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Benson alum Andrew Andrews notching historic plays for Husky hoops

COURTESY: UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON - Former Benson High guard Andrew Andrews, a senior at the University of Washington, has been one of the best players in the Pac-12 this season.fSEATTLE — Andrew Andrews met the media after Washington’s 80-75 overtime loss to Utah at the Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday night with a glum face.

The place everyone still calls “Hec Edmundson Pavilion” was rocking with a near sellout crowd of 8,073, and the Huskies were looking at sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 with a victory.

“Great crowd tonight,” Andrews said. “It sucks we weren’t able to win for them. That was the best I’ve seen it here — ever.”

The senior from Benson Tech scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half as the Huskies (13-6 overall, 5-2 in Pac-12 action) fell into a tie with Oregon atop the conference standings. But eight other teams stood at either 4-3 or 3-4 heading into Wednesday’s slate.

“It’s that kind of year,” Utah coach Larry Krystowiak said.

It’s also been a spectacular year, at times, for the 6-2 Andrews.

He is the first Washington player with back-to-back 30-point performances since Brandon Roy in 2005-06. Andrews’ five 30-point games are the second-most in the NCAA this year and the most in a single season during coach Lorenzo Romar’s 14-year reign. Andrews is the only NCAA player this season and the only UW player ever to put together 30 points and 12 assists in a game.

Statistically, Andrews is having the greatest season for a Husky guard since Louie Nelson averaged 23.0 points in 1972-73. No wonder Romar is raining superlatives.

“Andrew is playing like an All-American,” Romar says. “You can say it’s a biased statement until you watch us and play and look at his stats. You’ll realize he is having that type of a season. Besides the numbers are the intangibles, the leadership he has shown.

“He has to be doing as much for our team as anybody in the country. I know there hasn’t been a guard who has done what he has done since we’ve been here.”

On Sunday, Andrews passed Nelson and moved within three points of going by Steve Hawes (1,516) for 10th place on the Huskies’ career scoring list. Andrews already is ahead of such names as Nate Robinson, Detlef Schrempf and Roy.

Not bad for a player who wasn’t recruited by any other Pac-12 schools out of Benson.

Oregon and Oregon State didn’t give Andrews a sniff. The University of Portland offered a scholarship, but Romar got wind of his talents the summer before his senior year. Former Portland State guard Dony Wilcher, who worked with Andrews on his individual skills, took him to a Husky camp in Seattle. Romar was impressed.

“Andrew was under the radar a little bit despite having a very good career at Benson,” he said. “But I could see he had a flair for the game. He could do a lot of things. He could pass it. He was a good shooter. He was tough.”

(And he had that unforgettable name. Andrews was born to Lee Williams Jr., and Patricia Hall in Portland, but after his parents split when he was 4, his aunt, Allison Binns, took over guardianship and gave him her maiden name — Andrews.)

After signing with the Huskies, Andrews came into his own as a senior at Benson, serving as PIL player of the year and the Class 5A co-player of the year, averaging 24 points to lead the Techmen to the state finals. In a 79-73 double-overtime title game loss to Corvalls, Andrews bombed in 41 points, hitting six 3-pointers. He then scored 31 points, with five 3s, in the Oregon-Washington Northwest Shootout all-star game.

“Andrew is a gym rat,” said Troy Berry, his coach at Benson. “He loves the game. There was continual improvement with him from his sophomore year on. He should have made all-state as a junior. He came back his senior year, and I pretty much let him go. He was my coach on the floor. He knew what to do.”

But Andrews nearly didn’t play at Benson as a senior.

“I was going to transfer to Jefferson,” Andrews said. “Troy blocked the transfer. And really, it wasn’t the right decision. The way things turned out, I would have regretted that decision.”

When Andrews arrived in Seattle in 2011, the plan was to send him to Brewster Academy prep school in Wolfshire, N.H., for a year if point guard Isaiah Thomas chose to return for his senior season.

“That would have been fine with me,” Andrews said. “I loved the idea of playing a year at a little more competitive level than I’d seen at Benson.”

Thomas went to the NBA, which opened a scholarship for Andrews. But with Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten in the UW backcourt, Andrews redshirted.

“That was OK, too,” Andrews said. “We had a great team, full of guys who went to the NBA — Wroten, Terrence Ross, CJ Wilcox, plus Gaddy. We had a bunch of talent. It was an ‘awe’ experience for me, being around those guys and playing against them every day in practice.”

