Youngsters in for a brand-new season

The older guys keep telling Jon Brockman that he has to ride the ups and downs. Like going for a double-double against Eastern Washington to no points and one rebound against Lehigh. It's the growing pains guys like Brockman, Justin Dentmon and Artem Wallace are having to face during their first year playing with expectations draped in purple and gold.

"There's nothing I'm doing differently," Brockman said Tuesday. "Maybe it's the way the other teams are approaching it, the way they are d-ing us up, slowing it down. I'm sure everything will even out once I get the feel for it."

As head coach Lorenzo Romar said it best, Brockman is now going to have to go through a 'scout' now, meaning teams didn't really know what to expect from the new players, but after ten games it's pretty clear what Washington's first-year players are capable of. Brockman already has three double-doubles to his credit, as well as a tournament MVP trophy. Justin Dentmon has revamped his game and now is in the top-four in the league when it comes to assists and assist/turnover ratio.

But one big thing has changed for Brockman and Dentmon - they don't have that license to shoot at any time that they had in high school. "Last year, I had the green light," Brockman said. "Really I could have thrown up anything I wanted to. But that's not my role this year. I'm not the person to take the shot the team needs. I'm just feeling my way in, hitting the boards hard. We can always use rebounders out there. When the team needs me to score, I'll step in and score."

"We're most effective when guys are totally understanding their roles," added senior guard Brandon Roy. "Justin Dentmon is starting to understand that he's more of a point guard. He has me and Jamaal (Williams) that are really good scorers. He's starting to realize that he needs to be a distributor. And Jamaal, he's learning that when he gets it down on the block to just look for his shot because he's so good down there. We're at our best when we're understanding our roles and not trying to force it in other areas.

"That's the team that's ranked no. 7, when they bring it. We feel like that's the team that we can go deep into the tourney with."

This crop of freshmen have had the luxury of playing in a system that has already tasted success. Roy knows what it's like to be the new guy on the block with high expectations strapped on his shoulders from the get-go. "When I was a freshman, if Bobby (Jones) wasn't playing great or if Nate (Robinson) wasn't hitting his shot, we probably didn't win that game," he said.

"They have a chance to feel their way through games."

And Brockman was quick to praise the seniors on the team, espcially Roy, Williams and Mike Jensen. "He was a huge help to me, even when he was hurt," Brockman said of Jensen. "I think they'll be ready, but they have to recognize that there are going to be highs and lows and as leaders we have to do a good job of guiding them through those highs and lows," added Roy.

If they thought the stakes were high in the pre-season frying pan, it will be very interesting to see how they react in the fire of Pac-10 play. ""They just told us that it's a whole different season," Brockman said. "We're really looking forward to it. Every game is going to be sold out and it's going to be a fun time. The only time we have trouble is when we do something wrong or we're not playing the way we should be.

"If we come out and bring it the way we can, we shouldn't have any problem."

"It's totally different than from pre-season," added Jones. "The teams don't change from year to year. You see the same offenses and you know what type of defenses teams run and you know how hostile it is out on the road. You play against them so much...the guys that play at USC and UCLA I played against when I was little. It's just that extra bit of competition you face."

And for Williams, the player that plays next to Brockman down in the paint, he knows his teammate is ready to turn it on. "I think they'll be ready," he said of the frosh. "They've had their ups and downs during the pre-season. Brockman's going to be very prepared and Dentmon is understanding his role on the team and how to run the team and knowing his spots and where he needs to be on defense. And Artem Wallace, he's starting to show signs that he's going to be able to contribute minutes down the line."

It's tough to imagine a freshman who is already second in the league in double-doubles as a player who is struggling, but Brockman is just like any other freshman in college. He's learning a new system and trying to get to the point where it becomes second-nature. It's a process that doesn't happen overnight.

"It's getting back more to 50/50," he said. "Before it felt like all I was trying to do was be in the right spot at the right time. You can't really play like that, even though it's kind of expected for freshmen. You really play well once you feel more comfortable and then you can just play basketball. I'm finding myself more and more in the right spot at the right time. It's just a matter of repitition, getting used to new things.

"I don't know when it's going to happen, but things are starting to click more and more for me."

It's appropriate that the first Pac-10 team Brockman faces will be the Arizona State Sun Devils. If you are going to get thrown in the fire, why not take the Devil(s) head on - figuratively and literally?

Just as long as it's at the friendly confines of Hec Ed - home of Washington's current NCAA-best 31-game winning streak. "We really take pride in this arena and the record we have on home court," he said.

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