Beach's Bits - Senior Night

SEATTLE - It was an emotional night for Husky fans, coaches and players. Not just because Washington's NCAA Tournament chances took a shot to the chin with a 62-60 loss to the USC Torjans Saturday night at Alaska Airlines Arena. They go into the Pac-10 Tournament reeling a bit, losing two of their final three home games of the season.

But for Dawg fans, it was one last opportunity to celebrate the contributions of one of Lorenzo Romar's most successful recruiting classes, and the accomplishments of seniors Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton and Matthew Bryan-Amaning.

Unfortunately, Washington didn't have an answer for the Trojans' super-sized front court and Lilliputian guards, but that's for another story.

The 2007 recruiting class, which also included redshirt junior Darnell Gant, wasn't an especially star-studded one. Bryan-Amaning was rated the 49th best player in the country, but the other three were mostly overlooked until late in that year's recruiting cycle. Rather than gamble again on the volatile blue chips of the class before, Romar reset his priorities, choosing instead to focus on blue collar players with high defensive potential.

"They've been a part of a lot of success, and it's been fun watching each one of them finding their own way in contributing to the program," Romar said before the game.

The strategy worked, providing Romar with four key cogs who wholeheartedly bought into his system and way of doing things. Up-tempo? Without a doubt. Pressure defense? These guys could do that. Make hustle plays and get the crowd going with their energy and enthusiasm? Absolutely.

Hometown favorite Venoy Overton distinguished himself early in his career, emerging as a starter right out of the gate. The fleet-footed defensive standout brought a much-needed boost to a battered UW psyche reeling from the recruiting misses and defections of the previous class. The tough ex-USC commit and Franklin High School star is generally regarded as one of the conference's most intimidating players. He played in over 130 games for the Purple and Gold, continuing the legacy of edge-of-your-seat guards from Seattle's metro area that also includes Nate Robinson and Will Conroy. He's also the current Pac-10 career leader in assists and steals, and ranks third all time in steals at Washington with 176. He brought his brand of Venoyance to Montlake, and will always be a fan favorite because of it.

"I just wanted to go out with a win—to beat these guys and go into the Pac-10 Tournament feeling confident, but hopefully we can be on a run and go from there," Overton said of his last competitive night at Hec Ed.

Justin Holiday was considered a prized recruit mainly because many programs hoped to increase the odds of earning the services of his younger brother, Philadelphia 76er Jrue Holiday. As it turned out, Justin committed to UW, while Jrue decided to stay at home and play for UCLA.

Coach Romar obviously saw more in Holiday than a talented sibling, recognizing the 6-foot-6 swingman's long-term upside. Romar also knew Holiday had the intangibles it took to get there, including a strong work ethic and dedication to team.

"He's has 'winner' written all over him. He's shown why he was good enough on his own," Romar said of Holiday Friday.

Despite an injury-plagued freshman season, Holiday distinguished himself immediately as an outstanding defender and rebounder despite his thin frame. Over time, Holiday developed an offensive repertoire, adding the three-pointer and mid-range jumper to his arsenal. In fact, there isn't much that Holiday hasn't done in his career at Washington. He is a 2010 Pac-10 All Defensive team member who averaged 11.7 points and 5.2 rebounds a game during his senior season.

"He's got a lot of basketball ahead of him," Romar said.

Matthew Bryan-Amaning is one of the more enigmatic individuals to don a Husky uniform in recent memory. The London, England transplant was one of the most physically gifted players to ever enter the program, standing a sculpted 6-foot-9 and 240 pounds. Though erratic throughout his career at UW, MBA ultimately developed into one of the top post players in Pac-10. He'll leave the program ranked second all-time in blocked shots, and ranked amongst the league leaders in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Bryan-Amaning will also be remembered for his amazing dunks, which brought Husky fans to their feet night after night, including the infamous 'Flying Tea Bag' dunk on Stanford's Andrew Zimmerman during last year's Pac-10 Tournament - a highlight that earned repeated showings on ESPN's Top-10 Plays.

"He has developed into a player with more substance than when he came in," Romar said. "He's become an All Conference guy."

All three players leave behind lasting legacies in one form another: Holiday for his suffocating defense and all-around solid contributions; Overton for his physical fearlessness and game-changing energy; Bryan-Amaning for his development, monstrous dunks, and subsequent post-dunk posturing.

Saturday night was a bittersweet night for Husky fans who had one last chance to celebrate the exceptional careers of these great Huskies. In the short term, it'll be tough to overcome the idea that this senior class didn't end on the highest of highs during the regular season, especially considering their pre-season status. Truth be told, they let themselves down, and they'd be the first to tell you so.

But in the long term, they've earned the reputation as being one of Romar's finest classes, a label acquired over time through hard work, diligence, and a commitment to their coach and program. They've won hardware as a result, something that can never be overlooked.


Dawgman.com Top Stories