Tuesday Press Conference Notes

SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar admitted it, as much as it may have pained him to do so: his team played pretty well in winning the Athletes in Action Basketball Classic this past weekend. In fact, they even played above expectations. But that doesn't mean Romar isn't chomping at the bit to get those hoop dawns back in the gym and back to business.

With only two games to play until the beginning of December, the Husky coaches know they can make up for time lost due to the flu.

They play San Jose State on Friday, November 20th, and then Montana on November 29th.

"Thank goodness we got through the weekend and still made some improvements," Romar said on Tuesday. "But now we can forget about that first weekend because this will allow us to get caught up. And in spite of that first week, I thought we still made progress. We probably played better than I thought we would have.

"But I think the timing is great that we got a lot of practices coming up because we were able to play three games and really get a good idea on where we are and where our deficiencies are and kind of what this team has a chance to be. And now go have 7-8 practices or nine practices and only play one game. We would like to see progress in these next two weeks. Progress obviously in the next game, but in the next two weeks it gives us a good solid base to get better. This will give us our week back from that flu week at the beginning of the year (when) we missed out on a lot of training and development. This will get us caught up…hopefully."

The Huskies took down Wright State 74-69, Belmont 96-78 and Portland State 111-55 to capture the the crown. "I liked our focus," Romar said of the positives taken away from the weekend's work. "I liked our defensive intensity. Although we made mistakes we talk a lot about if you're going to make a mistake go all out in making one. Don't sit back and make a mistake. There were times we missed some coverages, but because we competed at such a high level we were able to recover to where we were able to fix it before anything bad happened. I definitely liked that. I liked how we shared the basketball. And probably, I mentioned this after our last game, maybe the most impressive thing to me was in that last game against portland State with the score the way it was, we competed until the horn sounded. That includes Scott Suggs' dive on the floor with 15 seconds left. That's what we got to do. we got to play one way and that's the right way with focus and intensity the entire time."

Suggs, if you went by minutes per game so far this season, would be the Huskies' sixth man. He's also averaging six points per game. "He earned it," Romar said of Suggs' play. "I think the main thing was he caught our attention on the defensive end. If you go back to the first night, I think with the exception of Clarence Trent, he might have been the last guy off the bench. I can't remember if it was him or Justin Holiday. But when he got his opportunity, he made the best of it. So when guys do that, you reward them."

Quincy Pondexter was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for his efforts this past weekend. Romar was effusive about his senior, and even compared his start to another top UW player that has made it big in the NBA. "You look at how he's playing now, and I haven't seen all the teams around, but I can't imagine anyone playing better than Quincy is right now," Romar said. "You're talking about a guy who is 6-6 and is averaging a double-double, shooting almost 70 percent from the field and 95 or 96 percent from the foul line. And he's defending and diving on the floor for loose balls. That's pretty good. How does that compare on a national level? He's playing as well as anyone. As I say that, it's a little scary, because I remember saying those same words about Brandon Roy his senior year, around this time. His started when conference started, he had back-to-back 35, playing as good as anyone. Right now, I can't think of anyone that's playing better than Quincy in the country."

Another player who turned it on in a big way was Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The 6-foot-9 junior power forward/center didn't have the best start against Wright State, but the light went off Saturday night. "I think he just showed that he has some pride," Romar said of MBA. "It was like, 'No, this is not going to happen. I'm going to bring it.' I think that's what he did."

Bryan-Amaning had 23 points and seven rebounds against Belmont. "When you look at the first game, we got zoned quite a bit," Romar said when asked about how MBA got his points. "They weren't giving us anything inside. They were packing it in. Beat us from the outside. The second game…one-on-one coverage. It was like the old days where you'd see Jerry West and Oscar Robertson on the side, and everybody just standing over there and they were just backing each other down. It was kind of like that. It was just one-on-one with a guy. That helped, I think. And I think it helped early on, Isaiah (Thomas) drives and gives him a dunk. He got a couple of baskets where he didn't have to do anything but make the shot. Then he got his confidence going. That one-on-one coverage allowed him to just focus on that. Then, he got going."

The interesting thing about Washington's last game - against Portland State - and their next game against San Jose State, is that both teams feature former Huskies. Phil Nelson left UW for Portland State, and Adrian Oliver transferred out to SJSU to be closer to his hometown of Modesto, Calif. Nelson and Oliver were half of a very-heralded class for Washington, one that Scout.com ranked as the No. 6 class in the country for 2006. That class also included Pondexter and center Spencer Hawes, who left after one year to play for the Sacramento Kings of the NBA.

"Every time it's painful. Every time it's painful because for me personally, you spend 1-2 maybe even 3-4 years recruiting someone and in your mind you're talking about this thing is going to work," Romar said. "And they get there and you're pulling for them. But you're puling for all of your guys. And when it doesn't work out for them, like maybe a father, you feel like you've failed. Sometimes you feel that way. You hate that they got to go through this. The family. Sometimes you can feel like maybe they think you've betrayed them because they're not playing as much or whatever the case may be. It is painful. You hate to see that happen. But it's growing more and more every year and I think that's becoming the norm. If a kid doesn't play, he leaves.

"The grass isn't always greener on the other side. If you water the grass where you are, it's green there. And that's the case for a lot of kids, but they don't give it a chance."

In that's what happened with Oliver, in Romar's opinion. "Adrian has been the man all of his life and he should have been," Romar said. "He's really good. And in our situation it wasn't happening overnight. There also was – some use it for an excuse – but in his case when things didn't happen as quickly as he would have liked he became more and more homesick. It's interesting when someone says they're homesick and they transfer a thousand miles away. But in his case he transferred to San Jose."

