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Husky Men's Basketball Blog

Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta provides a running commentary on the Huskies. E-mail Bob.

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October 31, 2005

Brockman adjusting

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:36 AM

Talked again with Jon Brockman the other day and came away again feeling that he is mature beyond his years, mentally as much as physically.

Still, that doesn't mean Brockman isn't having some struggles adjusting to Division I ball, even if he seems assured of a starting role this season.

"It's so much quicker," he said of UW's early practices. "It's just a huge adjustment from high school. Not everyone is 6-8 in high school. Every single play you have to be heads-up. In high school, I was pretty much the strongest guy on the court because I was the biggest. Here, everyone is as big or bigger than me so you just have to be ready every single play or you are going to get knocked down."

As for the practices, Brockman says those are also unlike anything he has ever experienced.

"They are hard and they are long," he said. "You have to always stay concentrating because every time the coaches talk, it's something you need to know. Something you need to remember."

October 28, 2005

Coaches poll: Huskies out; Zags in

Posted by Bob Condotta at 6:33 PM

This is the coaches poll, with votes from 31 Division-I coaches -- as far as I can tell, one coach from every D-I conference, though I couldn't find anyone at this hour to confirm that for me.

The only Pac-10 coach in the poll is Arizona State's Rob Evans and I would assume UW got his vote after he saw the Huskies beat his team three times last season.

I would imagine UW also got votes from Bob Thomason, the coach of the Pacific team the Huskies beat in the second round of the tournament last year; and Steve Fisher, the coach of the San Diego State team UW beat something like 125-12 last year.

But who knows about Tevester Anderson, the coach at Jackson State, or Ted Woodward from Maine.

Like the poll of ESPN personalities we referenced here a little while ago, there were three Pac-10 teams rated -- Arizona at No. 9, Stanford at No. 13 and UCLA (tied for 18.). Also, Gonzaga is No. 7. The only other West Coast team in the poll is Nevada at No. 25.

As for why there's no UW, I might have found the answer when I turned on the TV in my room and switched to ESPN, where the Knicks were playing the Nets in an exhibition game. There was Nate Robinson hitting a three-pointer, then taking a pass and going in for a lay-in, only to be fouled.

I think the national jury will be out on this team until it proves it can win without Nate. Nationally, Nate was so much the face of the Huskies last year that a lot of people, I'm sure, just see that he's gone and figure on a little of a downturn.

Still, UW's not being greatly disrespected. Being No. 28 is assuming a team that makes it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Also, while there's little doubt that UW has positioned itself to be a force for years to come, until the consistency occurs at the level of a Stanford or Arizona, there will be those who will wonder about the Huskies.

But UW doesn't have to wait long to get into all of the polls. Just beat Gonzaga on Dec. 4 and the votes will come rolling in.

October 26, 2005

Point guard Roy?

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:40 AM

We've focused a lot so far in this space on the new guys since that seems to be where the most curiosity lies early in any season.

But the man who will make this team go this season is senior Brandon Roy, who decided to return for his final season after seriously considering entering the NBA Draft last spring.

And implicit in his decision to return was the acknowledgement of everyone that Roy will become the leader of this team.

Roy was more than happy to play a supporting role as a sophomore, then was forced into one last year as a junior due to his knee injury.

But now, as UW coach Lorenzo Romar says "Brandon will just have his hand in everything."

That includes taking on a bigger role as the team's main ball handler, which means playing more point guard, something that just makes sense since the team's two "official" point guards - Justin Dentmon and Ryan Appleby - are each new to the team.

"He'll play more point guard this year than last year," Romar said recently.

"He's a great decision-maker and he has the highest basketball IQ on our team."

But before anyone starts thinking that Roy is "being moved" to point guard, you have to remember how the Huskies play. Romar likes versatile players, likes using guys at multiple spots.

Roy will get more time bringing the ball up the floor, but that's not all he'll do.

For instance, one can envision a lineup that would feature Roy alongside Dentmon or Appleby. Roy could bring the ball up the court, then hand it to Dentmon or Appleby, who would run the halfcourt offense with Roy moving inside.

Romar likes Roy's role to that of former Sonic John Johnson, who was a small forward on the Sonics' 1979 NBA title team. Officially, Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson manned the guard spots. But Johnson was the team's leader in assists.

Roy played a similar role for the Huskies last year. Remember, he was the team's third-leading assist-maker a year ago behind Nate Robinson and Will Conroy.

