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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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March 31, 2006

Looking ahead to next season

Posted by Bob Condotta at 3:01 PM

It's finally time to try to answer the No. 2 question everyone had after the UConn loss — No. 1, of course, being "how the heck could the officials miss all those calls?''

Running a close second to that query has been "Who's going to start next year?''

First off, I'll say that getting a definitive answer to that is impossible right now. No coach I know would ever answer that seven months before practice starts, and Lorenzo Romar is even more evasive when it comes to that sort of question.

His theory, mirroring that of just about every other coach, is that players have to fight for their jobs all the time to keep competition at its most keen.

"The way we approach things is the first day of practice, everything is up for grabs,'' Romar said when I talked to him after the UConn game. "No one has been designated spots. We never tell a recruit he's going to start for us. He has to fight for it.''

Romar, though, sounds less concerned with who starts than determining what kind of team this will be in style and temperament.

The team's identity the last few years has been set — quick, athletic, scrappy, if undersized — with the leaders also well defined (Brandon Roy, Bobby Jones this year, for instance).

"It's going to be life after those seniors,'' Romar said. "That's a whole different thing. Guys are going to look around and wonder 'well, who's the go-to guy? Who's going to score? Who's going to do this? Who's going to do that?' Guys are going to have to develop that identity. We had it from day one this year.''

Still, I think three starting spots are set — returners Justin Dentmon at point guard and Jon Brockman at power forward, and incoming freshman Spencer Hawes at center.

That Hawes is more of a true center than anything UW has had in a while, however, will give a different look to everything.

I think incoming freshman Quincy Pondexter has a good chance to start at the three spot. He's got size (6-7, 220), is a good all-around scorer (26.5 points this year) but needs work on his outside shot.

The shooting guard spot is a toss-up between Ryan Appleby, Joel Smith, Harvey Perry and incoming frosh Adrian Oliver. I think Appleby or Oliver probably has the best shot at starting but Smith seems to realize he had something of a lost year — he admittedly was a little out of shape when practice began and didn't show the defensive intensity coaches wanted at the start, which is why his playing time was so sporadic this year. And I've heard nothing from the coaches to indicate anything other than that they think Perry will be a big contributor as long as he can stay healthy.

Phil Nelson will also be in the mix, though my impression is that he's the one freshman who won't be expected to take on a big role immediately. If he does, great. But I think his defense and rebounding need some work before he becomes a regular, though his shooting ability will likely get him on the floor in some capacity (though a redshirt season isn't out of the question).

Oliver is a prototype combo guard who can handle the ball and score, and remember that Romar likes his guards to be versatile — he doesn't want to pigeonhole them into roles — so he'd had no trouble starting two guys who might each be deemed by observers as point guards. It's what he did with Will Conroy and Nate Robinson, each of whom had the peg as "point guard'' entering college.

But there are a lot of possible combinations and the first few weeks of practice will be as interesting as they have been in a few years as coaches begin to see exactly what they have.

As for the other players up front, I think both Artem Wallace and Joe Wolfinger will work their way into major minutes — they'll have to, based on the fact there really isn't anyone else. (I'm not sure Hans Gasser's role will change a whole lot).

Wolfinger is a real workhorse — I walked through Hec Ed about 6:30 p.m. Thursday on my way back to the press room from football practice and Wolfinger was shooting by himself in an otherwise empty arena — and by all accounts improved a lot during his redshirt year.

Wallace didn't play much this season but impressed early with his athleticism. But it was probably always a bit unrealistic to expect him to make the jump from Toledo High School to Pac-10 ball without a few bumps in the road.

I don't think it's completely meaningless, however, that he hit 15 of the 26 shots he took this year (a 57.7 percent that was the best on the team) and grabbed 35 rebounds in 144 minutes — a ratio of one for every four minutes he was on the floor (or, obviously, 10 per 40 minutes).

But don't expect anything to be set in stone. I imagine this could be a lineup that changes several times even once the season begins, something UW hasn't had to deal with much the last few years.

"That's the challenge of sustaining a program,'' Romar said. "You hope that your system allows you to plug in new guys and you pick up where the other guys left off. Hopefully the next wave of guys can step up.''

NOTES

• Had a question from an editor here about how Pondexter's high school team — San Joaquin Memorial of Fresno, Calif. — could lose if it also included twin 7-footers Brook and Robin Lopez of Stanford. Well, it didn't lose much, going 33-4 for the season.

Here's the story on how San Joaquin lost in the California state playoffs.

Sounds like the 7-footer for Horizon High, Jeff Withy, is one to remember. Horizon went on to win the state title.

• Had a few questions on scheduling. Here's what I know. LSU is coming here to play UW just before Christmas. UW will play at Gonzaga a week or so earlier. UW is still looking for a marquee foe to play on the road, with the promise of a return game in the 2007-08 season. But nothing is set and Washington's success is making it harder to find a team willing to come out here. Also, teams from far away want to play two games in the area if they are going to make the trip out here and there aren't a lot of options, which is also hindering the process.

The other six allowed non-conference games won't feature a lot of big names. On the docket, as far as I known, are Idaho, Portland State (a reunion with former assistant Ken Bone), Eastern Washington (another look at Rodney Stuckey) and possibly Montana.

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