"Things are going great, and they're only getting better
I'm doin' all right, getting good grades
The future's so bright I gotta wear shades
Indeed. Lorenzo Romar, head coach of the Washington Husky basketball program should be getting fitted for a pair of Vuarnets (hey, we're staying with our bad 80's theme) after looking what he's done to overhaul his roster.
And this was after he already knew that all five of his starters were returning for the 2004-05 season.
Depth is something the Huskies will have in spades this season, which opens in earnest tomorrow evening at Bank of America Arena at Hec-Edmundson Pavilion with a visit from the Seattle Pacific Falcons.
Although the Huskies will play the opener without four key players due to disciplinary reasons (Will Conroy, Bobby Jones, Tre Simmons, and Jamaal Williams), they will enter their season loaded.
HUSKIES AT A GLANCE
Last Season: 19-12 (10-6 in the Pac-10)
NCAA Results: 1st round loss, 102-100 to UAB
Key Losses: G Curtis Allen
Key Newcomers: F Joel Smith, F Jamaal Williams
Returning starters: all five
Will Conroy 6-2 senior: Conroy has the heart of a warrior and will not back down from anyone. A tenacious defender, he has improved his playmaking abilities since walking on as a freshman for Bob Bender. He looks to improve on his 142 assists from last season, which ranked him 5th in the conference. He averaged 12.3 points per game, and will play most of the meaningful minutes at point this year.
Nate Robinson 5-8 junior: Nate is quite simply one of the most exciting basketball players in America. He runs on the edge, and looks out of control, but that is when he's at his best. He steals the ball, gets into passing lanes and disrupts teams like crazy. He can also skywalk with the best of ‘em, and can score from anywhere on the floor. His stroke is said to be much improved from a year ago. He's another tenacious defender, and lined up next to Conroy, pose a terrible duo to bring the ball up against for any opposing guard tandem. Robinson averaged 13.2 points per game last season, and will take that up a notch or two.
Brandon Roy 6-6 junior: Roy is the Huskies biggest threat with the basketball. He can score inside or out, and with a rapidly improving jumper, Lorenzo Romar expects a huge season out of Roy. He has added over 15 pounds of muscle since last season so look for him to be a bigger threat inside and on the boards. Roy was the leading rebounder and second in assists last season. He is a very unselfish player, and also plays excellent defense. This will likely be Roy's final season at Washington if he plays up to his potential, which is vast. There is no reason he shouldn't be all-Pac 10 this year. He can also move and play some forward if the Huskies need a quicker player down low.
Tre Simmons 6-6 senior: It took Tre a while to find his rhythm after coming from JC ball, but once he found it, his stroke from three point land was pure butter. He was instant offense from the bench last year once he was moved out of his starting role, and he's accepted his sixth-man job of filling it up from long range and busting zone defenses. Simmons averaged 10.8 points per game and has a quick enough release that defenses can't leave him alone for even a second.
Bobby Jones 6-6 junior: The best defender on the roster as well as the most versatile player. Lorenzo Romar publicly laments that this is a guy they always want to have on the floor somehow. There aren't enough minutes in a game to give to Bobby Jones. He is the heart and soul of the Husky team and inspires those around him. Jones had a career high 22 points against North Carolina State on the road in Raleigh last year. He has a calming presence on the Dawgs when he's on the floor, but he can get out and run the floor better than just about any forward in the league. He is not asked to score in bunches, but his shooting percentage is so good, he doesn't need to take many shots to put up big numbers.
Mike Jensen 6-8 junior: After a terrific second half of 2004, confidence is now soaring for Jensen, who is a big time threat from beyond the arc. His biggest downfalls have been confidence and foul trouble. He has enough size to take over a game in many ways, and can jump out of the gym, but he sometimes will get hesitant and that is when foul trouble can creep in. He and Simmons both have deadly strokes that will break any zone quickly, but Jensen also has the body to power inside the paint. That part of his game will be called upon more this year by Romar in 2005. He usually draws tough defensive assignments on much taller players.
