News and Notes - 3/15

Ryan Appleby still wasn't hearing it. Sure, Aaron Brooks apologized, via handwritten letters after the Washington-Oregon game in the Pac-10 tournament, but what Brooks did to the Washington sophomore wasn't something that's found in any official basketball manual. In fact, it was more akin to the WWE than the Pac-10.

"It's the tournament now, we have to win games," Appleby told Tuesday when asked about his physical and mental condition after the Oregon junior threw a vicious forearm shiver at Appleby's face, causing Appleby to take six stitches inside his lip. "I can't worry about my lip. That's in the back of my mind."

"In practice, he's back to normal again," added Brandon Roy. "He did a good thing trying to come back. He just needs to know that we've got his back 100 percent. He's a tough guy, that's one of the things I really admire about him. When he transfered here, I wondered how he was going to do against Nate (Robinson) and Will (Conroy), and he answered that the first day he was in practice. He's going to come back with some vengence, I think."

Appleby sat the first practice back from the Pac-10 tournament because of his stitches, but it was just a hiccup in Ryan's routine. "He's back to being scrappy-tough, and that's the makeup of our team," added Roy. "When we stop doing that, we're not very good. He understands that. We need him 100 percent going hard, and he knows that."

Brooks was immediately ejected from the game, which drew an automatic one-game suspension. But because of the seriousness of the act (Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar was quoted after the game as having never seen a play like that in any game he's ever coached), there were calls for a much longer suspension. And Monday, that's exactly what happened.

The Ducks suspended Brooks - who is originally from Franklin High School in Seattle - two games next year, the first game of Oregon's 2006-2007 schedule and the UO-UW game at Hec Ed. Appleby was clearly perplexed by the message of the extra suspension that was being sent.

"I think it (not playing in Seattle) was more for his sake, because then he's going to go to play at WSU, but not here," Appleby said. "I thought that was a little weird. The fans probably would have gotten all over him, because we have really good fans. I think that's why they suspended him, so he wouldn't have to go through that. It's probably going to be tough for him when the time comes around, but he has to remember what he did. It wasn't like he did it on accident."

UW senior Roy, who has known Brooks for a long time, believes the extra suspension was fair. "It's fair," he said. "He took a shot at Ryan. As a man, you have to deal with your mistakes and he has to deal with the consequences of his actions. He has to learn from his mistakes."

That being said, Roy doesn't expect Brooks to participate in the normal summer runs that take place at Hec Ed. Typically, the top high school, college and pro players will play pick-up games at the UW gym, games Brooks has often played in.

"It's a matter of how much they accept him," Roy said. "I can't see him coming up here, I think it would be tough for him to show his face. If I did that to an Oregon player and walked into their gym in the summer, people would wonder what I was doing there."

And Romar's reaction? "I'm really on the same page with (Washington Athletic Director) Todd Turner," he said. Whatever it is that shows that this is not acceptable, whatever penalty that is, that's what people need to look at doing. I can't tell you what that is, but whatever that is, there needs to be a message sent. That is not acceptable behavior."

Utah State's alumni team?: Led by guard David Pak, the Utah State Aggies' four senior players average over 25 years of age. Pak will be 30 this coming Christmas. Compare that to Washington's four scholarshipped seniors, who average a relatively youthful 22 years per player. Romar believes the Aggies could use that advantage in experience and savvy to their advantage. "I think it's a great advantage for them," he said. "You go watch a bunch of young men play in a night league. The younger guys have more energy and are more talented, but they don't beat the older guys. When you have that experience, I think it's a plus for them, no doubt. You're not as emotional when you're older. You don't sweat the small stuff as much. If they get down, they play the same way and hang around. And if they get up, they aren't going to experiment. They play the same way the whole game. When you play a team like Utah State, you have to take the game from them, or you won't win it. You've got to take it."

So how will Romar get his true frosh point guard - Justin Dentmon - to play beyond his own relative lack of experience. "I think freshmen nowadays have played so many big games before they get to college that it defuses that anxiety a little bit," Romar said. "He's a big-time player, and he thrives in big games," added Roy of Dentmon. "He'll be ready for this stage. Experience does play a factor, but I've told Justin, these are the moments that will make you for the future. This is NCAA tournament ball. You have a great time here, no one will remember what happened to you during the season. He has to go out there, not worry about age and find an advantage. He'll do a good job of that."

That being said, Roy feels like it's still the job of the UW seniors to make sure the Huskies play to the optimum of their capabilities. "We have to set the tone," he said. "We've been in these situations. At the Pac-10 tournament, we didn't do a good job of that. We didn't do a good job of setting the tone. For this game coming up, I'm almost glad we had that experience, because now the freshmen know what tournament basketball is all about."

So what will Roy and the seniors focus on, using their letdown against Oregon as a template? "In the first half, we didn't do a good job of huddling guys up," he added. "I didn't even know Justin had three fouls. If someone gets an early foul, we talk about it, but I didn't know. That showed that I wasn't that involved in what was going on. I have to do a better job of that. We need Justin in the game. And when Appleby got that shot, we were upset, but we didn't say, 'Appleby, we need you to bounce back'. We'll do a better job of that this week, making sure everyone knows that we're a team and we're going to need everybody on this roster to win the game."

The dreaded 5-12 jinx?: Many national pundits are predicting the Aggies to defeat the Huskie because it's considered pretty standard for at least one 5-seed to lose their opening game in the NCAA tournament. Roy understands why that would be the case. "If I was picking, I might pick this game too," he said, matter-of-factly. "We've proven that we can beat a Gonzaga or a UCLA, but we can also lose to Washington State twice in one season. If you went over the bracket and which team could slip up? I would say Washington too. It's something we've put upon ourselves. We haven't been nails in the games we should win. That's fine, but I'm picking Washington."

Why? "We've got a lot of experience," added Roy. "When I was a sophomore, we were just excited to be there. Last year, being a one-seed, we just wanted to live up to expectations. This season is fun because no one is really saying much about us. We have the chance to go in there and surprise some people. We almost get to play the underdog role."

The biggest threat: Utah State's leading scorer is 6-foot-7 senior Nate Harris. Harris is averaging 17.2 points per game, with a high of 33 at Fresno State. Romar believes Harris poses the same problems for the Huskies a former Pac-10 player did during his tenure in the conference. "He's a little bit like David Lucas from Oregon State in that, it's not going to be a clinic," Romar said. "He's just going to find a way to put the ball in the basket. He has an assortment of way to do it, and they have an assortment of ways to get him the ball. And we know how much David Lucas presented problems for us when he was at Oregon State."

Running the Gauntlet: For those that think Washington may have caught one of the easier draws in the tournament, check out this stat. Utah State has the fourth-best winning percentage (.781) in the country over the last seven years, trailing Duke (.857), Gonzaga (.822) and Illinois (.793). The Huskies defeated Gonzaga at home in December, and if they are fortunate enough to defeat the Aggies, guess who they face? You got it, the Illini.

No distractions: Winter quarter finals were finished up on Monday and Tuesday. Romar believed that there would be a couple that would be proctored on the road, but all the rest are out of the way. Now it's on to open practices and media sessions, things Roy is looking forward to. "All that stuff, I just smile when I think about those things," he said. "I don't think of it as too much work. We need to enjoy all these things. Last year, I remember Nate (Robinson) was doing dunks and fans were cheering. It was all new, but at the same time we've got to handle business on Thursday. And coach (Romar) will remind us of that." Top Stories