Shootout paying dividends in many ways

Will Conroy, Brandon Roy and Joel Smith were introduced to a new part of their post-season routine in Los Angeles during the Pac-10 men's basketball tournament. Gentlemen, meet the ice bath. With the rigors of an entire season hanging on them like an 800-pound gorilla, the ice bath has now become one of Washington's best friends.

"Coach (Cameron) Dollar had to get in the ice bath to save my legs," . He was like, 'You have to get in, even if I have to get in too.' I was screaming like a girl. And my legs were still tired in the (Arizona) game, so if I didn't do it I would have been dead.

"We stood still for about ten minutes, frozen. Coach Dollar kept telling me not to move my toes."

But there was something the Washington coaches did before the season even started that helped pave the way toward the Huskies' late-season success. On the surface, playing in the pre-season Great Alaska Shootout was more about RPI and making sure the Huskies had a solid strength of schedule behind them when it came time to the NCAA Tournament.

But if you look deeper, you'll find that the three-day hoops marathon paid dividends far beyond an NCAA conference room in Indianapolis. The GAS gave the Huskies an early glimpse into the physical demands of tournament play, something that helped them win the Pac-10 Tournament.

"I think that was huge," Conroy said. "I was very happy when I saw it on the schedule because I knew it would prepare us well for the Pac-10 Tournament. Last year when we played Stanford, we were tired. They were tired too, but they were mentally tougher than us and they were stronger than us. We stayed in the weight room and did extra this summer because we remembered that."

"The Great Alaska Shootout was so good for our teams in so many ways," added UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar. "It had something to do with why we are a 1-seed. We learned some things. It's why we won the Pac-10 championship. You are talking about Utah playing their Princeton-style offense and then you come right back and play Oklahoma, who plays a very physical style. And then we played the University of Alabama. It was very similar to the Pac-10 tournament. When we were done with that (GAS), as well as the travel, we were physically and emotionally drained. We can take that experience and learn from it."

"You don't play three games back-to-back at all during the season," said junior forward Jamaal Williams. "The Alaska Shootout helped us get our bodies ready to perform for three days straight."

While Arizona breezed through the first two games of the Pac-10 Tournament, the Huskies struggled to get Arizona State and Stanford off their backs. Going into Saturday's championship game, the consensus was that the 'Cats were rested and ready and the Dawgs were just looking to hold on.

"I didn't feel that way," said Williams. "We took good care of our bodies with the cold baths and all that stuff to keep our legs under us. And it worked. We play at such a high pace, we're used to it. We've had really tough practices this year and we fought through those."

But the coaches aren't necessarily worried about physical issues going into their NCAA first-round matchup with Montana in Boise Thursday. "Sometimes the mind draining can have a bigger effect," said Romar. "Once we get there, we'll have all the adrenaline we need. You aren't going to get six blowouts. I've been pleased with how our guys have handled things down the stretch."

"I definitely think we'll have a big impact on the tournament," said Williams, a key reserve for the Huskies. Along with Brandon Roy, Joel Smith and Hakeem Rollins, Williams will be one of the players counted on coming off the bench. "We need to come in and give the same that they (starters) give, or even more," he said. "We're going to be expected to be a key part of this. I think the tournament is not only about how good your starting five is, but how good the bench is too. It's a total team effort."

"We've got all the utensils we need to get it done," added junior guard Nate Robinson. "It's team ball. When you look at all the teams in the country, and you find the one that plays the hardest and have fun within the team, they are going to win it all. And I hope our team can do that." Top Stories