Not so-average Joel

With all the hype centering around the 2005 recruiting class, it's easy to forget that the Husky men's basketball team will have three new players on scholarship this season. Of the three, Joel Smith is the lone member of the class who will get a chance to play.

The others will each redshirt; Ryan Appleby, a transfer from the University of Florida, will practice with the team but be forced to sit out for a year per NCAA rules, and Zach Johnson, a center from Sacramento, Calif., will spend the season recovering from surgeries on both knees.

Smith fits the mold of the type of player Husky coach Lorenzo Romar covets. Standing somewhere between 6-foot-4 and 6-5, the personable wing player can help the Hardwood Huskies in a number of ways.

"Joel is a very athletic guy that is kind of an energy guy for us," said the Husky coach.

"I'm a get-out-and-run type of player, a slasher, an energy guy," Smith told "That's how I think of myself."

For a team that prides itself on playing the length of the court with a group of guys that challenges opponents to "outscore us if you can," Smith's style is a perfect fit. It was that fast-paced basketball that drew Smith to the Huskies from Brewster Prep Academy in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. But that wasn't all that brought him to Montlake.

Smith was born and raised in Lompoc, California, the same hometown of Washington's legendary running back Napoleon Kaufman, but after his sophomore year of high school he went to Brewster to straighten out his life and to find direction. As a junior out east, he drew recruiting attention from a number of universities, but his poor grades scared most suitors away.

Most… but not the University of Washington.

"Coach (Cameron) Dollar was the one who had seen me, and he referred me to coach Romar," said Smith. ‘I had to improve on my schooling a lot before I could qualify to play in college, and coach Dollar and coach Romar had confidence in me that I'd get my work done in order to come (to Washington). That's a big reason why I chose to come here. They are good people."

Smith lived up to his end of the bargain at Brewster, a school with only 300 students. Wearing a blazer, shirt and tie to school each day, he improved his grades well enough to qualify for college.

"When your grades aren't up to par, a lot of schools look away," said Smith. "But coach Dollar and coach Romar saw the potential I had and felt that I was going to be able to do all that."

Now on campus and excited to play for the team he excitedly watched roll into the Big Dance last March, the smooth-shooting left-hander feels he has fit in well during practices thus far.

Looking ahead towards the start of the season, he says he just wants to play.

"I'll play wherever I'm needed," said Smith, unwilling to be pegged into any one position on the court. "I'll get the playing time I deserve."

Romar is excited about what the freshman brings to the court. Being an impact player as a freshman is never easy, but the Husky coach says Smith will be given every chance to earn quality minutes this season.

"As we told Joel when we recruited him, it's up to him," said Romar. "If he proves that he should be in there ahead of some guys, he'll get the time."

With Tre Simmons suspended for the first two games of the season, don't be surprised if Smith gets a chance to make an impression early this season.

How will he fare?

One need not look far in the past to see what happens when Smith gets a chance.

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