Well, it took a year longer than I expected...but Coach Bender is out. AD Barbara Hedges finally decided to drop the axe on him, something that most people around the Huskies program is always more than willing to do with just about anyone she didn't hire in the 1st Place. She chose Lorenzo Romar, the former Pepperdine & St Louis Head Man...who has long ties to the Pac-10 as a former player at UW, and a top assistant & recruiter at UCLA. He graduated 22 yrs ago from UDub, and he is well regarded as a Pac-10 guy. Most people felt that their wasn't a better replacement than Lorenzo Romar. Hedges even recently made the following statement about her new selection; "First, I will simply tell you that when I hired Lorenzo Romar and I talked to people across the country about Lorenzo, I couldn't find a person that would say an unpleasant word about him. The words that were used were 'honest', a 'person of high integrity' and a 'person that is absolutely a straight arrow and a straight shooter.' That certainly has not changed. That is who Lorenzo Romar is."
Romar has a tough task ahead of him though, as the Huskies have been in a decline for the past 3 years. Their records in that time are the following; 2001-02 (11-18), 2000-01 (10-20), and 1999-00 (10-20). In both 1997 & 1998, this team was an NCAA Tournament Qualifier...so there has been some success in Seattle to say the least. And one thing I know about living in the Northwest for much of my youth is that the fans will come out and support a team if they Win.
Again though, it'll be a challenge. Lets take a quick look at the Huskies' Projected Starters, Reserves, and Incoming Recruiting Class:
Projected Starting Lineup: (Returning starters
PG-Curtis Allen, 6'0, 170 Jr. (12.0 ppg, 4.4 apg)
SG- C.J. Massingale, 6'4, 200 Jr. SG (5.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
SF-Doug Wrenn, 6'8, 220 Jr. (19.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
PF- Jeffrey Day, 6'9, 220 So. PF (2.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
C- Marlon Shelton, 6'10 280 Sr. (Redshirt in 2001-02)
Key Returning Reserves:
C.J. Massingale, 6'4, 200 Jr. SG (5.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Will Conroy, 6'1, 185 So. G (2.5 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.6 apg)
Josh Barnard, 6'5, 205 Sr. SG (5.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.2 apg)
Mike Jensen, 6'9, 220 Fr. (Redshirted after early season injury)
Charles Frederick, PG (limited minutes)
Brandon Roy, 6'5, 195 Fr. SG (Garfield HS, Seattle, WA)
Anthony Washington, 6'9 220 Fr. PF (Garfield HS, Seattle, WA)
Bobby Jones, 6'7 195, Fr. SF (Poly HS, Long Beach, CA)
This team is built around Super-Scorer Doug Wrenn, a do-it-all athletic type who will probably find himself playing in the NBA one of these days. Wrenn was the 2002 Pac-10 Newcomer of the Year Award winner, and for good reason...as he finished 3rd in the Pac-10 in scoring, and in the top 15 in rebounding. He can be a match-up problem for most teams as well, since he combines significant athleticism with a 6'8 frame. Wrenn was truly the only consistent part of the Huskies in 2002.
There were some flashes though from other players, to include Jeffrey Day, Curtis Allen, and C.J Massingale. Massingale came on to have some excellent perfomances, but by averaging just under 6 pts per game...he wasn't nearly consistent enough. Add Jeffrey Day to the same list. Curtis Allen was a consistent PG for the team a year ago, though his downside was his turnover margin.
Starting in the frontcourt to go along with the aforementioned Wrenn & Day, is 6'10 Marlon Shelton...the son of former NBA player Lonnie Shelton. Marlon is trying to come back from an ACL tear a year ago though, but the word is that he'll be close to 90% once the season starts. Even when healthy though, Shelton isn't much of a scorer or rebounder. Romar will have to hope that Frosh Mike Jensen and Anthony Washington will develop into options as the season develops. Washington, who played HS ball with fellow newcomer Brandon Roy, actually signed a 2nd letter of intent with UW recently, as the NCAA Clearinghouse voided his 1st Letter.
The backcourt is really the key to the success this year for the Huskies. And they should have a nice combo, as Massingale & Allen have played together since their days in Tacoma. Super-frosh Brandon Roy is excpected to be a huge contributor too...possibly even starting. That would move Wrenn to the 4 spot, and have Romar going with a 3 guard line-up...using Roy on the wing. Roy is a consensus top-50 National Player, and is one of the early favorites for Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. He also looks nothing like a Freshman, and I think people surrounding the Huskies program will really enjoy watching him play this year. He finally qualified, and that was great news for Romar. Bobby Jones also should find some PT, perhaps spelling Wrenn on the wing...and some people believe that the combo of Roy & Jones should easily out-do what Erroll Knight contributed last year. Stay Tuned.
All in all, this is a pretty solid core...though the frontcourt is definitely lacking depth beyond Wrenn. Still, if Day & Washington contribute, and Roy can give the Huskies a #2 Scoring Option...the Huskies have a shot at really being the surprise team from the Pac-10. I am slotting them 9th, but I believe they have a chance to really break the top 5 if they gel under Romar. They have a team leader in Wrenn, and they have some athleticism with Massingale, Allen, and Roy. They could surprise.
To view more info on the Washington Huskies 2001-02 Men's College Basketball season, please visit www.gohuskies.com.
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