MBA hitting his stride

SEATTLE - In Lorenzo Romar's world, a player always brings their 'A' game, regardless of the circumstances. Whether at Hec Ed or Pauley Pavilion, the Maples Center or Friel Court, a Romar-coached player never wavers from their appointed task; play every minute on the floor with maximum concentration, energy and effort, especially on the defensive end of the floor.

But as we know, college kids rarely get the message every day, or at the very least they don't always check their mailbox to get the message.

Case in point; Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Now this is not to single MBA out - quite the contrary. As was stated, even the most disciplined college players can have their blackout moments, their spells during the game in which they give themselves a chance to mentally tune-out for a second. And anyone that has followed Washington basketball this season knows he's not the only one that has gone out for a powder now and again.

But for the first half of the Pac-10 season, the junior from London was spending too much time on the bench, allowing for plenty of tuning-out. He was expected to play massive minutes for Romar as the centerpiece of a strong front line in need of a consistent offensive post presence. Over the summer he had romped all over the Czech Republic for 41 points as a member of Great Britain's U20 national team at the European Championships.

Bryan-Amaning was supposed to be the guy that would fit in with Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas as the third point of UW's powerful scoring trident in 2009-2010. Until he wasn't. The nadir was January 21st, when MBA spent 36 minutes riding the pine, scoring no points for the first time all season long in a one-point loss to UCLA. It had been coming.

But since that debacle at Pauley, Bryan-Amaning has been on a roll and all his league numbers have moved fairly dramatically: He's played 23.1 minutes per game, up from 18.6; he's gone from scoring 4.6 points per game to 10.6; he's taking down 5.4 rebounds per contest, up from 3.9; his blocks are up over three-fold, from .5 per game to 1.7; he's had seven steals in his past four games.

"I haven't changed much from what I've been doing, but the shots are starting to fall," Bryan-Amaning would sheepishly say Tuesday - and he's right about that too. He's gone from shooting .413 the first seven conference games to .574 the last eight. Against USC on Thursday he played a season-high 34 minutes and scored a league-high 14 points. He also had seven rebounds, a block and two steals.

Romar would love to see that line from MBA the rest of the season, and there's a decent chance it might happen.

"He is doing what we've been wanting him to do," Romar said Saturday night of Bryan-Amaning's recent run of form. "He's been performing the way we need him to perform. He's been doing a really good job consistently and we talked Friday that this was going to be a good test for him to play against these bigger front lines to see if he's turned the corner or not, and I'll say he's been pretty consistent. He's playing the most consistent ball in his career."

Arguably his biggest test will be this Saturday in Pullman when the Huskies (18-9, 8-7) take on Washington State 16-11, 6-9) and their solid front court of DeAngelo Casto, Brock Motum and James Watson. They don't score a ton of points (less than 15 per game), but historically the Cougars have done a nice job of keeping Bryan-Amaning in check. In his previous five games against WSU dating back to the 2007-08 campaign - where he still remembers Cougar fans cussing at the Huskies coach in Pullman and razzing former UW guard Ryan Appleby mercilessly - MBA has averaged 3.6 points per game, and has been shut out twice.

"Isaiah (Thomas) was the second Gary Coleman after Nate (Robinson), I guess," Bryan-Amaning said with a smile.

Romar is quick to point out that whatever hype might be generated from this storied rivalry - the Huskies can't get caught up in it. They have to keep their eye on the bigger picture, which is preparation for the Pac-10 Tournament, and hopefully beyond.

"We have too much at stake to get caught up in trivial issues," Romar said. "Our motivation needs to be, we've got to be the best we can be every game."

For Bryan-Amaning, nothing would please him more than to look up and hear nothing from the Friel Court faithful. He handles the hype by handling his business on the floor, but at the same time he's still a young player with opinions. And he's more than happy to share them.

"They like to run the floor, we like to run the floor," he said of the Cougars. "They like to get out and defend; we like to do the same thing. As a whole, I feel that 1-13 (on the roster) we have more athleticism, so I think that helps us more than that helps them. We just have more depth."

And how about WSU guard Reggie Moore and his antics in the first half of the Huskies' 92-64 January win in Seattle? "That's just part of basketball," Bryan-Amaning said. "He's got a lot of emotions coming into this building, growing up at Rainier Beach and wanting to come here. So it's more of a statement, like, 'I should be here'. That's how I took it."

If you are a Washington fan, you've got to love Matthew Bryan-Amaning, especially now that his on-court game is starting to catch up with his off-court game.


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