Husky Basketball on it's way back

I'd like to start by saying that I am a loyal Husky Basketball Fan. Since Steve Hawes was a sophomore, George Irvine was a senior, Rafael Stone was the point guard, and Louie Nelson was on the Husky Pups.

I saw Charles Dudley the next year, with Hawes, Nelson and a variety of other young players team lose to UCLA when a last second scoop shot in the key by Nelson missed it's mark. UCLA was the only team that went to any tournament, including the NIT.

The Bruins were practically the only team that went to the tournament for about 15 years, or so it seemed. By the way, the coach for those two years that my dad took me to every home game was Tex Winter, famed basketball mind with the Bulls, throughout their reign.

I followed the team for many years through the Harshman years, for the most part good times. I saw some great players and teams, even when I lived in New York City and Los Angeles, for most of the time from '80 to '92. Some of the highlights were such great players like James Edwards, Detlef Shrempf, Reggie Rogers, Clarence Ramsey, Chris Welp, Lorenzo Romar, Lars Hansen, Ray Price and many others. Many excellent teams came from this era. Lots of role players and over achievers, brought about some pretty amazing upsets and fantastic moments throughout.

When Marv left I was very sad, but I rooted faithfully throughout the lean years of Andy Russo and Lynn Nance. I saw the short-lived Pac-10 tournament at Pauley Pavilion in '86 in Welp's senior year, when the Huskies lost to UCLA in the championship game. I always enjoyed the team, with guys like Eldridge Recasner, Rich Manning, Mark Pope (for two years), putting on some pretty incredible shows, with some decent, but very undermanned teams.

When Bob Bender first came and brought in such great recruiting the first year, it was very exciting. Todd MacCollough, became the best center in my relatively long attention span, including James Edwards, a close second, Steve Hawes 3rd. I've heard people talk about Houbregs, Doug Smart, Bruno Boin and other amazing big men from the previous eras, but from my perch, Todd was the best. Not the most athletic, best shooter, or best rebounder, but definitely the most devastating presence when he had the ball down low.

Mark Sanford was a great forward, who made a big mistake by coming out early, but was a real top talent on the court at Hec-Ed. After that, Jason Hartman and Roberto Bergerson had strong careers elsewhere, and could have brought some pretty big success to the UW had they stayed.

When you combine them with Donald Watts, Pat Femerling, Deon Luton, Dan Dickau etc . . . Who knows how good the UW would have been in '98 when they went to the sweet 16. "What ifs" like these, and the biggest one that never really was, Jason Terry, have plagued this team in recent years. Doug Wrenn was one of those that have come to be a surprise turnaround.

That leads us to the present. My feeling is that the Dawgs are one player away from being a bubble team. That player was Mike Jensen. Though he didn't look like a power forward in his rhythm, he is one in a big way, physically and on a skill level. As a freshman, after not playing for a year, he looked like a Pac-10 power forward on the court, with occasional flashes of brilliance. Without him they are a much easier team to prepare for.

I still think the Dawgs can have a good year and make the NIT. That would be an accomplishment, and not a given. The one thing that could affect the outcome is Charles Fredrick. I've heard from those close to the coaching staff that he is a tremendous on the ball defender, perhaps the best on the team, as a freshman. If he and Curtis Allen, with Conroy, can step up their defensive presence, what we saw in the first half against UCLA might become regular everyday stuff. Errol Knight is a great player also. With Brandon Roy, Wrenn, Knight, Barnard and Massingale, next year Bender will have perhaps the most talent and depth at the two and three positions he's ever had.

With Curtis, Fredrick, and Conroy we have terrific depth and talent at point guard. At four and five, the big question is center. If we get a center to compliment Marlon Shelton next year, along with Jensen, Anthony Washington, and Jeff Day, we have some excellent depth and experience there. It is not as strong as the early 80's starting line-up of Detlef Shrempf, Paul Fortier, and Christian Welp, or Harshman's bruising lineup of Edwards, Hansen, and Pounds, but Bender's group appears deeper than any other and as good as any other.

Another interesting development of this year is seeing Wrenn at 4. It could make for some interesting line-ups in the future, with Errol at the three, and Roy at the two. That would probably be the most athletic line-up in Husky B-Ball History. You have to go back to Clarence Ramsey, Sanford and Detlef (not necessarily know for his athleticism) to find anywhere close to the combination of talent and athleticism that either of these three bring to the table. In my next article I will go down the list of all the positions 1-5 and rate the top 5.

I don't think I'm out of line to say that from this team we could be looking at two of the best 5 point guards since Stone, three of the best ten wing players, hopefully from which will develop one of the best twos (although I really have high hopes for Massingale), and the deepest most talented 4-5 post players as a group. Another big center, hopefully the best one ever to come to UW, could make this era eclipse any other in my 32 years of crazed fandom. Without one next years class would actually be OK, if they were to sign a great shooting two like Roy Smiley.

I feel that the criticism of Bender and his staff is ridiculous. He's brought in great talent and will, if supported, bring us to very the top of the best conference in the NCAA. At least we can go to the tournament if we finish second.

Best Wishes,
Jim Basnight for Dawgman.com

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