Possibilities abound for Romar

At today's official Husky media day, Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar shared his thoughts on just about everything having to do with his men's basketball team heading into Friday night's non-counting exhibition game against St. Martin's to start the season. He made abundantly clear his feelings about this year's crop of players, who he obviously has great affection for.

"It's a great group of kids," he boasted. "They are trying to do everything we ask of them and they represent us on and off the floor at a very high level. This may be the most refreshing team I've been involved with.

"There's an eagerness to do what's right," he added. "Even with all the injuries. We'd be short guys in practice and they just keep coming. We (as coaches) are not drained at all because we know at practice that the guys are going to try to do what you ask them to do."

Coach Romar is also a big believer in recruiting good character guys and he isn't bashful about the traits he is looking for in potential recruits. "I think talent is important, but you have to have a passion to be the best player you can be," he said. 'Are you willing to be a team player?' I think those two things are the most important factors."

Those traits determine an individual's level of motivation. "If you have a passion to be the best player you can be, you'll police yourself to a certain extent," Romar said. "You'll do whatever is asked of you, spend extra time, and be self motivated. As for the players who constantly have to be pushed to work, Romar feels he won't have to worry about this current group. "We always say that if we have to coach effort, you're in bad shape," he said. "We want guys that we don't have to coach effort."

Thrilled by the talent level and workmanlike attitude of his freshmen, Romar shared his opinion on their progress on the court and where they still need work.

"The defensive part of their game is coming along, but it's taking a while," he explained. Assistant coach Cameron Dollar is notorious for being a merciless taskmaster when it comes to conditioning, defense and rebounding drills. "Those areas like defense and rebounding are areas they need to take a lot of time with to get them to the level we need them to be. The team is where we'd like them to be, but if you're just talking about the new guys, they aren't where we like them to be, but they are where we expect them to be," Romar added.

When asked about the work ethic of prize recruit Spencer Hawes, Romar couldn't be more pleased. "Spencer is a perfectionist," Romar said of Hawes. "Every drill we do, he wants to be the best. We run the mile as a team and he knows how important it is, even though he knows he'll never run a mile in a game. It's important to him that he does things right."

"Spencer began shooting yesterday and moving a lot more," Romar said when asked of his star center's injury rehabilitation. "Today he will do a lot more, jogging and running and he's progressing real well. I see him as being a few days away. We're not sure if Spencer will play in the exhibition. Probably not but you never know. We'll know who's starting Thursday night or Friday morning."

Hawes isn't the only Husky hobbled right now.

"Joel (Smith) was out on the floor doing sliding drills," Romar said. "Spencer will be back in a few days and Joel will be following in a week or two."

Hawes wasn't the only one singled out by Romar for his apparent game-readiness. "As I think of Spencer Hawes, my first reaction is that he is as ready to play as any freshman we have ever had, but I think that way about the other freshman as well," he said.

The competition at the shooting guard position has been heated, and Romar made it clear that early fan favorite Adrian Oliver isn't just going to be handed the starting nod. A stalwart of of last year's bench is making noise and pushing the true frosh all the way.

"Ryan Appleby has been playing outstanding as has Phil Nelson, but that spot is up for grabs," he said. "We go with the five players who make the best team to start out with. In Ryan's case, he has shown that he is so dangerous from the perimeter, but has added a different element to his game." This should come as no surprise to those who had the privilege of watching the fierce scorer at work during open gym sessions this past summer. "He is putting the ball on the floor and not only creating for himself, but also for others," Romar added.

Romar also singled out Nelson as a guy who could see playing time at several positions. "Phil has been playing the 2, 3 and 4, but in our system, there are just bigs and smalls and he's been playing both positions," Romar said. "He's very versatile."

A player often overlooked who appears ready to make major contributions is redshirt freshman Harvey Perry, an explosive wing who can play several positions and is now fully recovered from a back injury that saw him miss all of last season. "Harvey hasn't missed a practice or a drill," Romar said of Perry. "His back woes are behind him we believe. He's very quick, very athletic, very fast, but he didn't play last year so there's some rust that needs to come off."

Romar has taken a pragmatic approach to playing time that may surprise people. "I've never been one to just designate who is going to play," he said. "The players come out and they show you what should take place. You take the first few weeks of practice and exhibition games and the players will give a good indication to the staff who needs to be coming off the bench and who starts."

The coaching staff doesn't leave it all up to the players, though. "We video tape every practice, and stat every practice and use different combinations of players during every practice," Romar said. "When you put it all together, some players continue to come up winners." As for previous years' practice of using rebounding statistics to determine starters, Romar indicated that wouldn't be happening this year. "Normally we use rebounding to determine starters, but this year because of all the injuries we've decided not to do it that way," he said.

As to what Romar is looking for, he doesn't have to go far to find a prime example - Dollar.

"When Cameron Dollar was a player at UCLA, he was probably the 8th or 9th most talented player on the 13-man roster, but somehow, in practice every day, his team won," Romar said of Dollar. "You can never underestimate that gift, that talent that your team wins when you're on the court." With so many intangibles impacting a player's potential it can be tough getting to the root of an individual, but it's worth the extra effort. "You can be a great shooter, a great athlete but something about guys who can help you win when they're on the court is real important," Romar added. "That's what we try to look at. It's not always the guys that make great dunks."

As for the upperclassmen having an advantage over the freshman, Romar said it just doesn't work that way. "Class doesn't go into the decision of who plays," he said. "The players that are doing the job play." It sounds simple enough, but experience does pay off. "The player who has been around longer has an advantage because they understand what it takes on the road to win games and how to prepare themselves and get rest, and it carries over to the court," added Romar. "When you're younger, you don't understand those things and you're behind a little bit."

In short, age might not matter, but maturity does. "There are those that are further along in terms of their maturity level who are capable of doing it right away, and we're not going to stand in the way of those who can do it right away," Romar said, matter-of-factly.

As for using the newcomers in the regular rotation, Romar seemed confident fans could expect nightly contributions from all of them. "At this point, the four new guys have earned the right to be in our rotation," Romar said. "Today in practice that could change, but up to this point, they've all done a good job for us."

Romar was non-committal about who he envisions starting Friday night against St Martin's. "Nothing is in stone at this point," he said. "Because of injuries, very rarely have we had the same players on the court at the same time. We're just not sure yet. At each position, some are better than others, and some are coming along very quickly right now."

In fact, the Husky head coach didn't seem overly concerned about who starts at all. "If you ask Brandon Roy, you'd find out that starting is not that big a deal," Romar said. "All the guys want to get their name called, but when you look at the overall minutes and who's out there when the game is on the line, those are the things that are really important."

Still, with so many young players, finding a steady hand during clutch situations will be key for the young Huskies, who lost their three top scorers, including All-American Roy. When the chips were down, Coach Romar knew he could always turn to his star player to come up big, and he will be looking for more of the same this season from one player in particular.

"Who knows who is going to step up among the young players, but last year Justin Dentmon had the ball in his hands during clutch situations, some times at the free throw line or hitting big shots at the end of the game," Romar said of the sophomore guard from Carbondale, Ill. Dentmon probably won't be the only one though. "We're comfortable with the ball in his hands, but I'd be shocked if someone else doesn't emerge who we'd like to see with the ball in their hands as well," Romar said.

Dawgman.com Top Stories