Husky Men's Hoops Report

Huge bags of ice covered <b>Doug Wrenn's</b> knees and lower back. If the pain and stress of two-hour practices, six days a week hurts, imagine Wrenn suffering through all that and then having to be a spectator last year from the sidelines as the UW men's basketball team endured its second straight 10-20 season.

Wrenn, a 6-foot-8 sophomore swingman from Seattle's O'Dea High School, finally will have the opportunity to hit the hardwood this season with a revamped Washington roster. He was forced to sit out a year ago after transferring from Connecticut.

"I just wanna play," said Wrenn, who will be looked to for much of the UW scoring. "I ain't played in a couple of years so I'm excited."

And while nobody has an accurate read of just how much of an impact Wrenn will have, one thing is for certain: The development and chemistry of an athletic group of newcomers in freshmen Erroll Knight, Mike Jensen, Will Conroy, Jeff Day and junior transfer Josh Barnard represent the Huskies' best shot to make it back to the postseason since their 1999 flop in the NCAA tournament to current Minnesota Timberwolf wing Wally Szczerbiak and his supporting Miami of Ohio cast.

And don't forget impact freshman football player Charles Frederick, who has declared that he will switch to the round rock after Washington's impending bowl game. Frederick was consistently ranked in the top 100 for high school basketball prospects. Gone are graduated seniors Will Perkins, Thalo Green, Michael Johnson, Greg Clark and Bryan Brown. And sub-par scholarship players Ben Coffee and DeMarcus Williams transferred to places where they will better fit in.

One of the team's two returning big men, Marlon Shelton, reinjured the ACL of his left knee and should receive a medical redshirt. Incoming freshman Anthony Washington from Garfield, who could have contributed this season with his agile 6-foot-10 frame and impressive summer-league performance, had his letter of intent voided just last month because the NCAA clearinghouse found his core classes did not meet its requirements. His scholarship went to high school teammate Conroy, but Washington says he will accept the UW's scholarship offer as part of next year's recruiting class.

Despite these initial setbacks and the loss of two-thirds of last year's scoring output, a quiet optimism and excitement perseveres. Wrenn and Knight already have bodies built for the next level because of their leaping ability, explosiveness and strength.

"Everyday Erroll does something better, and you quickly realize how special he can be," said Husky coach Bob Bender. "His attitude is probably as great as his talent." Jensen threw down a legendary dunk over current Chicago Bulls rookie Tyson Chandler before their senior year of high school.

With those three playing above the rim by virtue of their tremendous hops, it would be easy to overlook someone who's already there because of his height. At 6-foot-11, David Dixon finally looks very comfortable, conditioned at 270 pounds and ready to realize his potential.

"If David's improved play can continue on this pace, I really think we're going to be big enough to have a balanced attack," Bender said.

The Huskies also return the backcourt of sophomores C.J. Massingale and Curtis Allen, who proved himself on the Pac-10 level as the starting point guard in his first year. Because of his quickness, Allen has the ability to not only make plays, but also distribute to other offensive threats. The athletic newcomers should give Allen more options to work with.

"I love to run, and now I've got wings that can get up," Allen said. "I see dunks in practice that I like seeing on TV, so it's going to be a lot of fun."

Ironically, with so much to prove and showcase to skeptical fans — who only managed to fill the newly remodeled Hec Edmundson Pavilion to capacity once —the Huskies opted not to hold a Midnight Madness this year. Instead, the team packed its bags for a getaway to Mount Vernon to improve an already inherent team chemistry because of all the players' Seattle-area roots.

Inevitably, Washington will go through the growing pains of a young, inexperienced team composed of only two seniors, Dixon and Grant Leep, and the junior Barnard. That, however, is a small price to pay for the talent and athleticism necessary to rebuild the foundation of Husky basketball and do the running instead of getting ran.

As cold as the ice feels on Doug Wrenn's body, plenty of hot nights in Bank Of America Arena, competing against the nation's best teams, should more than light the fire of this new school of Husky basketball.
Marc Matsui is a reporter for the UW Daily. This article is printed with permission.

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