College basketball fans everywhere certainly know about Kentucky's outstanding freshman duo of John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
They may also know about Ohio State's Evan Turner, and also Duke's John Scheyer.
However, there is a hidden gem out in the Pacific Northwest, a star that has been working his trade so well for four years for the Washington Huskies, a star so frequently overlooked even by fans of his own team. Of course, I am talking about Husky senior Quincy Pondexter.
Pondexter, a 6'6" senior out of Fresno, has quickly emerged as a fan favorite this season by taking the reigns from Jon Brockman and becoming the leader of the Husky basketball team. He has had huge games all year long for the Pac-10, should really have been the Pac-10's Player of the Year (sorry Jarome Randle, Q-Pon clearly got jobbed), and hit the game-winning shot for Washington over Marquette in the first-round.
He clearly has been UW's MVP this season.
However, for the past few seasons, he has been one of the most underrated players out there, even among Husky fans. Despite his everlasting talent, he was never the go-to-guy for the Dawgs before this year, and almost always played second (or even third) fiddle to his teamates.
As a result, his statistics before this year may not have been as flashy as he hoped, though the talent has always been there.
In the 2006-07 season, it was the all-Washington state duo of Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes that attracted most of the attention, though the Huskies stumbled upon a disappointing non-postseason year.
In the 2007-08 season, it was Brockman who basically was the go-to-guy for the Huskies, though it was a failure of sorts as Washington fell in the first round of the CBI at home to Valparaiso.
Even in Washington's Pac-10 championship season last year, it was Brockman, who then was in his senior year, and freshman guard Isiah Thomas who enjoyed much of the attention. Once again, Pondexter was overlooked in many aspects.
However, this season has been different. With the loss of two seniors in Brockman and Justin Dentmon, the Huskies looked towards Pondexter for senior leadership, and also to become the go-to-guy he had shown promise in.
And boy has he delivered for the Huskies.
Pondexter enjoyed the 2009-10 season as the leading scorer on a team full of scoring. He has averaged 19.7 points a game, including over seven rebounds. He has had monster games during the season, including a 30-12 outing at home against the Arizona Wildcats, who at that point was a contender for the regular season title, and also a 24-10 outing on the road at Oregon.
He was voted First Team All-Pac-10, and in many people's eyes got robbed out of the Pac-10's Player of the Year.
However, it has been in the NCAA Tournament that Pondexter has shined the brightest, despite scoring 18 points in both games—solid but not spectacular by Pondexter standards. It was Pondexter who hit the game-winning bank shot with just 1.7 seconds left to defeat the Marquette Golden Eagles in the first round of the tournament, a game Pondexter scored 14 of his 18 after the half.
He truly came through in the clutch like winners do.
In fact, it was also Pondexter who had grabbed the offensive rebound which made the game-winning bank shot possible.
In fact, coach Lorenzo Romar considered calling a time-out to draw up a game-winning play, but felt so highly of his senior leader that he let Pondexter make his own game-winning play, his own story-book play.
And he did.
"The fear of it being my last collegiate game ever is what propelled me to play well in the second half. I had to step up...It's one of those storybook shots. I'm just so happy right now, I don't even know what to say," Pondexter told the media after the game.
Also in that game, Pondexter grabbed 11 rebounds, five of which were offensive rebounds—three of which came in the final minutes of the game. His passion was evident easily even from watching from the television; it was also in that game where he broke Dentmon's UW record for appearances.
Pondexter was not as much a factor in UW's second round game against New Mexico, but he didn't need to be. The Huskies simply blew out the Lobos, a game that finished 82-64, and it wasn't even that close.
UW now faces the second-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers on Thursday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, and the Huskies are now just two games away from making their first Final Four since the 1953 season. It would probably be the way Pondexter would want to cap off an storied career with the Huskies.
It does appear that NBA scouts have noticed Pondexter's special talents, with most draft projection sites projecting Pondexter as a mid-to-late 20s pick. He has proven to have the talent to succeed in the NBA, with his shot improving consistently in his college career, and his superb talent driving the ball to the lane and finishing well.
It seemingly has come around for Pondexter this senior year; he has finally received his due credit from the fanbase, good signs after a strange and up-and-down career with the Huskies.
However, Pondexter is still one of the most underrated college basketball players out there, and certainly deserves to be up there with the Wall's and the Cousins' and the Scheyer's.