Romar on Rodney

Despite a few early season struggles, Washington Head Basketball Coach Lorenzo Romar seems pleased overall with his team's progress heading into Friday night's game against the Eastern Washington Eagles. Led by All America candidate Rodney Stuckey, the Eagles are not a team to be taken lightly. Romar wasn't shy in his admiration for Stuckey's game.

"Rodney Stuckey will play in the NBA if he remains healthy," Romar shared. "He's got great size, strength, handles the ball well and he can pass it also. He's got very good instincts on the offensive side of the game and with his athleticism and strength, I don't see why he can't be a stellar defender. He's the entire package."

This won't be the first time Romar and the Huskies have faced Stuckey. Last year, the Dawgs defeated the Eagles 91-74 at the Bank of America Arena, making the freshman miserable on a 6-20 shooting night, though he still scored 17 points. He's not expecting the same results this time around.

"He was a freshman last year and I don't know that his teammates were ready to accept that he was their best player, by far," Romar said of Stuckey. "He wasn't quite sure where he fit in so at times either.

"It also helped that we had two 6-6 senior wings who are now in the NBA (Brandon Roy and Bobby Jones) that helped hold him down," Romar reminded. "He still scored in double figures. We'll guard him by committee. "Last year, we used Brandon and Bobby on him and they were two guys as good defensively as anybody in the country, and we still had to use both of them on him."

The Dawgs will be facing a different Eastern team. "Now, there is no doubt," Romar said. "They have built their offensive system around Rodney so right there you know he is playing with so much more confidence than when he played against us last year."

Inevitably, talk always turns to NBA comparisons any time Stuckey's name is mentioned, and Romar acknowledged that the comparisons to Dwayne Wade were fair.

"I do see the comparisons to Dwayne Wade," said Romar. "I'm not going to sit here and tell you he is the next Dwayne Wade, but in terms of style, they do a lot of things very similar."

The conversation shifts to injured wing Joel Smith, whose return is imminent. "We are fairly confident he will play in the game," Romar said of the junior Smith. "Like Spencer (Hawes), he has had two or three days of practice and he will be available unless they tell us something different over the next couple of days.

"He did a little bit with us last week and Joel feels he's been ready for a week or so now, but to be sure and be safe, they've held him out, which is why I think he should be available to play."

Romar also updated the media on how he feels the team is progressing. "This is probably the first time we'll be able to practice after a win where we weren't able to get everything done on the court that we wanted to," he said. "We've got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I think some players are beginning to separate themselves as guys who can make an impact offensively for us, but we've got to make some adjustments in our defense in terms of what we expect from our team."

Though he is nonspecific as to who he sees finding a regular home in the rotation, it is something the coaching staff is playing plenty of attention to. "We probably would have had a tighter rotation on our bench, but given the nature of non-conference games, you are trying to get as much out of those games as possible," Romar said. "As long as I felt comfortable that we were in control of the game we probably went longer with some people who we wouldn't have gone longer with, but right now were trying to get some things accomplished and prepare this team for the big picture.

"The rotation competition is bigger than ever aside from maybe our first year," Romar added. "I talked to the guys about the good competition and bad competition. With this team we have had healthy competition and we still haven't settled in on a rotation of the eight or nine that we are going to play."

Romar admitted that he would rather figure it out sooner than later, though he also acknowledged there is no timeline. "There's something about knowing about when and where you are going to get in the game, every game that lets you mentally prepare," he said.

Piece of mind, maybe? "You're not worried about if you make one mistake you're going to get snatched," he added. "We'll know what the rotation is whenever we decide that it's the chemistry we want. It could be tomorrow or it could be in the Pac 10 season." Top Stories