Andrews averaged 7.8 points as sixth man as a redshirt freshman in 2012-13, then 12.3 points as a sophomore and 15.0 points as a junior, both years as starting shooting guard. The Huskies went only 16-15 overall and 5-13 in Pac-12 play in 2014-15. Center Robert Upshaw had been dismissed from the squad, and point guard Nigel Williams-Goss (now at Gonzaga) and forward Jernard Jarreau (now at Tulane) transferred after the season. Rumors flew that Andrews would leave, too.

“The word was, ‘All these guys are leaving; it must be a dysfunctional program,’” he says. “But I never really considered leaving U-Dub. I’d have stayed even if Nigel had played, because we’re good friends and I liked playing with him. But with Nigel gone, I wanted to play point guard.”

Andrews is the veteran on the youngest Division I team in the country. The other four starters are freshmen. Seven freshmen are among the Huskies’ top 10 scorers.

“It has more ups than downs,” Andrews said. “These guys have proven that they’re ready to play. Besides (LSU’s) Ben Simmons, Dejounte is probably the best freshman in the country. We have guys who are long and athletic. We have a great group of guys who are also talented.”

Do his teammates call him “Pops”?

“You would think so, but a lot of these dudes are 20, and I’m only 22,” Andrews says. “I get the last laugh on that. I’m like, ‘Man, I’ve been here five years and I’m only two years older than you.’”

Krystowiak pulled out all the stops to slow down Andrews, the runaway Pac-12 scoring leader. Three different Utes were called upon for man-to-man coverage.

“It started in transition,” Krystowiak says. “Our guards did a nice job of picking him up.”

Utah also used some matchup zone.

“And we had a period of triangle-and-two,” Krystowiak says. “Andrews and (freshman Dejounte) Murray are probably the most high-octane backcourt in the Pac-12.”

Andrews managed only 10 shots from the field, making four, and was 8 for 9 from the free-throw line. He had five rebounds but no assists with two steals in 40 minutes before fouling out late in the extra session.

It was probably the poorest all-around performance of the season for Andrews, who entered the week with a 21.7-point scoring average, 4.2 points better than anyone else in the Pac-12. Andrews was averaging a team-high 6.2 rebounds, was tied for fifth in the league in assists (4.7) and eighth in steals (1.4). He was shooting only .401 from the field, but was .400 from 3-point range and .841 from the line, the latter the second-best mark in the Pac-12.

Krystowiak says he can tell Andrews has embraced his leadership role.

“He has changed his game,” the Utah coach says. “It’s about maturity. Lorenzo has a great deal of confidence in him. (Andrews) gives them a little swagger. He is the glue of the group.”

Andrews says his breakthrough this year has been mostly about playing the point.

“I was a point guard all my life before coming here,” he says. “Now I’m back to my original position, being comfortable with the ball in my hands all the time and making reads and not having to force it as much. You can take your time and let the game come to you.”

Romar notes other reasons for the emergence.

“He has worked very hard on his shot,” the veteran coach says. “He is a student of the game. He watches (game video) all the time. He is critical of himself. He learns well. And, he is pretty stubborn. He is not going to take ‘no’ for an answer. He is going to keep pushing and keep believing in what he can accomplish regardless of what others say.”

Scouts aren’t saying positive things about his NBA potential. Andrews isn’t listed in any of the mock drafts. One scout in the stands Sunday night made this evaluation: “Nice college player, but probably a D-Leaguer. At best, a borderline NBA player. There are a lot of guys with his kind of skills out there.”

That’s the kind of appraisal that has driven Andrews since his high school years.

“I think he has a chance to make it” in the NBA, Romar said. “He is so strong, both physically and mentally. He is not intimidated by the surroundings at all. He’ll step in like he belongs.”

Berry is a believer.

“Scouts don’t have him on the charts right now, which is crazy to me,” he says. “He is going to look good in predraft workouts. He is a draftable kid. You want him on your roster. He will continue to get better and grow as a player.

“And, outside of basketball, he is going to be successful. He is a smart kid. Basketball is in his immediate future, and who knows? Maybe he can run for mayor in Seattle, the way he’s playing up there now.”

In the short term, any political aspirations will take a back seat to Andrews’ pro basketball ambition — and before that, helping the Huskies make the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve always had that underdog mentality,” says Andrews, who earned his degree in sociology last spring. “I have no doubt I can make it in the NBA. The more games we go, the more prospects I play against — we’ll see how I match up.

“I’m pretty confident with my odds. I just have to stay the course. I’ve never worried about what media and other people say. For now, I’m worried about playing well and getting wins.”

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