There could be lots of times when Roy is on the floor as the lone point guard, however, as Romar said Roy is more than able to defend any point guard the Huskies will run up against.

October 25, 2005

4 p.m. madness

Posted by Bob Condotta at 8:03 PM

I stumbled out of football interview duties to find about 500 members of the Dawg Pack watching today's basketball practice.

The Dawg Pack was invited to watch practice and a scrimmage and then participate in a question-and-answer session with Lorenzo Romar and athletic director Todd Turner.

It was the second year the Huskies have invited the Dawg Pack to attend a practice.

The event featured a few touches of Midnight Madness - something UW didn't do this year - such as a dunk exhibition at the end with Joel Smith and Artem Wallace. Wallace's last dunk, a 360 punctuated by a hard slam, seemed to get the most applause.

Romar said he wanted to hold the special event for the Dawg Pack, comprised of UW's most ardent student fans, "because they are a big part of what we do."

Freshman Harvey Perry didn't play in the scrimmage after tweaking his back, an injury not considered serious.

In the Q-and-A session, Romar was asked about the 2006 recruiting class. He can't speak about the players publicly until they sign, but he said that "I think we are pretty much done for this year" in terms of adding any new players.

All of the new players continue to show flashes of ability, but the two who seem to be making the most impact right now are Jon Brockman and Justin Dentmon.

Brockman is almost certain to start this season but it's not unrealistic to think that Dentmon could as well.

Harsh's words

Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:29 PM

I had a chance to talk with legendary UW coach Marv Harshman recently and he told me that he had watched the Huskies practice last week.

Overall, he is optimistic about this team although he thinks the Pac-10 could be better than a year ago, which could make it more difficult for UW to finish as high as it did a year ago.

Here's a little of what he had to say:

"I was really pleased with how the new people looked and I think there's some good prospects there. I like (Jon) Brockman very well. He is so intense and I'm sure he's got a good chance to start as a freshman.

"The other kid who looks like him, (Artem) Wallace, really was a hard worker and I think he's going to be a much better backup rebounding wise than we've had in a couple of years.

"I think the backcourt is going to miss Nate (Robinson) and Will Conroy and might miss Tre Simmons more than anybody else because right now I don't think they have that much power outside shooting as they had last year.

"But I like Ryan Appleby - I think he's going to be OK. I think he sees the court maybe even better than Conroy did. He's maybe not as physically skilled but he handles the ball well, he's a good passer and he seems to be a better-than-average three-point shooter.

"Having Jones and Roy back in the middle is kind of the magnet for the whole team."

Harshman also singled out sophomore guard Joel Smith, who he said "looks bulked up some and just much more mature."

As for the overall picture, Harshman said "I think they are going to have very good depth and they will be a good team, although you look at the league and there are four or five good teams there. I think they will be (competitive) but I don't know if they will win the league."

October 23, 2005

Hey Joe

Posted by Bob Condotta at 1:12 PM

I sense a lot of interest in freshman center Joe Wolfinger.

And why not considering he’s a 7-footer who sharpened his perimeter skills when he weighed a mere 190 pounds and felt forced to play outside of the paint, but now has bulked up to 245, meaning he can hold his own down low?

He sounds like a player who could provide the best of both worlds.
And so far, he’s done noting to quell the excitement.

UW coach Lorenzo Romar can’t speak highly enough of what Wolfinger has done in practice so far, saying his work ethic is as great as anyone’s on the team. Romar says he has walked by the practice court long after the official workout has ended to hear the sound of one ball bouncing, looked inside, and found Wolfinger working on his game alone.

Still, like any true freshman, Wolfinger will have some adjustments to make and he figures to ease into a playing role on the team this season.

But word is he has played well enough that there is no doubt that he will play this season instead of redshirting, as had been initially speculated in some quarters. Even before practice had begun, the injury to Mike Jensen all but eliminated the chances he would redshirt this season.

And keep in mind that redshirting simply for developmental purposes isn’t really that common - certainly not as common as in football - especially now that men’s basketball teams are restricted to 13 scholarships.

I could be wrong, but I don’t remember any Husky redshirting simply to work on his game since Todd MacCulloch in 1994, although Ben Devoe (remember him?) redshirted as a walk-on before earning a scholarship.

Also, the Huskies are now recruiting such a higher caliber of player that most will be ready to go from day one.

And then there is the fact that more and more players - including Wolfinger - are coming from prep schools, which in a way serve as redshirt seasons.

