Dawgs focus on family

Every player will tell you, the closer the bond they have with their teammates the more they are ready to go to battle with them. Last season, the team chemistry on the Husky basketball squad was so good, it helped lead them to a regular season Pac-10 championship, but now with three of those main components gone, they'll look to others to help lead the way.

Washington lost two of the main cogs in their improbable run to the Pac-10 Championship in the spring when forward Jon Brockman and guard Justin Dentmon graduated and top assistant Cameron Dollar decided to leave Montlake to take the head coaching job at Seattle University.

When the players met with the media on Wednesday, they addressed both losses, but they had no trepidation about moving forward.

"Losing Dollar hurt, but then gaining someone like (Raphael Chillious), somebody I know, it's kinda like replacing Dollar," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "I told these dudes, once he got here he'd get after you and yell at you so that you can get better, so I'm glad he's here."

"He's a good coach, a great recruiter and he knows every kid around the nation," F/C Matthew Bryan-Amaning said, matter-of-factly. "We were talking about it and he's basically seen every player we'll play this year at one time or another."

Chillious comes to Washington from South Kent, where he was a very successful head coach from 2003-2008. He comes with a reputation of working well with the bigger players inside.

"I can get pretty intense, but that's not my role to be out in front, that's coach (Lorenzo) Romar's role, but I'm an intense guy," Chillious said with a smile. "I'm ready to get down and get the sweat equity going for me and for them. I think you'll see someone who is tough and firm, but giving them love at the same time."

That tough love will be focused squarely on Bryan-Amaning, Washington's lone experienced big man, a 6-9 player with the ability to post-up or play further out.

"He might have been restricted in developing a little bit more of a straight post-game when he played at South Kent," Chillious admitted. "When he played for me there, we had six guys that were 6-10 or bigger so a lot of times he was playing away from the basket, utilizing the really good ball skills he has for a guy his size, and that sort of retarded his progress in being a straight post-guy at the college level.

"He's gotten better there though. I think the biggest thing is his self-confidence and really understanding what his role is with this team."

Chillious said he's going to work on Bryan-Amaning to be a little more patient, while not throwing his whole repertoire at the man guarding him.

"A big thing is slowing the game down in his head so his body will slow down accordingly," Chillious said. "He's so talented and he's got a lot of moves, so a lot of times kids will go through every move instead of slowing down and feeling where a defensive guy is, being in good balance and knowing which move will work, instead of unleashing his whole arsenal."

With Brockman leaving, the floor leadership role is up for grabs and one of the young men that will be looked to is Thomas, a sophomore who got in a lot of work this past offseason with some NBA stars.

"The Chris Paul camp was an experience of a lifetime," Thomas said. "Playing against him and with him, working out with him, he's a great guy and I went to the Deron Williams' camp too, so the best two point guards in the NBA and I'm out there working out with them. They were like ‘at the level you're playing at, you're only one step away'.

"The hardest worker I was with this summer was Jason Terry, and I worked out with him for two weeks. I mean, I have guys like Will (Conroy) and Jamal (Crawford) on me all the time, but Jason just worked with me on my jump-shot and just little things about the NBA game that will help me in the college game.

"I've talked to Kobe Bryant, Damon Stoudamire and Isiah Thomas, and they all say once it becomes a job and you get more serious and you take everything everyone tells you more serious, that's when you can start to get that into your game."

Thomas said he hit the weights this summer and he may have a highlight or two waiting for Husky fans.

"Growing up and being small, I always felt I was strong enough, but this summer I took it more serious," Thomas noted. "It's not just a game anymore, this is my job along with going to school. I feel like I took a step forward, I got a year older and I got into the weight room and I'm eating a lot more and eating better. My vertical (jump) has increased too, it's about a 39.

"I think I might have some highlight stuff ready for this year, we'll see how that works out."

Joining Thomas and Venoy Overton in the backcourt rotation this winter will be highly-acclaimed freshman guard Abdul Gaddy, but the youngster from Tacoma knows he's got a lot to prove.

"Those (NBA) players, when they see me they really want to go at me," Gaddy said with a chuckle. "They don't take it easy on me because I'm just out of high school. Basketball is basketball, it's the same game you learned when you were little. It's the same rules, but the players just get bigger, stronger and faster.

"Playing with these guys, working out with the strength and conditioning coach, you feel more explosive, quicker, stronger and you jump a little higher. But when you get out here it's all about being tough and that's what we're getting ready for.

"We're all like brothers. We all hang out together all the time and we just get through it. Coach Romar does things for a reason and if we listen to him and do the things he wants us to do, we'll be successful."

Thomas agrees.

"(The) Main goal is defending our Pac-10 championship because we feel like we can do that again," he said. "We feel like if we come together as a team this year, like we did last year, with the talent we have on this team we feel like we can go further. If we play hard every game, we think we can go far.

"We're a family and we want to defend what we worked hard to get last year."

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