Husky Hoops Report

Seattle, WA - Let the Lo-Ro era begin. <br><br> There's a whole new feel in Hec Edmundson Pavilion these days. With Bob Bender long gone and new head coach Lorenzo Romar in charge of directing a fine group of athletic young men, life looks like it has been restored to the Husky basketball program.

Romar brings with him from Saint Louis discipline and defense, two key components that have been lacking over the last three years under Bender's regime.

Bender's early days were detail oriented and full of coaching, but he and his staff seemed to get away from that.

Enter Romar, who has been all business through the first nine practices. The team officially began practicing last week behind closed doors as the media were asked to wait until Monday, Oct. 21, before gaining access to the team. During that time, Romar hammered home his philosophy - no more attitudes, no more me-first mentality. For the first time in years, the concept of team meant more than just showing up and playing on the court with four other guys.

It means playing together.

After the doors were opened to the public, Romar's vision was already readily apparent. The practice was crisp, with no off time. It was meticulously planned out and organized. As a result, players their assignments and understood the importance of paying attention.

It's pretty evident that they respect their new coach.

"Look at my eyes, guys," Romar said to the team at one point as they formed a huddle around him. "It's important that you are all listening."

Bender, known for his integrity and nice-guy image, had lost this component in his final years with the team. For whatever reason, whether for a lack of respect or sheer disinterest, the team failed to put themselves out on the line for him. Most of all, they didn't play together.

That is what Romar is trying to change.

"I think what impresses me the most is our guys' attitude and approach," said Romar prior to Monday's practice. "They've been pretty good as a group. We've been implementing our philosophy, our eventual approach to how we want to do things on the basketball floor. We kind of went to a laboratory and took care of some things philosophically that we feel are going to be really important."

As stated earlier, the central concern for Romar right off the bat is defense, an ongoing problem that has hampered the Huskies over the last three seasons. Bender's teams were constantly getting fast breaked out of the gym in transition.

"I think the biggest thing we've got to work on, other than the overall team concept blue-collar intense type of play, is that defense wins ball games for us," said Romar. "That has to be a staple for us. It has to be something that we hang our hats on. If we won't defend, we won't amount to much. If you've got a whole host of talented players on the team and are defending at a high-level, you've got a chance to win a national championship. Without that you always will under-achieve, and our guys have to understand that."

At guard, sophomore Will Conroy has made a name for himself with his in-your-face, get-by-me-if-you-can approach. Coming from Garfield High School, where defense is drilled home from day one, Conroy knows what it takes to put the clamps down on opposing point guards.

Sophomore Jeffrey Day showed consistency as a freshman, having often been asked to shut down the opposition's best scorer. Early last season against UNLV, he held the team's leading scorer, Dalron Johnson, in check after halftime in route to a convincing Husky win. He stands 6-9 and is quick off his feet, which helps his cause.

Doug Wrenn, known mostly for his offensive prowess, is incredibly athletic. Of Wrenn, Romar says that "he can really defend when he wants to."

Under the new head coach's tutelage there's no doubt that he'll want to do just that. At 6-6, Wrenn could be a defensive stopper.

Mike Jensen, who redshirted last year and enters 2002 as a freshman, is extremely versatile. Romar has already remarked on his ability to play defense in the post as well as out at the perimeter.

Anthony Washington, another freshman, carries with him a 7-4 wingspan. Though he stands a hair under 6-10, his long arms make him play more like a seven-footer, and Washington's been known to block a shot or two.

Another aspect to this team that has the head coach beaming is its quickness. "This is the quickest team that I've ever had as a head coach," said Romar. "When we were at Pepperdine we had a couple of talented teams, but not as quick as this team. Across the board, this team is quick. I think when you are quick you can do a lot of things. You can defend at a high level. You get to loose balls. You run down the rebounds and you get up the floor quickly. Those are the things that we are going to ask them to do."

On the quickness scale of one to 10, Romar has a 10 in the form junior point guard Curtis Allen. The three-year starter from Wilson High School has had an up and down Husky career to this point. Though questions have been raised about his leadership skills at a position where that quality that is a prerequisite, never has his quickness been doubted.

Romar loves what he has in Allen.

"He's as quick as anyone in the conference," he said. "He can also shoot the basketball. He was our second-leading scorer last year. He brings experience and know-how."

Allen will have more responsibility at his position this year than ever before because Romar says the team will be doing plenty of different things on offense this season.

"We'll run sets, we'll run quick-hitters, we'll run motion, and we'll also run high-post offense. We'll mix those up," he said.

He also says he'd like to play in transition, but it's going to come down to having players that are: in good enough condition to do it, and capable of putting the ball in the bucket. Those are two big "ifs".

The pieces are in place for a Husky team that is trying to shed the past and now focusing on building for the future. The new coaching staff has really hit it off with the players.

The exhibition season looms less than three weeks away with a home date with Central Washington set for Nov. 12 at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

The squad looks more like a team this year, and coach Romar appears to be very happy with the way things are taking shape.

"The transition (to Washington) has been great," said Romar. "The people in the community and in the administration have been really supportive - more than I could have ever imagined. Our guys have helped with the transition. They have allowed us to coach them and I think that is very important."

Husky Notes: A & W cleared to play: Anthony Washington has been cleared to play for the Huskies this season after first being ruled academically ineligible a season ago, and more recently, having a class questioned by the NCAA Clearinghouse. The Clearinghouse had questioned one of Washington's math classes, but cleared him late last week. Washington filed a waiver that allowed him to practice all last week . . . Shelton taped, scarred, but back: Fifth-year senior center Marlon Shelton is back on the floor after missing all of 2001-2002 with a knee injury. He is wearing a brace and still isn't 100 percent, but is on pace to come back to full strength by the start of the regular season. . . . Day okay: Jeffrey Day is playing with a cast on one hand, but has yet to miss a practice. He's recovering fast and will be fully healed by the start of the regular season. Top Stories