Click Here for Photos from Spencer Hawes' Press Conference
Nearly one year ago to the day, Lorenzo Romar did the unthinkable. The University of Washington head basketball coach, fresh off a 19-12 campaign in his second season at the helm of the Huskies, was somehow able to persuade Jon Brockman, a top national prospect, to stay in Seattle despite intense pressure from Duke Coach Kryzewski to come to Durham, N.C.
Brockman gave Romar and his staff the credibility they needed and, along with a 29-6 mark this past year and a Sweet 16 appearance, the Huskies have taken advantage.
Spencer Hawes, 6-foot-11 ½ and ranked behind only Greg Oden and Kevin Durant in the Class of 2006, chose Washington over North Carolina at a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
Are you kidding? Romar gets the best of Duke one year – and then beats out North Carolina a year later in another recruiting war.
Sure, Brockman and Hawes are local kids. Brockman played at Snohomish High and Hawes is a senior at Seattle Prep.
But there's no way Bob Bender could have snagged either of these guys. Brockman was a McDonald's All-American who is a Kevin Bookout-type player and Hawes is a lock to play in the nation's most prestigious all-star game in 2006.
"For a young guy like myself, he's a guy you look up to and have unbelievable respect for," Arizona assistant coach Josh Pastner said of Romar. "All you have to do is look at what he's done since he's been at Washington. But beyond that, he's an unbelievable person and it's obvious that kids really like him."
Romar & Co. beat out UConn and Memphis for Pondexter, he got Nelson going head-to-head with Georgia Tech and Oliver picked the Huskies over Kentucky.
"The guy's got such high character and he's got a way of being persistent without coming across as pushy," Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said. "He's a humble guy who's done a great job."
"It speaks to the fact that obviously he's a high-character guy," added Hewitt. "He and his staff have done an excellent job of showing kids that they don't have to go away from home to receive a great college experience."
Romar came to UW, where he was the team's point guard in the late 1970s, after fairly brief stints at Pepperdine and St. Louis. Bender was forced out after a 116-142 mark and the program appeared to be fading.
However, Romar and his staff, which includes Cameron Dollar, Jim Shaw and recent hire Paul Fortier, have built something in Seattle. The Huskies knocked off Arizona three times last season en route to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Romar lost diminutive point guard Nate Robinson to the NBA after last season and he also watched as two other key starters - Tre Simmons and Will Conroy – graduated. However, Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones are back and Brockman could be the impact freshman of the year on any roster.
Hawes, who averaged 16 points per game as a junior at Seattle Prep while deferring to current NBA rookie Martell Webster, will come into Hec Edmundson a year from now as the most high-profile recruit that UW has ever landed on the basketball side. Brockman was big – and Webster was even bigger, but the staff knew full well that Webster had his eyes set on the NBA coming out of high school.
A certain first-round pick if the NBA hadn't implemented a 19-year-old age limit, Hawes will team with Brockman and potentially another 7-footer from the Northwest, Joe Wolfinger, to give the Huskies as formidable a frontline as just about anyone in the country.
Including Duke and North Carolina.