Youth Movement Begins New Era In UW Hoops
Oct. 13, 2006
The Huskies, coming off an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance that wasseconds from something magical, begin 'a new era, a changing ofthe guard,' Romar said, with a preseason basketball practice lateFriday night that will be open to the public.
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Last season, Washington welcomed back senior starters BrandonRoy, Bobby Jones, Jamaal Williams and, eventually, injured one-timestarter Mike Jensen. They led the Huskies to a 26-7 record -- andthe Sweet 16 -- before an overtime loss to top-seeded Connecticut.
Replacing them will be what one scouting service has rated thenation's third-best freshman class, led by Washington state highschool player of the year Spencer Hawes -- the most notable of thepreseason injuries.
Nine of the 13 players on the roster are either freshmen orsophomores.
'This is the youngest team I've ever coached,' Romar said.'We are going to have to get real old, real quick.'
The aches and alterations already have the fun-on-the-runHuskies in an odd mode: Slow.
'It's going to be slower, because you don't have the fullcomplement of players from your team,' Romar said of progress fromthe first weeks of practice, prior to a Nov. 3 exhibition againstSaint Martin's and the Nov. 12 opener against Pepperdine.
Hawes, the 7-foot would-be phenom from Seattle Prep, hadarthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Wednesday.
He said Thursday that doctors told him the removal of a particlein the knee was a success. They also told Hawes he could beginriding an exercise bike on Friday and that he may be able to beginrunning in two weeks.
'When they said that, that left me pretty optimistic,' Hawessaid, adding he expects to practice well before the opener.
Junior Joel Smith and redshirt freshman Joe Wolfinger are outwith stress fractures, Wolfinger likely for the entire season.Brandon Burmeister, one of only two Husky seniors, has a footinjury. And Hans Gasser is recovering from a shoulder separationsuffered during the summer, though he is expected to practiceFriday.
Romar downplayed the injuries, saying some of the ailing will beback within a couple of weeks. But Brockman, a heralded high schoolstar from Snohomish, Wash., went through his first month ofpracticing Romar's system 12 months ago. He said those absent willbe missing a key stretch.
'The first month is really important because it's the time toperfect everything you are going to do in the season, without thegames going on,' Brockman said. 'And the conditioning is going tobe hard this time of year, because conditioning is a big part ofwhat we do.'
Yet it's not as if Romar will be cobbling together an intramuralteam from the campus playgrounds to practice these first weeks.
Point guard Justin Dentmon is back following a debut season inwhich he started all but one game. He made some crucial mistakes --including ones that cost his team a win at Stanford -- but also madebeyond-his-years plays late in huge wins such as at home againstArizona.
Ryan Appleby returns following a transfer season in which theStanwood, Wash., native made a team-best 42 percent of his 3-pointshots and was the Pac-10 newcomer of the year while coming off thebench. He may have that role again this season.
Beyond Hawes, the freshmen include forward Quincy Pondexter,rated among the nation's top 30 recruits. Brockman calls theFresno, Calif., native an 'extraordinary athlete.' Since June,the 6-foot-6 Pondexter has added 20 pounds to reach 212 -- andvaguely resemble the rugged, departed Williams, a fellow front-lineforce.
'Eating,' the muscular Pondexter said when asked how he addedthe pounds.
Adrian Oliver has arrived from Modesto, Calif., to precociouslydeclare himself as a candidate for a starting shooting guard spot.
Oliver also said he has plans of jumping over as many as threepeople in Friday night's dunk contest.