'48' number of choice for Nate

It was something so simple and nearly imperceptible. It's was just a kid's game, afterall. But Nate Robinson attributes a shooting game learned from high school players as one of the key ingredients to Washington's improbable dash toward post-season play.

It's a game called '48', a shooting game played by teams of two. "You shoot at the top of the key," Robinson told Dawgman.com Monday afternoon during the Huskies' press conference. "A three-pointer is worth 2 and if you miss and they tip it in, it's worth a point. The first one to 48 points wins.

So what's the big deal? Guys shoot around all the time, in fact it's pretty common practice. Nate claims the game has a lot to do with how the Huskies go about their business, and also bringing back some of the pure joy the team was lacking during their 0-5 league start.

"I learned it in the summertime when we did all our camps with the high schoolers," Robinson said. "I saw them playing it and we've been doing it ever since the Oregon State game. I think that got everyone focused and brought the kid out of guys. It was a way to show 'em that we're here to have fun, but also here to work hard too."

"We were doing the same thing (during the losing streak), but we weren't doing some things, like shooting after practice - things we do now."

'48' will continue to be in Robinson's post-practice repertoire as 'Nate the Great' and the rest of his Huskies teammates prepare for a Friday-night battle with Alabama-Birmingham in Columbus, Ohio in the first round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The team didn't have to wait long to find out their fate, as they were listed in the very first bracket posted Sunday. For Robinson, his career has nearly come and gone just as quickly, so he's soaking it in while he can.

"It definitely came fast," Nate said. "As some of you guys can remember when you guys were kids, playing in the sandlots - it just comes so fast, but all of it is great. All the great publicity we're getting as a team, everybody's been playing together and enjoying each other's company. With us getting picked in the NCAA tournament, it's just a great feeling for us as a team and we hope to do a lot of damage in the tournament while we're playing.

"As a player, I'm thankful God gave me the talent to be able to play at the D1 level and have a great team, a great supporting cast."

The UAB Blazers present almost a mirror image of the Huskies' team makeup - a deep squad that loves to pressure and run the floor. It's safe to say Nate would rather be playing the Blazers than Washington State, but only because it appeals to his sense of play and what basketball is all about.

"I like playing teams like this because it's going to give us a good idea of what other teams are going to be like," Nate said. And it's just not for the tourney, it's also for next year. I think this team is definitely going to be a good challenge for our team, to see where we're at and to play a team just like us. And if we reach the second round, we may meet a team that doesn't press, and we'll learn from that too. So we can go from a team that plays full-court to a team that doesn't and just plays zone, like a Syracuse. We might run into a totally different environment, playing against different teams.

"They are going to find out that we're just as scrappy as them (UAB), if not more. It's not going to be a cakewalk for either team. It's definitely going to be physical. Guys are going to be diving for balls, scratching ... there are going to be some bumps and bruises, but whichever team wants it more is going to get it. And I think our team definitely wants to win it more than they do."

The '40 minutes of Hell' advertised by Blazers head coach Mike Anderson, learned as an assistant for legendary Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, isn't new to Robinson and his teammates. "We've got to get ready for it," he said. "It's just like our practices. Coach (Romar) makes us pick up full-court. When we've watched them play, they pick it up full-court and play at a high level of intensity. We definitely have to compete with 'em.

"I think we handle it pretty well. In March anything can happen, so we're just looking forward to playing."

The one thing that could take Nate and his teammates out of their comfort zone is the fact that they've never been to 'The Big Dance' before. But they have one thing going for them - every game they've played the past month-and-a-half has been played under tournament-like conditions.

"We've played some of the schools that can make it to the final two - Arizona, Stanford," said Robinson. "Arizona can win it all, Stanford too. And NC State. And we did a good job against all of those teams. We definitely have a good chance of going all the way, just like anybody else.

"It's just like coming to high school for the first time, coming to college for the first time. You never know what to expect. We just have to treat it like another game, but on a different stage. And we're ready. We just have to keep applying pressure, more than we ever have. Now that we're in the NCAA tournament, we have to keep dancing. We just have to keep listening to the music and keep dancing."

Just keep dancing. It's a mantra that will be hollered in gymnasiums from Seattle to Burlington, Vermont over the next few days and for those lucky few - the next few weeks. Robinson is going to do everything in his power to make sure his teammates follow the rallying cry of 'Just keep dancing'.

"Everybody on this team has heart, and that can take us a long ways. Every guy is going to fight to the death. We're here to make some noise, to show the world. I've been telling this team that we were going to get our break and we're going to shock the world. I've been saying it ever since.

"Tre (Simmons) had an assignment, a project for class. He was doing something on Muhammad Ali. And I remember watching Muhammad Ali saying he was going to shock the world. He told everybody and he did it, so that's what I'm telling our guys. We've got to believe it and I think we all believe it now, so that's why we're rolling.

"Every guy on our team is ready to play, they are so pumped up and fired up to play. I think that they are going to bring out their best. They are going to leave everything on the floor and that's what we have to do for us to continue to win. And I think our guys are ready to do that, to lay it down, to give it our all."

And it all starts with '48'.

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