Jamaal Williams 6-5 junior: Washington's first legitimate low post scoring threat in a while, Williams is eligible after sitting out last year per the transfer rules. At New Mexico, Williams poured in just short of 12 points per game, all coming from either inside the paint or at the free throw line. He makes his living inside of 10 feet to the basket, and is adept at either putting it in the hole or drawing a foul. Not the tallest player, Williams uses his thick body and soft hands to do damage against bigger players. It's uncertain how long it will take for the Huskies to integrate Williams' half-court game into their frenetic 90-foot high octane offense.
Joel Smith 6-5 freshman: Smith will remind many Husky fans of Bobby Jones. He is another guy that will get into passing lanes and challenge you. His job will be to be a defensive disrupter in his first collegiate season. Smith gets out and runs the wings perfectly, which makes him a terrific fit in the Husky system. He should find a niche and gain more minutes as the season rolls on.
Hans Gasser 6-10 sophomore: Hans has yet to get his feet wet for the Huskies, but he's added a lot of muscle since arriving on campus last year. He has a soft touch and has range out to the three-point line. He is still learning the speed of the game but he'll certainly play more minutes this year.
Hakeem Rollins 6-7 senior: Rollins is the Huskies' strongest player, bench pressing 400 pounds. He is the best low-post defender on the team and should improve on his 4.1 rebounds per game average from last year, as he now knows his role. Last season it took him a while to find his niche. He had 38 blocked shots last season and is capable of scoring down low off the glass. With the departure of Anthony Washington, Rollins is the only true center the Huskies have on the roster, and always plays defenders that are several inches taller than he.
G Ryan Appleby 6-3 sophomore: Ryan is a lightning-quick point guard with great ball-handling abilities. He thrives in the up-tempo game, which was a big reason why he chose to leave Florida's half-court system for Romar's new Husky hurricane style of play. He'll take over for Will Conroy next season, and will spend this year honing his game while sitting out the required one season per the transfer rules. Appleby also has a sweet stroke from outside, and really just needs to add more muscle, something a year off will help him do.
F Zach Johnson 6-9: Zach had his knees surgically repaired so he won't even see the practice floor for scrimmage time until probably January. He'll spend a redshirt year rehabbing and getting into shape. He is huge, but Romar said that he'd like him to take off some weight to make him move better. If you are looking for a space eater inside, Zach is your guy.
Washington will be picked anywhere from first to third in the league, and will be a target of every school this season. They won't sneak up on anyone, which changes the expectations.
"People say that there are expectations, kind of like they are a bad thing," said Romar in an interview with Sports Washington Magazine earlier this month. "I take it as a compliment, and there should be expectations. I welcome them."
Donald Watts picks the Huskies to win the Pac-10 with Arizona and Stanford being the key challengers.
"Watching the Husky guards and Arizona guards go at it this year will be something," said Watts. "Those match ups will be the games of the year in the Pac-10. I think the up-tempo game that Arizona favors actually will play into the hands of the Huskies, so I give them the edge."
"Stanford has a new coach, but not too much should change under Trent. He'll be running Montgomery's system, with maybe a little more flare."
With a senior leader running the point, a junior do-it-all bundle of TNT at the two guard, a senior sharpshooter coming off of the bench, a bulked up junior swing-man that is lethal in every aspect of the game, a confident 6-8 guy with a pure stroke, a 6-6 junior forward that Romar wishes he could leave on the floor for every situation of every game, and a brand new inside scoring threat, Washington would appear to have it all.
If that gets you excited about this season, look ahead further. Romar and staff just signed the best recruiting class in school history. Seven players deep, including two McDonald's All-Americans. Washington will welcome to campus next year Martell Webster, Jon Brockman, Harvey Perry, Roburt Sallie, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace, and the newly added Joe Wolfinger. It rates as high as #3 in the country as far as recruiting classes go.
The future is so bright, Lorenzo Romar should be donning his shades about now.
The future's so bright …..
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