Romar talks roundball

Dawgman.com spoke Thursday with Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, who commented on the three players signed for the 2004 recruiting class, as well as other hardwood news and notes.

"Well, it's been just as wild," Romar said when asked about life for a head coach once a season is over. You go from your season ending to the final four coaches convention to being out on the road recruiting. I've been out on the road just about every day."

But Romar wouldn't have it any other way, or in any other place. "Oh yeah, tremendously," Lorenzo said when asked if he's still enjoying his time back in the town where he played his college ball. "Even last year, when we didn't win as much, because the support has been unbelievable."

By the numbers of recruits mentioning the Huskies prominently on their own top-5's, Romar has made a quick turnaround from just two years ago. "There's certainly been some interest, but until you get that signature there's nothing that's set in stone," he said.

Let's get to the guys that are set. Forward/Center prospect Zach Johnson from Natomas High School in Sacramento is signed, sealed and delievered to the Dawgs. "He's about 6-8, 6-9, around 250 pounds," Romar said of Johnson. "He combines a lot of strength with a lot of quickness and speed. If he was a football player he would be a like a Reggie White or a Warren Sapp. You watch him run and you go 'Wow'. It's a big plus to watch a guy with that much power can run down the floor like that."

On the flip side, Zach hasn't been able to see much hoops action of late because of knee problems. "He had knee surgery in February and he's going to have surgery on his other knee in May," Lorenzo said. "We've talked to medical people and they've indicated to us that if the rehabilitation process is sound and he's patient that he can come back as good as new."

Johnson's knees aren't the only thing holding him back from enrolling at UW this fall. "He has not qualified yet, so he needs to pass the test," Romar said. "If he doesn't qualify, he can do like what Brandon Roy did, continue to take the test, and join us in January."

The other high school player of the class is Joel Smith, a 6-5 guard from Lompoc, California that's finishing up his prep career at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.

"Joel is a great team guy, first of all," Romar said of Smith. "Great kid, very charismatic person. He just lights up a room. He came to see us unofficially after he signed. He comes in the locker room after the game, and it's like he's on the team, high-fiving everybody. It's like he's known all these guys his whole life, and that's just the kind of how he is. When you meet him, he becomes your friend. And he's an exceptional athlete too.

"We think that he is good enough to play at this level when he comes on campus."

The third signee is a name familiar to fans of Washington high school basketball. Ryan Appleby, formerly of Stanwood High School, is transferring to Montlake from the University of Florida after one year in Gainseville. He will sit out the 2004-2005 season per transfer rules and have three years to play three at UW starting the fall of 2005.

"Ryan is a guy who, first time around, we weren't able to convince to come," Romar said of the 6-3 point guard. "But now he is really excited about coming and that's what we really like. He's a really good student. He understands the point guard position. He can really pass the ball and can really shoot the ball with range. He's a bit thin now, but he works so hard. His work ethic might be his best attribute. He'll continue to get stronger and we think he can really help us."

Rumors are swirling around another name that might be a late addition to the 2004 recruiting class. C.J. Giles, a 6-11 Center/Forward prospect from Rainier Beach High School in Seattle is thinking hard about staying home after deciding not to attend Miami in the wake of the firing of their head coach, Perry Clark.

Giles has not been released by the Hurricanes from his letter at the time this story was published, but he is expected to be released. If a release does occur, C.J. will once again become a recruitable athlete, and the Huskies are expected to be a big favorite for his next official signature, along with Kansas and Cincinnati.

Washington only had three scholarships to give for the 2004 class, so it appears as if they have reached their limit. It's possible Romar could oversign to get Giles, but something else would have to happen to make the numbers work.

Nate Robinson has declared for the NBA draft, and it's a distinct possibility that the sophomore guard may not be available to the Huskies this coming fall. If that happens, or if another player decides to leave the team, a spot opens up. Another possibility is if a current signee doesn't qualify or is offered delayed enrollment.

"That is something that I haven't talked too much about," Romar said when asked about the numbers game. "People make more mention out of that than there needs to be. Those things somehow work themselves out."


Notes:
Coaching switch: Russ Schoene has left the team to work full-time with the chain of Teriyaki restaurants he helped create. "It's hard for Russ, because of his restaurant business, to do both," Romar said about his former assistant coach. "We're hoping to get Jim Shaw, a top assistant at Oklahoma, who helped recruit a final-four team over there. He worked with me at Saint Louis. He's a great basketball mind and recruiter."

A coaching decision could be made as early as next week, with Shaw as the clear-cut leader.

Team update: "Guys are working really hard in the off-season, lifting and doing their individual workouts, and just playing," Romar said. "We're just trying to prepare for next year."

Camp update: Romar's high school basketball camps begin in June, and that's what will occupy the coaching staff's time for the most part until the fall.

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