For now, expect everyone on the roster except for the injured Zach Johnson to play this season.

October 21, 2005

No respect?

Posted by Bob Condotta at 3:49 PM

OK, so until the first real polls of the season come out, all we have to go on are those published by magazines and Web sites.

I plan soon on writing something on all the magazines, putting them together and forming a consensus.

Until then, thought I’d pass along ESPN.com’s poll, which came out last week. Here's the link - http://sports.espn.go.com/ncb/news/story?id=2191027

It includes three Pac-10 teams in the Top 25 - No. 8 Arizona, No. 12 Stanford and No. 19 UCLA. It doesn’t include the Huskies, though Washington is in the dreaded “others receiving votes’’ which are listed in order, essentially putting Washington at No. 28.

Personally, this seems about right considering UW’s losses to graduation and the fact that the team will have to rely on some players not as well-known nationally as newcomers at some other schools.

That doesn’t mean I think that’s where UW will end up this season, but I’m not sure it’s all that out of whack.

The poll, obviously, lists UW as the fourth-best Pac-10 team and I’m not sure I’d argue much with that, either, heading into the season.

Arizona did lose a lot as well, but they have some big-name guys coming in. And whether you like Wildcats coach Lute Olson or not, you have to admit that he has an amazing track record for rebuilding quickly. That program deserves the benefit of the doubt.

Stanford could have three all-conference players on its roster in Chris Hernandez, Dan Grunfeld and Matt Haryasz, which by itself makes the Cardinal one of the best teams in the Pac-10.

UCLA, meanwhile, has all those freshmen back from last year - Jordan Farmar, Aaron Afflalo, etc. - and seemed to get better as last year went on, finally appearing to buy into Ben Howland’s system.

UCLA will be without Josh Shipp for a while as well as heralded freshman Alfred Aboya, but they will also get back point guard Cedric Bozeman, who could be a real X-factor if Howland is able to finally harness his talent.

As for the Huskies, the national jury will be out a bit until they prove they can survive without Nate Robinson, Will Conroy and Tre Simmons. You have to remember that to many national observers, this team was known as Nate and four other guys most of last year and a lot of people simply see Nate gone and figure on a dropoff.

But what do you think?

October 20, 2005

Johnson on hold

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:57 AM

Several people have asked about redshirt freshman forward Zach Johnson from Sacramento.

It doesn’t appear as Johnson will play anytime soon, if ever.

Johnson arrived at UW having had one surgery on each knee while in high school. He redshirted last year while attempting to recover from the injuries.
But he suffered another knee injury that required surgery in the offseason and currently is unable to play. He still is with the team, helping out during practice any way he can.

If it is determined he can’t recover well enough to play, he could be put on a medical waiver, meaning he could remain in school on scholarship but that the scholarship would not count against the basketball team’s allotment of 13. If that happened that would, obviously, open up another scholarship.

That is something that happens fairly regularly in football, where injuries are much more common. Several examples I can think of are tight end Ben Bandel and offensive lineman Nathan Rhodes, who each saw their careers end early yet remained in school on scholarship without it counting against the football team’s scholarship limit.

October 19, 2005

Wallace rising

Posted by Bob Condotta at 2:48 PM

I had two questions from a reader about freshman forward Artem Wallace:
How has he looked so far, and how much will he play?

Good and definitely are the early answers.

The Huskies are in just their fifth day of practice and Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said he would watch the newcomers for two to three weeks before beginning to make decision regarding roles and playing time. And even after that, things can change drastically.

But Wallace seems certain to have a bigger role on this season's team than expected for two reasons - the injury to Mike Jensen and his own progression.

Jensen will be sidelined until late December with a shoulder injury, which means Wallace will be needed to play meaningful minutes to help fill in on the front line.

But early word also is that Wallace is a little more ready to play than conventional wisdom suggested he might be. Romar marveled at his athleticism when talking with the press last week.

“He’s another physical banger who does not mind mixing it up," Romar said. “We will have more physical guys on the inside than we have had since I’ve been here.’’

Wallace displayed some of his athleticism when he ran the mile in 5 minutes, 7 seconds during a conditioning drill, the best time of anyone on the team.

Wallace said it wasn’t a fluke. He ran track and cross country in high school and said the 5:07 “wasn’t my greatest time.’’

But Romar was nonetheless impressed. “For a guy 6-8 and 240 pounds, that’s moving,’’ Romar said.

