Lorenzo Romar Preseason Press Conference

A new Husky men's basketball season is less than a week away. The Husky hoopsters have been hard at work preparing for their upcoming season under new head coach Lorenzo Romar. Romar addressed the media Tuesday to share his thoughts on his young but athletic team.

The Huskies will begin their season on Tuesday November 12th with an exhibition game against Central Washington University. It's becoming clear to the head coach that Tuesday can't come soon enough for the players.

"It's been over half a year since we first got here coaching the team, and finally we have the chance to play someone else. I think we've come to a point with our guys, and you hear it every year, that they're sick of play against each other every day. They'd like to get out against someone else. We're coming up on our fourth week of practice. We've gone hard the whole time. There have been a couple of times where we had to back off as a staff and let our guys get their legs back and get their mental states back," said Romar.

Practices have been long and gone hard. Players have commented that it is almost half basketball and half track. Coach Romar is trying to install a work ethic with his team and seems to be happy with his results. "We're pleased with the effort that our guys have given us. It has been interesting to see how each individual has grasped or not grasped a brand new system," he said.

Four weeks may seem like a long time, but for Romar and his staff it isn't nearly enough time to implement a new coaching system. "It's overwhelming at times as a coaching staff because there is just so much to do in so little time. I know there are programs that have already had exhibition games. I'm glad we haven't had any. Every day we feel we're getting a little better in practice.

"I think the improvement that we've made in the last week has been substantial within our team in terms of where we have to be defensively and things that we're trying to get done offensively. I think it took about two weeks just to understand what the coaches wanted from them. That's an ongoing process and it will be an ongoing process all year," said Romar.

It seems that in the offseason Washington has gone from young to younger. Throw in a coaching change that brings a new system and you've got a team that is essentially starting from square one. Upside is a term thrown around often by coaches and Romar seems to think the Huskies have it. "Not only do we have all freshmen in terms of learning a new system, but we have a lot of new faces that are out there on the floor that are doing a pretty good job right now," he said. "We have to be patient with our group because the team that is out there right now is no way going to be the same team that's going to be out there two months from now. As we continue to come together as a team we think there will be improvement as we go. You might say that it should be that way in any case, but I think the upside to our improvement could be even higher later than it is right now."

With a tougher preseason than last year, Romar may not have the luxury of collecting some easy wins before Pac-10 play begins. Washington's early schedule includes Wyoming, Eastern Washington, UNLV and Gonzaga. Romar will need his team to find itself quickly to compete against that level of competition. According to the head coach all the Dawgs need is time. "Our guys are not totally able to play with their instincts yet, because they're thinking so much," he said. "When you think it slows you down. You're not as quick when you're thinking. Once our system becomes second nature to them they'll play more and more with their instincts. They'll look quicker, they'll look faster, they'll look more free. That's where we'd like to get to."

Washington will feature some new faces up front this year. Freshman Anthony Washington and redshirt freshmen Mike Jensen and Ben Devoe are looking to contribute right away. "I think that Anthony Washington is a freshman that a lot of people don't know a whole lot about, in terms of his play. We can see him slowly making a move up. He's a ferocious rebounder. He was one of those guys that was thinking so much that he wasn't just free to go get the ball. We see more and more his ability to go do that. Offensively where he is right now is nowhere near where he'll end up. You can see him as he learns offensively what he's supposed to be doing, he's gaining confidence in what he can do." Romar began.

"I think that we have three guys that are different that the other two. Marlon Shelton and Ben Devoe are big guys that take up a lot of space. Anthony Washington does a little of that too, but he's much more athletic. Mike Jensen and Jeffery Day are very athletic. They both run the floor and they both shoot the ball. They're probably more versatile than the other guys. There is versatility amongst our inside players. The issue is their youth and their inexperience. Mistakes that they're making now will not be made in the future. Our staff really likes the future, because these players are young and we think they're good players. We feel like we can grow together."

By no means does anyone, up front or otherwise, have a starting job locked up. "It's been an all out war with our guards trying to win playing time. It's been interesting to watch that development. I know that we play Tuesday, but it's too early to say who will be special. We've tried to mix it up equally for the last three weeks. There hasn't been three or four days where the same five have been on the same team. We try to switch that up. Probably eight or nine guys have a shot at starting," said Romar.

Do not look for there to be one center, one power forward, and one small forward in the front court. Romar's system requires versatility. "In our offensive system there is a ball-handling guard, two wings and two bigs," Romar said. "There is no shooting guard or power forward. There are two bigs. The two bigs that make us the best team will be the ones on the floor. It could be one big at 6'8" and the other could be 6'11". Or they could both be 6'8" or 6'11". Whatever makes us the best team. The only time it comes into play is who will guard the bigger guy on defense.

"We video-tape every practice. We watch ever practice after it's over. We keep stats for each practice. We try different combinations every day in practice. It's always interesting to see which teams lose with certain players, and which teams win with certain players. We put it all together along with our intuition as coaches and try to come up with five players that make the best team. It might not be the five most talented players, but it will be the five players that make the best team."

This year's Huskies are extremely high on upside, and low on proven production. Romar hopes the new defensive minded system will help realize the potential this team has. "Our system starts on the defensive end. The things we want to do in terms of getting out on the floor and running and creating our own tempo starts on the defensive end. You can't find me a team that has won championships or has done well that didn't play defense. You hear it so much that you take it for granted, but defense wins championships. That is so true. You have to be able to defend.

"So when you talk about our style it starts with a hard nosed defensive effort. If we could run the ball up the floor all game long without having to run a half court offense that would be the preference. But teams are too good. They don't allow you to do that. When teams do stop us and preventing us from getting out on the open floor we want to do a good job with our half court offense. We want to force tempo defensively and offensively. We want to be the dictators. We'd like to be in attack mode on both ends of the ball," said Romar.

Other goals go beyond just qualifying for the Pac-10 tournament. The Huskies qualified by the skin of their teeth last year, but last year is just that to Lorenzo Romar. "We'd like to finish in the top half of the conference," he said. "We haven't been able to do that the past three years. If we could do that I think we have made progress. We have mini-goals to compete everyday in practice, to pay attention to details during games. Those types of things add up to big goals."


Notes:
Oh captain, my captain: As of now no captains have been elected.

The starting line: Tuesday's exhibition against Central Washington will be at 7pm at Bank of America Arena. Admission will be charged. A free exhibition will take place on Monday November 18th vs the Athletes in Action.

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