When Nelson and Oliver left the UW program, it definitely created a void. "It took us probably, we were behind for about a year, I'd say," Romar said. "I think we caught up after a year. I wouldn't say as much we were scrambling, but there's some guys that really needed to step up. Thank goodness Justin Dentmon stepped up last year. If he doesn't step up, we don't win the league. Quincy started to step up last year. So some things like that happened. If everything was the same as it was when those guys were here and no one really stepped up, we would have been in trouble. Some guys stepped up so it didn't take us too long. It took us about a year to recover from that."

And now, Romar believes this is as deep a team as he's ever fielded at UW. "I don't have a number," he said, when asked how deep his rotation is expected to go. "For it to work for everyone, so one guy is not just playing two minutes and another guy is playing two minutes…I don't have that number. I've said before you'd like to get it down to about nine. That's a manageable number. But if we play 10 guys, it's not as if we're going to forfeit our games. I think you can play seven guys and rotate seven guys and do really well. But in our system thought, we probably need a couple more bodies.

"It's difficult because you can go through a stretch where one night someone really plays well, and you can emotionally say There is it! And the next night he stinks it up. And someone else steps up. That's the worst problem to have - when no one is stepping up. But eventually someone steps up day-in and day-out and they are there. And that other one is there sometimes, and not there sometimes. With each team it's different. It's hard to tell. I've been a part of a very successful team that didn't sort itself out until the second half of conference. But once that second half of conference hit and rotation was stuck within, the team never lost another game. And the rotation never changed again. So it could take a while."

Regardless of how long it takes, Romar is thrilled to have a number of practices right now to shore up what he saw as deficiencies during the weekend tournament. "We had some defensive breakdowns in terms of our coverages at times. Too many missed box outs. We rebounded in terms of numbers, but against some teams that are more physical that are going to crash the boards more we could be in trouble if we don't get that resolved. so those are some things that stood out."

Romar has time to get the kinks ironed out, and he feels like the team is in a good spot emotionally to put their recent success behind them and get back to work. "I kind of feel that when they come to practice today, their esteem will be high enough to cause us to be motivated," he said. "Wow, maybe we can be special if we really work. I don't think we'll going to come out today feeling like, alright, we're going to the tournament now. I don't think so, not with this team. But we need the practice. We need to get better. There are some positives. There are some things that, if we can continue to do, we can have a successful season. But you also see these things that could be holding us back. That's what these practices, to me, these next two weeks are as crucial as our pre-season practices when you are preparing for your first game. I was concerned that getting through this tournament, we'd be worse off than we were, because I thought we were behind. But now, after playing this tournament, we can take these next two weeks and really try to get ourselves right."
Notes:
Injury Report: Romar had just gotten back from being on the road, so he couldn't give an update on Tyreese Breshers and his injured finger. Hopefully we'll know more on Wednesday, but Romar did say that besides Breshers the rest of the team is 100 percent healthy.

Scouting SJSU: Romar said the staff is just putting their scout together on the Spartans, but did admit to seeing them first-hand last year. "They have a pretty good player," he said with a grin on his face. "He knew I was at the game and he scored like 23 points in the first half and ended up with 37. My man Adrian (Oliver). So we know about him. We know he's a very good basketball player. They're going to challenge us that's for sure."

Turning it around at the FT line: It looked like another rough year shooting from the stripe in their exhibition win over CWU, but in the three games since the beginning of their regular season, the Huskies are shooting nearly 80 percent on their free throws. "We always address it," Romar said. "We started that ladder deal…coach Shaw started that ladder deal last year. We've continued to do it, and it took a while for it to kick in, but this year…hopefully it's here to stay. It's kicked in a little sooner. It doesn't hurt that your two guys that are shooting the most free throws are shooting a high percentage. And I've always said that if our guy that was shooting 10 foul shots a game was a 40 percent foul shooter, we'd be shooting about 60 percent."

His premise is holding true, as the Huskies' top-two foul shooters - Thomas and Pondexter - are shooting a blistering .875 (42-48). Last year, the two combined to shoot .706 (231-327) from the stripe, so it's natural to expect their efforts to tail off a little bit as the season wears on.

Romar on the Pac-10: With losses by Oregon State to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and UCLA to Cal State-Fullerton, the Pac-10 has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start. "Oregon State, that surprised me," Romar said. "Washington State - new system. Oregon, doesn't surprise me at all. Call me on it if I said that Oregon wasn't going to be very good. I don't think I said that. I think I said that Oregon was going to be an improved team. UCLA's situation…we talk about our flu first week, they were worse. They had guys that were physically…groins and ankles and couldn't do anything. Jerime Anderson, their starting point guard, was out for three weeks. I say let's wait before we throw them under the bus. They didn't look as good as they would have hoped last night, that's a fact. But let's wait a little bit. Let's see if time doesn't get them a little better."

Gaddy Finding His Groove: "He's doing just fine," Romar said of the former McDonald's All-American. "He's like a fighter that is feeling his opponent out for the first two rounds. That's just been his approach. He's made huge improvements on the defensive end, in terms of where he needs to be. He has taken in and digested all the offensive concepts that we have, because he's a true point guard. He's not just out there playing, trying to find out where can I get my points. He's saying, OK. Where can I get Quincy shots? Where can I get Isaiah shots? When do we want to control tempo? Where do we want to get the ball? See, that's how he's thinking. He's just feeling his way right now. He's going to be a special point guard."


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