October 18, 2005

Baiting Bulldogs

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:04 AM

One reader, Sean, asked what is always a fun question to ponder: What will be Washington’s biggest game of the season?

In the non-conference portion of the season, that’s an easy call - the Dec. 4 home game against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have beaten the Huskies seven straight times - every year since the 1997-98 season when Dan Dickau was playing for the Huskies.

That is a most annoying fact to the Huskies, especially the veteran players who remember the bitter loss of last season, when Gonzaga beat Washington in Spokane a few days after UW had won the Great Alaska Shootout. For seniors like Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones it will, obviously, be the last chance to beat Gonzaga.

For the conference season, picking just one big game is tricky. All the games against UCLA, Arizona and Stanford will be particularly heated, and the Northwest rival games against Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State should all be very competitive, since each should be better this year than last season.

But if forced to choose, I’ll pick two - a Dec. 31 visit by Arizona and a Feb. 11 trip to UCLA.

The Dec. 31 game is UW’s second Pac-10 game of the season and comes between conference home games against Arizona State and Washington State.

If the Huskies can beat Arizona, odds are pretty good they will get off to a 3-0 conference start, important for a young team that is certain to have a few off-nights here and there.

The Feb. 11 game at UCLA is a chance for the Huskies to overcome one of their biggest demons - winning at Pauley Pavilion. The Huskies haven’t won there since the 1986-87 season, losing last year after building an early 21-point lead.

October 17, 2005

Camp competitive

Posted by Bob Condotta at 7:11 PM

I had a chance to talk with Lorenzo Romar for a few minutes today by phone for a story that will appear in Tuesday’s paper on the team’s five incoming freshmen. He was out of town recruiting as the team had the day off after spending all weekend at a retreat at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, which marked the official beginning of practice.

Romar had nothing but good things to say about the weekend.
Romar said the team’s practices were “very intense and competitive. I just really liked our team spirit and our team togetherness.

“But we’ve got a lot to learn as a team. I thought last year at this time, even the year before, there were a lot of things as a team that the guys already knew. This year, it’s going to take a little longer as far as everyone being able to pick things up. You could see that the veterans were already more comfortable, but you would assume that because they’ve been through that before.’’

Romar, however, also had nothing but praise for the job the veterans are doing in helping the new players assimilate.

“They are doing a good job of blending with those guys,’’ he said.

While Romar hopes all the returners will take on leadership roles, there is little doubt about who is at the head of the table -- seniors Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones. The two were elected as co-captains for this season in a vote of teammates.

October 15, 2005

Midnight overratedness

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:30 AM

I'm about to write about Oregon again - the second entry so far in this blog to mention the Ducks - which I realize isn’t a favorite topic of the readers of this site.

But being in Eugene for the football game Saturday, I decided to stop by Oregon's Midnight Madness Friday night to see if the Huskies are missing out by not having one.

They’re not.

It was fun for about five minutes watching a bunch of guys dunk, but as the NBA Slam Dunk Contest has shown, there are only so many ways to slam. If LeBron James can barely make that interesting, college kids don’t really have a chance.

Much of the event was contrived to fit in with the ESPNU broadcast, such as a segment daring fans to come have their hair cut like Dickie V. Other than friends of the participants, everyone seemed pretty bored.

And I wouldn’t fret much about Oregon getting “all that exposure.’’ An Oregon guy I know said, “I think 47 people get that channel.’’

If Lorenzo Romar thinks taking his team away for a three-day retreat is better than hosting a Midnight Madness, I wouldn't argue.

The Ducks finished with a 20-minute scrimmage that was the most interesting part of the night, even if there was less defense played than in an NBA All-Star Game.

Just looking at these guys run around leads to the thought that this could be a scary team.

Most of you know about the returning Ducks - point guard Aaron Brooks, forward Malik Hairston, shooting guard Bryce Taylor. All looked a little more assured, especially Hairston, who hit three three-pointers during the scrimmage, having apparently worked on his long-range shooting in the offseason.

Then there’s Ivan Johnson, the 6-foot-8, 255-pound power forward who just showed up on campus and is eligible to play this season. He was ticketed to go to Cincinnati but changed his mind after Bob Huggins was fired as coach and he looks like he could have a big impact on this team. He also looked like a fan favorite already, showing a little personality during the dunk contest.

But there’s no doubt all that talent also has put the pressure on Oregon coach Ernie Kent. One local columnist wrote Friday that this could be the make-or-break season for him. This should be an NCAA tournament team.

