Romar expects 'Showtime' from Lonzo Ball

Dawgman.com spoke Friday with Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar, and he talked about not just the matchup between UW and UCLA Saturday night at Alaska Airlines Arena, but also about the anticipated matchup between Markelle Fultz and UCLA's Lonzo Ball.

On how Markelle Fultz will handle the spectacle of facing another projected top-5 pick in UCLA’s Lonzo Ball - “First of all, I don’t think it will be a distraction. Secondly I think he’ll handle it the same way he’s handled everything else. From Day 1 of Markelle Fultz coming to Washington, there’s been a lot of talk about the NBA, a lot of talk about him as an individual, and he just has not approached it that way. He never came in with a sense of entitlement. He never came in with this, ‘I’m the man, you guys act like it, and worship me’ attitude. He’s just never done that. So I don’t see why it’s going to be any different. This isn’t the first time Markelle Fultz has been in a game where there’s a player or players he’s playing against that were really high level basketball players. He’s been down this road. He’ll be concerned about leading his team.”

On the differences between Ball and Fultz - “They are a lot different players. Markelle, his role on this team, he not only assists but he scores a lot more. But they both do a lot to help their teams. Not just scoring, not just passing. They both rebound, they’re both really active, get their hands on balls, get steals, that type of thing.”

On the impact Ball has had on UCLA’s offense - “The last time I saw something like this was Magic Johnson with the Lakers. They had players. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was on the team. They had some other players. They get Magic Johnson and within a year, it’s Showtime. And guys are passing the ball and chest-bumping, and that’s what Lonzo Ball has brought to that team, to me. In one year, it’s just changed. You look at – the ball does not stick in one person’s hand for a very long time, and I think he has a lot to do with that.”

How difficult will it be to defend UCLA? - “Extremely difficult. You’re picking your poison the entire time. We told our team, Isaac Hamilton makes nine 3s in a game and goes for 33 points. In an entirely separate game, Bryce Alford goes for 37 and he makes nine 3s. In their last game, T.J. Leaf goes for 32. I don’t know how many teams in the country have three guys that – I’m not talking about potential – but have actually scored over 30 points in a game in the same season on different nights. That explains a lot right there. Then when you throw in Aaron Holiday, who is extremely aggressive, and then the way Thomas Welsh shoots the basketball, you’re talking about a team that has weapons in every position that can make shots and make plays. There’s no secret to why they’re averaging over 90 points a game.”

Do you try to take the air out of the ball, then, even though that’s not what you guys like to do? - “I think you have to make sure … I wouldn’t describe it as taking the air out of the ball, but you just can’t come down and experiment and say, ‘how about if I try this shot and see what happens.’ You have to be very calculated in what shots you’re taking, because this is a perfect example of a game where bad offense will contribute, certainly, to bad defense. You get those guys to where they don’t have to guard you at all and they just keep coming back and they’re in a rhythm, there can be problems.”

How has Fultz handled coming here to try to revive the program and then losing so many games? - “Oh, man. Better than I would have at that age. He hasn’t had an opportunity to work on this. There was no seminar to prepare him for this. But I think he’s handled it extremely well. At his age, extremely well.”

On how Fultz has approached NBA speculation - “He’s been very good at just kind of taking it as it goes and has not made that a priority in what he’s talking about and how he views things. He’ll evaluate it at the end of the year.”

Do you remember an individual matchup like this one at UW? - “It wasn’t an individual matchup, but when you talk about two players … Isaiah (Thomas) was young then, but James Harden and Isaiah Thomas. Interesting how that’s going on now in the NBA. When Isaiah was young and James Harden was here – they were both young, actually – but those were two big-time players. Probably the Washington Huskies with Brandon Roy and Gonzaga with Adam Morrison, those were probably the closest.”

How did the team respond after the loss? - “Yesterday was a tough day. Emotionally I could just tell we were spent. That USC game, guys played well enough for a long time to win the game and SC did a good job of pulling it out. The bottom dropped out. Yesterday was tougher. I would imagine we’ll be a lot better today.”

Is UCLA a game, like Arizona or Gonzaga, that you don’t have to worry about energy or the team being up for that game? - “I would think that would be the case. Guys know for us, every game is a big game and a quality opponent, lots been made about UCLA this year. Guys want to play against the best.”

What will you work on today? - “Just more talking about putting things into perspective and where we are right now. Probably just helping with the realization of certain things, as opposed to exactly what we’re going to work on in one day. So perspective is going to be very important.”

How important was it to get a quality first half against USC knowing the first half struggles in recent games? - “Very important. I thought our guys did a good job coming out, being ready to play and sustaining that for a long period of time. It was very important. What happened at Arizona, it’s slowly…even though we don’t have much season left, there’s a certain feel that guys can see, we’re making improvements. But you won’t really feel good until you come out on top in the midst of the improvements.”

Do you get the sense they can beat a team like UCLA? - “I think we believe it, but until you’ve done it consistently over a couple of times the doubt can creep in. Even when there’s not doubt, just remembering how we passed the ball seven times before we took a shot when we won that last close game…when we got six consecutive stops down the stretch…how we went 9-11, 10-10 from the foul line down the stretch…that’s how we won that game - we haven’t had that to draw from yet. Even with the belief, we’ve got to get a couple things done for us to totally believe…I don’t care what this position looks like, we’re going to get this done. We’ve done it before.”

Will this game be decided on offense or defense? - “If we don’t get stops, it won’t look good for us. We must get stops. We don’t have to force them to shoot 25 percent or anything like that but we’ve got to be able to contest their shots and we’ve got to make it hard on them. We’ve got to try and make them work to get good shots. We’re going to have to do that.”

Any similarities between this UCLA team and the ’95 UCLA team? - “The tempo, and the versatility - I would say. Versatility would be the main thing. There were some similarities early where I think Kentucky was number one and at that time we were three and we beat Kentucky in preseason, then we were number one. And then the opener on the road at Oregon. We lost that game. So there were some similarities there. Just the up-tempo and the versatility there are the main things.”

Getting any better read on when you’ll get Malik (Dime) back? - “We still have to wait until next week but we’re hopeful within two weeks. We’re hopeful. I didn’t say that two weeks ago, did I? I think within two weeks.”


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