Washington Hoops Preview

Over the next few weeks DevilsDigest.com will endeavor to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of the upcoming 2003-2004 basketball season in the Pacific-10 conference. The third part of this multi-part series looks at the Washington Huskies.

Washington Huskies (Seattle, Washington)
2002-03 Record: 10-17 (5-13)
Postseason: None
Returning Starters: 4
Head Coach: Lorenzo Romar (second season)

Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning Starter(s) in BOLD)

CG: Nate Robinson, 5-8 170 So. (13.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .462 FG% .257 3PT% .719 FT%)
CG: Will Conroy, 6-1 190 Jr. (12.7 ppg, 4.0 apg, .456 FG% .397 3 PT% .757 FT%)
SF: Brandon Roy, 6-5 195 So. (6.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg .500 FG% .486 FT%)
PF: Mike Jensen, 6-8 230 So. (5.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .420 FG% .595 FT%)/
C : Anthony Washington, 6-9 245 So. (4.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, .556 FG% .441 FT%)

Key Returning Reserves:

Curtis Allen, 6-0 170 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 1.9 apg, 1.6 rpg .407 FG% .377 3 PT% .957 FT%)
Bobby Jones, 6-6 200 So. (5.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, .403 FG% .768 FT%)

Key Losses:

Doug Wrenn, (12.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Recruiting Class:

Tre Simmons, 6-5 195 Jr. (Green River CC, Garfield HS, Seattle, Washington)
Hakeem Rollins, 6-8 235 Jr. (Mesa JC, Mesa HS, Mesa, Arizona)
Hans Gasser, 6-10 230 Fr. (Issaquah HS, Issaquah, Washington)

Recruiting Class Grade: C+

Simmons is an impact scorer capable of filling it up from almost anywhere on the court. Twice he went for over 50 points in a game at the junior college level and he averaged 29.8 per contest last season. Problem is, Washington is already deep on the wing and that lessens his value somewhat, as does the fact that he's a two-year recruit facing a transitional season. Rollins is among the best junior college post players on the West Coast and should contribute heavily, and immediately, in a position of need. Gasser played his high school basketball at the 3A level and is considered to be more of a long-term project with a fair amount of upside. He is quite versatile and skilled for his height, with excellent range on his jump shot. Washington missed out on several bigger name recruits in close-fought battles, including the Stewart twins, who both ended up signing with USC.

Team Overview:

In returning to his alma mater last year, Washington head coach Lorenzo Romar implemented an exciting, athletic, up-tempo brand of basketball to a program that has not participated in post-season tournament play since 1999. What else would you expect from a former standout point guard?

A terrific recruiter who first made a name for himself as a UCLA assistant in the mid-1990's under Jim Harrick, Romar went on to successive three-year stints as head coach at Pepperdine and Saint Louis respectively, before being named as Bob Bender's successor in Seattle.

Now, entering only his second season at the helm of the Washington program, Romar's squad has a legitimate chance to make some serious noise in the Pacific-10 Conference. Despite having a relatively young group of players, Romar has no fewer than six players with real experience as starters, and six players who participated as freshmen last season - five of whom saw significant minutes.

The sparkplug in Romar's up-tempo offense is dynamic sophomore guard Nate Robinson, a fiery 5-8 freak of an athlete who made the Pac-10 all-freshmen team last season and led the Huskies in scoring with 13.0 points per outing. A dual-sport recruit who also came to the program as a star football recruit at cornerback, Robinson has now given up football, at least for the time being.

Robinson is sure to be one of the quickest players in the nation this year with the ball in his hands in the open court. More of a scorer than a shooter, Robinson will need to play within himself more consistently and distribute the basketball a little better to the able Husky wings filling the lanes on the break. Having a year under his belt may help him accomplish this feat.

Interestingly, despite his size, Robinson is more of the off-guard on this team once the Huskies settle into their traditional half-court offense. Robinson's running mate, junior Will Conroy led the team in assists last year by almost a two-to-one margin over the next closest player. Conroy is a strong combo guard, with a nice jump shot and a lot of poise, which helps to balance Robinson out. He was the voted the Huskies Most Valuable Player last season in a year where he dramatically improved over his freshman campaign.

