washington since my junior year in high school, and since I knew how it is in high school -- everyone is on you about where you're gonna go to school -- I didn't want to be on him like that. Once that happened [at Arizona], though, I started getting in his ear a little, saying, "Why not stay home now, play in front of your friends and family, play with me, and have a Tacoma backcourt?"
LW: Do you have a nickname for that Tacoma backcourt yet? Seems like there's potential for something good.
IT: We don't, but we've got a little group, a clique that we call the Home Team. Me and Abdul and Jamal Crawford, Brandon Roy and Will Conroy. We're close with those guys.
LW: A Knicks fan on the InsideHoops forum posted a few weeks ago that he played you in NBA 2K9 on XBox Live. Legit story? You're available for games?
IT: Yeah, I played that guy. I'm always on [XBox Live] playing 2K9. I'm one of the best out there. I had put my gametag on Twitter, and he found me and asked to play. I actually beat him, too.
LW: He said you won 45-40 and scored 43 of your points with Brandon Roy. Wow.
IT: Well, I usually play with either Portland or Denver. The Lakers are my team, but they're kind of unstoppable -- Kobe is sick -- so I don't mess with them. In that game the guy couldn't stop B-Roy, so I kept going to him. B-Roy plays like he does in real life, at his own pace.
LW: Last year, before you debuted at UW, a story mentioned your weakness for strawberry Pop-Tarts. Can you explain it?
IT: I can't live without them. I eat them every morning, and I have at least one pack in my backpack when I leave the house. I'm probably eating two to three packs a day.
LW: How long has this been going on?
IT: Probably when I went off to prep school [for a two-year stint at South Kent in Connecticut]. All you do is eat the little snacks out there. I liked Pop-Tarts before that, but I really started eating them a lot in Connecticut.
I used to just eat them out of the box, but now, at Washington, I've got a toaster, and I'm toasting them. That makes them even better, and I can't stop eating them.
LW: People seem to be wavering between picking you or Cal as the preseason Pac-10 champs. What's your stance on that debate?
IT: We're the defending Pac-10 champs, so it definitely goes through us first. People can have their own opinions -- Cal has everyone back, they're a great team and they beat us both times last year. They're hungry. But we've got some new guys who are going to make a difference this year.
LW: About those new guys ... People who follow recruiting are familiar with Abdul. But who else is going to make a name for themselves?
IT:C.J. Wilcox, from Utah, he's a 6-4 guard who's a lights-out shooter -- by far the best shooter on the team, and he's only a freshman. He's going to surprise a lot of people. Clarence Trent is a guy that's also from Tacoma, he's everywhere on the court, it doesn't matter what position he plays, he's getting loose balls and tip dunks. People are going to love how hard he plays. And Tyreese Breshers, who redshirted last year, is ready to play with us now.
LW: About C.J. -- you think he'll force his way into some playing time?
IT: You have to play a shooter like that. I swear, every time he made shots this summer, it's been all net. That's how good of a shooter he is.
LW: What does the Jon Brockman replacement squad look like? That's a group effort.
IT: Quincy Pondexter is already a great rebounder -- a big strong small forward who can play the 3-4-5 in our offense. And we've got some guys like Tyreese and Matthew Bryan-Amaning, and Darnell Grant put on some muscle, too. Everyone's going to help. You're not just going to be able to replace what Jon Brockman did last year with one guy.
LW: There's been some talk about how this version of the Washington team will play some seriously up-tempo basketball, high-scoring basketball, harkening back to the Nate Robinson days. [The Huskies were seventh nationally in adjusted tempo last season, which was fast-paced, but they seem to have more running potential this year.]
IT: We're going to get it back to how they were. We were up-tempo last year, but we're more guard-oriented this year. We're going to be scoring points and getting into guys full-court defensively, causing a lot of havoc. It's going to remind people of the days of Nate, Will and B-Roy. They were unbelievable, how they got it done. They had no one over 6-8!
LW: I'm trying to envision a dream college hoops starting five that would lead the nation in scoring. If you had to build one of those around you -- not using any other Washington players -- who would you pick at the other four positions?
IT: I'd get a guy like me at shooting guard, too, who puts buckets up: Willie Warren, from Oklahoma. He's a score-first kind of guard. And I'd take a guy like Cole Aldrich from Kansas as my big dude, because he blocks shots and he's going to rebound.
Then probably Patrick Patterson from Kentucky -- no, actually, I'd do [Luke] Harangody from Notre Dame at power forward. He puts up points, grabs rebounds, he goes all out, kind of like Brockman with a little better offensive game. Harangody goes hard. That's what I like about him, he's always hustling, giving 100 percent. Then for my three ... let me see ... I might go with my guy Kyle Singler, from Duke. He's versatile for a small forward: he rebounds, puts up points, creates, everything. I think if he was in a system other than Duke's he'd be doing even more.
LW: Not a bad roster. How many points would that team score every night?
IT: Dang. We'd put up 90, 95. At least.