World Vision Classic Preview

University of Washington basketball is back, and the season will kick off Saturday with the World Vision Classic at Alaska Airlines Arena. In the three day, round-robin tournament, the Huskies will compete against the Georgia State Panthers, Florida Atlantic Owls and Portland Pilots.

Washington will open up the tournament and season against the Panthers on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The Panthers, who are coming off a 12-19 season, are led by head coach Ron Hunter. Although he is in his first season with the program, Hunter is far from an inexperienced coach, having coached for 17 years at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), where he took the program from the NAIA to the NCAA and an NCAA tournament appearance.

As for the players, Eric Buckner is the senior leader for the Panthers. Last year, the 6-foot-7 forward averaged a team-high 9.4 points per game on 55 percent shooting. He also tallied 5.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Freshman Tony Kimbro Jr. from Kentucky was offered by Oklahoma State and Virginia Tech last year. If he is able to go (he missed their last exhibition game due to an injury), Kimbro is described by Georgia State as a player who is strong and explosive and a scorer who can put it on the floor and get to the rim or hit a mid-range shot.

In total, the Panthers return their top four scorers and seven of their top eight.

This will be the first matchup ever between the two schools.

On Sunday, it will be Florida Atlantic's turn. The game is scheduled for a 5 p.m. tip time.

Junior Greg Gantt leads Mike Jarvis' squad from the shooting guard spot, where he averaged 14 points a game last season on 46 percent shooting. If Jarvis' name sounds familiar, it should; he's well-known for his coaching stints at Boston University, George Washington, and especially St. John's. His 1999 team made it to the NCAA Elite Eight.

Raymond Taylor also returns from the Owls team that went 21-11 and made a NIT appearance last season. He averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals as the starting point guard for that team. The junior is listed at 5-foot-6 and features water bug-type quickness. The Owls' roster is comprised mostly of upperclassmen and only lost two players from their team last year, one of which was the 12th man off of the bench.

One freshman, Kelvin Penn, is a native of Steilacoom and was a two-time Nisqually League MVP at Steilacoom High School.

All time, UW is 3-0 against the Owls, having beaten them in 2001, 2003 and 2009.

The tournament will end on Monday for the Huskies against Portland at 7 p.m.

Portland, who was also the last team that beat the Huskies in a season opener when it happened on 2008-09, is coming off back-to-back 20 wins seasons, going 20-12, 7-7 last year.

Leading the squad is sharp shooter Nemanja Mitrovic, who averaged 13.6 points a game last year on 46 percent from the field and from 3-point. On average, he would attempt nine shots a game last year, six of which were from behind the arc.

Although most of the starters from last year's team are gone, freshman Kevin Bailey could be one guy to keep an eye on.

Named a top 100 prospect by HoopScoopOnline, Bailey averaged 24.5 points a game last year at East Clovis High School in Clovis, Calif. He is known as a strong catch-and-shoot guard.

Even though Portland stunned Washington in 2008, the Huskies own the all-time record against the Pilots at 12-2, with the other loss coming in 1994.

Portland is also the only game of the week that will be on TV, airing on ROOT Sports.


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