In the Paint with Hakeem Rollins

Nov. 3, 2004

There is less than a week to go until the Washington Men's basketball team hosts Westmont College in an exhibition on Tuesday, Nov. 9. The game will begin at 7:00 p.m. in Bank of America Arena. The season officially begins on Friday, Nov. 19 when the Huskies host Seattle Pacific. That game is scheduled to tip-off at 7:30, also at Bank of America Arena.

In his second year with the team, big things are expected from Husky big man, Hakeem Rollins. The senior transfer from Mesa Junior College (Mesa, Ariz.) averaged 5.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest a year ago. He also led the team in blocked shots with 38 on the season, 21 more than the next highest total for the Huskies. What do you need to work on the most still before the season starts?

Hakeem Rollins: 'We still have a lot of stuff to go through and a lot of stuff to learn. I've had a year of it, but still, I want to make sure that everything is perfect. You can never really get tired of doing that.'

GH: What does the team still need to work on before the season starts?

HR: 'We still have to iron out a few things on offense to make it look smoother. Sometimes we get a little bit out of sync, a little disjointed. Also, defensively, we need to clean up our rotations, basic stuff. We want to make sure we have it perfect so that when the season comes, the games are a lot easier then the practices.'

GH: What are you most looking forward to most this season?

HR: 'Being able to start the year at something like the Great Alaska Shootout is something you look at when you're growing up and wish that you could play in it. It looked like so much fun. You have some of the elite teams in the country playing in those and you get a chance to play in that yourself to kickoff the season, that's a once in a lifetime type of thing.'

GH: What is your reaction to the Huskies being ranked in the polls to start the season?

HR: I'm just happy to be ranked. That's a totally new experience for me. Considering where this program has been and to now be considered for a ranking, that's definitely a huge turnaround.'

GH: What will your role on the team be this season?

HR: 'Hopefully I will be in the role that I fulfilled last year, but improve on it. Whatever I did last year, I want to get better at it.'

GH: What did you work on to improve your game in the off-season?

HR: 'I definitely worked on my strength and conditioning. You have to make sure that you're in condition and the strength aspect was a big part of it. I tried to work hard in the weight room this summer and I think it paid off. I ended up putting on about 15 pounds.'

GH: Who is going to be the surprise player this season for the Huskies?

HR: 'It's tough to say. Everybody has improved their game and stepped it up a little bit. I'm not sure who the breakout performer is going to be, but I think that everybody is going to fill the roles that they did last year. The new guys aren't a surprise to me because I saw Jamaal (Williams) play in practice last year, so I know what he's capable of and I've played with Joel (Smith) a lot now, so I know what he can do also. We'll have to get out there and see what develops and changes.'

GH: What are the differences between this year's team and last year's team?

HR: 'With the additions of Joel (Smith) and Jamaal (Williams), I think this team is even more athletic and quick than we were last year. Not only that, but everybody has another year of experience and now a pretty good force of the team are juniors and seniors. We're more mature, more athletic, and a little bit more explosive.'

GH: Will having a year of playing at UW under your belt help your game this season?

HR: 'Definitely. Last year I went through periods where I said, `Am I doing this right?' `Should I be here?' `What's the competition like?' This year I don't have all that. I know what to expect and I have an idea what the other teams are like. Now I'm able to focus on playing and not worry about all the other cerebral stuff.'