Together, this duo makes up one of the better starting backcourts in the conference. However, what makes it even more impressive is the senior leadership of Curtis Allen off the bench, a player who ironically has started more games than any other player on the team in his career. Allen is capable of playing either guard position, though he is perhaps a bit undersized at the shooting guard spot, particularly in certain match-ups with taller, physical off-guards. He's also the team's most prolific long-range shooters, and by a wide margin, and one of the best free throw shooters in the league.

At small forward the team has a variety of options. A three-guard lineup with either sophomore Brandon Roy or junior college transfer Tre Simmons is likely to be the predominant look shown by the Huskies, particularly with the emphasis on running the break offensively. Roy and Simmons are both excellent athletes and scorers who can play, at least offensively, at either wing position. Simmons is perhaps a better long-range shooter, with Roy being more physical. Defensively however, a thee-guard lineup might be a problem, at times, against bigger opponents.

Therefore, Romar will often go with a bigger lineup, which would likely involve sophomore combo-forward Bobby Jones playing small forward. Jones, who started quite a bit as a freshman last year, is a versatile player who likes to rebound, defend and block shots. He plays intelligently and with tremendous poise. He is capable of handling either forward position, though he is going to be somewhat undersized against some of the power forwards in the Pac-10.

Occupying one starting frontcourt position in an offense that frequently utilizes two interchangeable post players is sophomore Mike Jensen, an athletic player who sat out with an injury in his first year at the University before becoming a starter last season as a redshirt freshman. Jensen had a number of terrific games on both ends of the floor last season, but has also struggled at times. He likes to face up and shoot the mid-range jump shot as opposed to banging in the post for his points. Jensen will need to do a much better job on the glass and also defensively in the post this year.

The edge for the other starting frontcourt spot would seemingly go to fellow sophomore Anthony Washington, if he were fully recovered from a foot injury that sidelined him for a handful of games last season. The injury also posed problems for him throughout the summer, requiring surgery. Washington has excellent size and athleticism, a natural shot-blocking instinct and tremendous upside, but he's also relatively raw in the post and untested in critical situations.

First off the bench in the post will likely be junior college transfer Hakeem Rollins, an Honorable Mention All-American last season at Mesa Community College. Rollins is a solid, sturdy post-player who understands his role and plays well within a team concept. He's also relatively versatile, capable of running the floor, and even stepping out and drawing his defender out of the interior.

The Huskies have a solid nine-man rotation with depth at guard and on the wing, allowing the attack-style offense that Romar desires. Defensively, expect the team to show a variety of looks, from match-up zone to aggressive, straight up man-to-man.

Interesting Factoids:

-Lorenzo Romar spent his summer as an assistant to Michigan State coach Tom Izzo for the Pan-American national squad…Senior Curtis Allen is the best returning free throw shooter in the conference, having made 44-46 last year…Allen is also the team's leader in three point shot attempts, hoisting almost twice as many as either Robinson or Conroy…Bobby Jones is the team's leading returning rebounder at 4.1 per game after the departure of Doug Wrenn (5.8) following his professional declaration…As a team the Huskies had nearly 60 more turnovers than assists last season…Bobby Jones was honorable mention all-freshmen last season…The Huskies finished 1-8 on the road in Pac-10 play.

Best Case Scenario:

If Washington's five key freshmen all grow up and substantially jell and improve, in addition to getting a solid contribution from either Anthony Washington or Hakeem Rollins up front, the team could challenge for a top-half finish in the Pacific-10. Defense and rebounding will also need to improve significantly, particularly in the post in order to make this a reasonable possibility. An NCAA-bid is not out of the question should everything fall into place.

Worst Case Scenario:

Should Anthony Washington's foot injury plague him throughout the season and Rollins has a difficult time adjusting quickly to major college basketball, this team will have serious problems in its frontcourt. The Huskies, at times, play undisciplined on the offensive end and fail to take advantage of "golden" opportunities. Perhaps that was simply part of the youth of last year's team, but if not, it could be a long season pushing the team as low as ninth in the league.


It should be more of the same in Seattle, though perhaps "kicked up a notch". The team is older, a little more mature and deeper, particularly on the wing and in the backcourt. Then again, so is the league as a whole, especially through the middle. Forecasting how the league falls in the 3-8 slots is extremely difficult, but we believe that it's unlikely this team will get enough out of its frontcourt to completely break through this season. The Huskies should be a few games better than a season ago, where they finished 5-13 in the Pac-10.

Pac-10 Prediction: 7-11
Postseason Play: NIT

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