Overton impresses in debut

SEATTLE - At some point during the first half, Venoy Overton caught himself peeking. He wasn't looking at anything in particular, he was just looking around. He saw the crowd, the noise, the intensity of college basketball. And for a true freshman playing his first game - albeit a shaky exhibition win over cross-city Seattle Pacific - it was as big as he could have imagined. And then some.

"Things were going so much faster," Overton said after the Huskies' 86-77 win at Bank of America Arena Monday night. "Right then all the coaches were yelling stuff out there and I was lookin' kind of lost out there."

He could laugh about it after the fact, but at the time it wasn't something he was particularly happy about. In fact, despite his 16-point, five rebound, four-assist night - all in 33 minutes, the only Washington player to play more than 30 - he was pretty critical of his performance. "I think I did alright," he said. "I think I was good on the offensive end, but slacked a few times on the defensive end. My on-ball (defense) was shaky. I have to get better at that.

"I didn't expect to play that many minutes. I just wanted to do what I could to help the team out. I guess they needed me more than I thought."

Washington Head Coach Lorenzo Romar knew that Overton's style would lend itself to some early miscues, and he gave Venoy just enough rope out on the floor to figure things out. "He played 33 minutes, and he didn't start - so that would give you some indication of what we thought," Romar said after the Huskies' win. "He (Overton) was erratic at times. He is fast with the ball and is constantly looking to be aggressive with the ball, which is what we want. Sometimes with young players in situations like this, you let them go so that they learn what not to do. Venoy makes things happen with the basketball. He passes the ball up the floor, he's constantly looking up the floor, and if you don't cut him off he'll get to the rim. Did he make mistakes? Yes. But he also helped us in a lot of ways. I thought he did a really good job."

"He's a lot of fun to play with," junior captain Jon Brockman said of Overton. "He just sees the floor so well. He's always pushing it and he's a competitor. He's going to make some mistakes, but he's going to be one of those players that is going to get better every single time we play."

Much like former Husky Will Conroy used to do, Overton is an instigator - in the best possible sense of the term. He's always hawking the ball, looking for that slip-up, looking for a chance to pounce and fast-break - and always at break-neck speed. "In transition, when I see something I just want to push it hard, but that's the strength of this level," he said afterward, critiquing his game. "I need to slow it down sometimes."

"Hopefully we were so anxious to come out and play and do a good job that a lot of our guys wanted to do it themselves, and we didn't share the ball like we needed to share the ball," offered Romar.

What Romar expects to see down the road is a situation where Overton can take a lot of the point play off of Justin Dentmon, so Dentmon has a chance to play a pure 2 - which has always been his strength. "I think I can make Justin's job really easy," Overton said. "I know he can really score from the off-guard."

"Will (Conroy) was able to take the pressure off Nate (Robinson)," Romar said, offering an example of how he could see the combination of both Overton and Dentmon on the floor together. "He (Robinson) was able to go do his thing a little bit and it freed him up.

"It wasn't just a coincidence that (former Oregon guard) Aaron Brooks had his best year when Tajuan Porter showed up," Romar added. "He was able to play off the ball and he ended up leading the conference in scoring. With Venoy in there, Justin can be free to roam out there and not have to be bogged down with running the offense the entire time."

So does that mean Romar feels Overton could have as big an impact as Porter did for the Ducks this past season? Maybe not in exactly the same way, considering Overton is more of a creator and Porter is more of a pure shooter, but it could happen.

"Eventually... once he learns how to take care of the basketball," Romar said.


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