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Saturday, February 10, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Considering his future key for Pondexter

Seattle Times staff reporter

Despite a freshman season marked by inconsistency, a nine-game stint as a reserve, and a few more aches and pains than he bargained for, nothing seems to have dented the perpetual optimism of Quincy Pondexter, a forward for the Washington men's basketball team.

In fact, Pondexter said Friday he's confident enough about where his freshman season is headed that he hasn't given up the thought that it could be his only season of college basketball.

"You have to consider it," he said when asked if would think of leaving after this season for the NBA. "It's your future."

Pondexter had been a reserve for nine games before returning to the starting lineup Thursday when the Huskies beat California 79-71, again changing places with classmate Phil Nelson at small forward. Coach Lorenzo Romar said Pondexter is likely to stay there for the game Sunday against Stanford.

He scored just two points in 19 minutes against Cal, however, evidence of the learning curve he has sometimes struggled to negotiate. Regarded as one of the top freshmen entering the Pac-10 this season and a sure-fire NBA prospect in the long term -- he is listed this week No. 10 for the 2008 draft by NBADraft.net -- he is no longer considered a likely candidate for the conference's all-freshman team.

Pondexter is averaging just 8.3 points in Pac-10 games and has broken double figures just three times in 12 conference games, leading most to assume he would be around for at least another season.

A recent ESPN.com listing of prospects who could be available for the next draft rated Pondexter No. 75.

But asked Friday if it was a certainty he would be back next season, Pondexter said, "I have no idea," then pointed out that scholarships are technically year-to-year agreements.

"You have to come back and think and re-evaluate your situation and see what's best for you and your future, so that's what I plan on doing after this season," he said.

Pondexter said he would have those talks with his family, which includes his father, Roscoe, who was drafted by the Boston Celtics and played 10 years overseas. An uncle, Cliff, played three years for the Chicago Bulls.

Romar expressed no surprise about Pondexter's comments, recalling that Brandon Roy considered declaring after his senior year at Garfield High, then played four years at UW.

"All players think about it," Romar said, adding Pondexter almost certainly would be invited to draft camps this year. Players can declare for the draft and attend camps, then return to college once during their college careers.

Romar said Pondexter's up-and-down numbers are nothing more than typical freshman adjustments, pointing out that Pondexter was the team's leading scorer in nonconference play at 15.9 a game.

But at the start of conference play, opponents put more emphasis on containing Pondexter, Romar said, while at the same time Pondexter also struggled, thinking too much.

"That's all it is," Romar said. "Right now, if he played 30 minutes a game and he just played, he'd still score. That's not the issue. But he's thinking, 'Where am I supposed to be? I don't want to turn the ball over.' And as conference play comes in, teams tend to try to take things away from you. You've got to be even more detailed. And as a result, sometimes it creates times when guys try to think too much."

Romar points to Pondexter's 25-point outing against Arizona as all the evidence needed of his offensive ability.

What the Huskies really wanted Pondexter thinking about it, however, was defense, which is why Pondexter was removed from the starting lineup after the team began Pac-10 play 0-2.

"We're trying to get our guys to understand that defense and rebounding is what wins games," Romar said.

Pondexter said he accepted the basis for the move.

"It was good," he said. "A lot of it depended on me. He really wanted my effort to be a lot better."

During much of that time, Pondexter also battled chronic knee pain he has suffered since high school, which was exacerbated by a sprained ankle and some back spasms.

"But now they are going away and I just feel a lot better," Pondexter said.

That, combined with a better understanding of what the coaches want, put him back in the starting lineup against Cal, though the results were mixed. He was 1 for 5, but had a career-high five assists.

"I just tried to focus on defense and assists and the things that would help my team win," Pondexter said. "I think I'm getting closer to getting on the right track."

How soon that's an NBA track remains to be seen.

NOTES

• The Stanford game was initially set for today, but was moved to Sunday before the season so it can be telecast nationally on FSN. Tipoff is 4 p.m.

• Former UW guard Will Conroy, who signed a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies last week, will not be re-signed by the NBA team.

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com. Read his blogs on Washington football and basketball at www.seattletimes.com/huskies.

Copyright © The Seattle Times Company

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