I don’t think any differently after getting a cursory look at the Ducks myself.

THALO GREEN SIGHTING

Walking around Eugene Friday night I saw an unmistakable sight heading my way - former Washington forward Thalo Green, a key member of the Bob Bender teams that made two NCAA appearances in the late 1990s.

Green said he was in town to watch the UW football team play the Ducks, taking a three-month break from playing professionally in Australia.

Yes, his hair still looked long and he said he was having a great time in Australia.

October 14, 2005

Brockman ready to go

Posted by Bob Condotta at 9:30 AM

What figures to be the hottest topic of UW's early season practices will be monitoring the progress of Jon Brockman, the forward from Snohomish High who is the crown jewel of Washington's five-man incoming freshman class.

What Husky coaches like about him the most is his motor - the fact that he never lets up in drills, scrimmages or games.

And he can't wait to get this season started.

I was talking with him the other day and he mentioned how he hasn't played in an organized game since the state tournament last March, which he thinks is the longest drought since he began playing basketball seriously.

"Growing up, you play hundreds of basketball games every year,'' he said, pointing out that not only is there the high school season, but summer leagues and AAU tournaments and the like. "You play hundreds of games every summer, you play in the fall and the spring. You are always playing.

"When you commit to a college, you finish your high school season and from that time in the spring when you finish your games all the way to now, you haven't played in any games.''

That doesn't mean he's just been sitting around. Brockman and the rest of the Huskies have diligently attended off-season workouts, taking part in pickup games, and done a few organized drills as allowed by the NCAA since school started late last month.

"But you can only do so much of that until you start looking forward to beating up on someone else,'' he said.

He won't really get that opportunity until Nov. 6, when UW opens with an exhibition game against Simon Fraser.

But for now, starting practice is good enough.

"It's a step in the right direction,'' he said.

Brockman's profile on the official Huskies site.

October 13, 2005

Huskies retreat to Olympia

Posted by Bob Condotta at 11:05 AM

The Huskies begin practice Friday with a three-day retreat at The Evergreen State College in Olympia. Those practices are closed, however, so we won't have any reports on them. They're in seclusion for bonding and to pull together before their public debut. But watch for stories and notes on practice beginning next week here and in the Times' Sports section.

For now, here are links to stories on two of Washington's chief rivals that I found interesting this morning -- previews of Oregon and Oregon State from the Eugene Register-Guard. Included are schedules and rosters for those two teams.

There are two new names on OSU's roster this season who were once linked to UW - forward Jack McGillis and guard Wesley Washington. McGillis is the player who had decided to walk on at Washington last spring with the hope of getting a scholarship before he was then lured to Oregon State with the promise of an immediate scholarship. He signed with OSU in late May.

Wesley Washington, from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., was reported to have committed to UW in the fall of 2003 before that fell through and he ended up at Oregon State.

Eugene Register-Guard: Oregon Preview | Oregon State preview

October 12, 2005

Countdown to tipoff

Posted by Bob Condotta at 7:06 PM

With the fervor for college basketball, specifically with the Washington men at an all-time high, we thought we’d try something new this year — a season-long web log devoted to Husky hoops and all that surrounds it.

This is in addition to our usual sports coverage in the pages of The Seattle Times, a sort of bonus. We've found there can never be enough of a good thing, so let this serve as another place to whet your appetite for Husky hoops.

What we hope to do here is give you information that for whatever reason doesn’t fit in the paper, or simply explores further and in greater detail what is in the paper. We'll gather notes, quotes, analysis and opinion that can’t be found elsewhere.

What we also plan is some general discussions about college basketball as it relates to the Huskies -- maybe point you to some interesting stories and items about UW opponents, or give you updates on Husky recruits, or talk about the Pac-10.

Hopefully, you will also participate. This will be the perfect place to get answers to your questions about UW basketball. Maybe you have a comment on a story we’ve done, or want to know more about a topic we’ve addressed. This will be the place for that.

And here’s just a little about your tour guide. I’ve been following Pac-10 basketball for more than 30 years, having grown up in Richland in the 1970s when the Bombers ruled the state. As a journalist, I’ve worked at a variety of papers on the West Coast covering college basketball, primarily the Pac-10, and I’ve covered Washington off-and-on since 1994. Yes, I even remember the likes of Andy Roberson and David Hawken.

So welcome aboard our new Husky hoops blog, and remember that your comments and suggestions are always welcome.

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