Its no coincidence that when the NBA announces its Most Improved Player voting results each spring, a large number of second-year pros are always listed. In 2011, for example, players such as Portlands Wesley Matthews, Philadelphias Jrue Holiday, Torontos DeMar DeRozan and Indianas Tyler Hansbrough each made the top 15. A year from now, Quincy Pondexter hopes to add his name to the list of many players whove made a quantum leap from Year 1 to Year 2 of their careers.
The 23-year-old from the University of Washington showed glimpses of his NBA potential as a rookie, but wound up playing a total of 734 minutes in 66 appearances. As many draft experts predicted, his defensive acumen appeared to be more pro-ready and developed than his offensive skills, with him trying to find his niche on a team with several productive scorers. Defensively, hes ahead of the most guys at that position, because he can guard the ball, Monty Williams assessed near the midway point of 2010-11. One of the things that happens to a young guy is that you try to become an offensive player. Thats been his trap this year. As the stretch run approaches, were going to need him to be defensive-minded.
Additional quotes on and from the personable Pondexter:
On his rookie season:
Hes been a guy whos up and down. Hes a guy were really high on, but especially on a team with a lot of veterans in front of you, youre up and down. Your confidence is down at times. But hes a tough-minded kid and he works his butt off every day.
On his adjustment from college to the pros:
Its really tough. But youve got to relish moments like this, to have the opportunity to play against some of the worlds greatest (players) and have your number called. A lot of rookies dont have this (chance).
On making the playoffs:
It was definitely the biggest (team) goal. Coming off a season where they didnt make the playoffs last year, there was a real big emphasis on making it. Especially with all of the adversity and guys getting injured, it was a big accomplishment and a testament to how hard we worked. To have this opportunity has been a dream come true. Ive been considering myself a winner pretty much all my life. I would hate to be on a team that didnt have an opportunity to play for a championship. Even though Im a rookie and still learning so many things, Id rather have this than be on a team thats not as good. You could be scoring as many points as you want, but its not about that. Its about a team good and winning. Thats what Im all about.