Dentmon mature beyond years

It was just a year ago and not very many people at Washington had seen Justin Dentmon even play the game of basketball, let alone have a good idea of just how capable he was of making an impact on last year's team. But he came in from Carbondale, Ill. with a no fear and a chip on his shoulder, ready to show the world that he could make a difference from the get-go. And he did.

Now Dentmon - fresh off helping UW to another Sweet 16 appearance this past spring - is a well-known personality around the Montlake campus, and his game will not creep up on anyone in the Pac-10 this winter. He's ready to take the lessons he learned his freshman year and apply them to this new group of Huskies, wide-eyed and eager to pick up where the 2005-2006 Dawgs left off.

"Two of my generals left (Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones) last year, so took a lot out of me," Dentmon told on Thursday, the day before practices can officially start for basketball around the country. "When the season was over, I was heartbroken. I felt that I needed to start preparing myself to step ino their shoes. If I did that, they would be a memory. I'm going to miss them, but you have to look to the future."

Dentmon stepped his game up in the NCAA tournament, averaging double-figures in points and leading the Huskies to a second-round win over Illinois, a deliciously ironic victory for the man from Carbondale. "It showed me that I need to step up and be a leader," he said of his play in 2005-2006, play that earned him a spot on the Pac-10 all-Frosh team. "They (seniors) taught me a lot, so now I need to teach the young guys what they taught me. I can handle it. It'll be a great experience to me."

And therein lies the crux of college basketball - and really for all college sports. Every year it's spring cleaning of the highest order, with new faces arriving on the scene each fall. It's no different at Washington, except in one respect: the Huskies have never had a group of pups like these purebreads.

"They are coming in the same way that I came in...all goofy, not knowing what to do...talking smart to the old guys, so that's why you have to put them in their place," Dentmon said when asked about the four new players - Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter, Adrian Oliver and Phil Nelson. "But it's been fun being around them."

Dentmon, along with sophomore forward Jon Brockman and junior guard Ryan Appleby - comprise the majority of the returning experience for Washington. "I'm old and I'm just a sophomore. It's crazy!" Dentmon said.

So thin is the mentle of leadership, Brockman was named Captain - the first second-year player to be so honored. This team may not be burdened by wisdom starting out, but Head Coach Lorenzo Romar and staff will put this team on a steep learning curve from the minute they step out on the floor - with emphasis placed on players like Dentmon, Brockman and Appleby to show the way.

"It's going to fall back on the coaches, and helping to get us to the maturity level that we were at last year," Dentmon said. "That's going to be on the coaches as well as on the players. We can't do it by ourselves."

Dentmon hopes that the lessons already learned through the informal summer runs has seeped through the brains of some of the youngsters. "When we're on the same (pickup) team, we just always dominate the other team," he said of his play with Brockman. "Everybody should have that same mentality that we should play to win all the time...take no team for granted...just keep playing."

He knows that the team will be young, but he's already encouraged by what he sees in how the first-year players are responding to the challenge. "All four of them are going to be scorers on the offensive end," he said. "It's going to be another key to help us, because we lost height and we lost scorers."

And as far as Dentmon is concerned, it all starts out top. "He can do a number of things," Dentmon said of frosh guard Adrian Oliver. "He can shoot and he can read me. When I'm driving, I like guys that can cut or do something so I can give them the ball. Our chemistry is good like me and Brandon (Roy) last year."

One thing last year's team didn't have was a dominant post. Spencer Hawes will do his best to solve that problem for Washington this winter. "I think it's going to do a lot of things for me," Dentmon said of having Hawes down in the block. "I think my assist/turnover ratio is going to go up. People will start to double-down, so it's going to open things up for us, for the shooters. I think that this is going to be a change in the way teams play us because we haven't had post players like we do now. But we'll see."

And while Dentmon does his best to lead this year's team, he'll still have the lessons of last year driving him along the way. "Don't be afraid, don't back down from anything," he said, as if it was going to be his mantra passed down to the players below him.

"You have to take each game as a challenge."

Justin Dentmon Profile Top Stories