BY SPNW Staff 05:00PM 10/23/2012

Div. II hoops king Western first up for Huskies

New assistant coach Brad Jackson gets to face his old school, Western Washington, in an exhibition game that is the Huskies’ first public appearance of the new season.

Lorenzo Romar has a new offense, two new assistants and several new players to incorporate into Huskies hoops starting Wednesday. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

University of Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar characterized Wednesday night’s 2012-13 Huskies unveiling against defending NCAA Division II national champion Western Washington University as an opportunity for his club to learn and improve against a quality opponent.

“It’s an exhibition game, but it’s great that we are opening with such an experienced team,” Romar said.

Washington, the Pac-12’s defending regular-season champion, and Western tip off at 7 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena. The Huskies start their regular-season schedule Nov. 11 in the Tip-Off Hall of Fame Classic against Loyola of Maryland, also at home.

The Vikings were coached for 27 seasons by Brad Jackson, the Division II national coach of the year and a longtime Romar friend who became Romar’s top assistant Aug. 12. So the scouting report figures to be thorough.

“Western isn’t going to be intimidated by us,” Romar said. “They know how to win (31-5 last year). This is a great preparation for our season and that’s what we want. We’ll get to try all sorts of combinations that we wouldn’t dare try in a regular-season game. We can use a game like this to learn some things about our team.”

The Huskies, who missed out on the NCAA Tournament last spring after falling early in the Pac-12 Tournament, are missing three key players from that team. Just a few days after the Huskies were bounced from the NIT, Romar’s leading scorers, Terrence Ross (16.4) and Tony Wroten Jr. (16.0), declared for the NBA draft. Another big operative, Darnell Gant, graduated.

Ross went eighth overall to the Toronto Raptors and Wroten 25thl to the Memphis Grizzlies. Helping ease their losses will be the return of senior guard Scott Suggs, who missed all of last season after suffering a pre-season injury, as well as the expected improvement of some of UW’s younger players. Romar cited two Tuesday.

“I think think Shawn Kemp Jr. and Jernard Jarreau have made big strides,” Romar said.

Kemp, a 6-9 sophomore and son of the ex-Sonics great, saw action in 28 games for the 24-11 Huskies last season, averaging 6.5 minutes per contest. He had a career-high six points against Arizona State. Jarreau, a 6-10, 220-pound forward and the first UW player from New Orleans since Eldridge Recasner, used his freshman season as a redshirt year.

“They are much more confident and they’ve been more productive,” said Romar.

Romar is significantly altering the way the Huskies play offensively by abandoning the motion offense for the high-post offense, a traditional set he has used before when he has the players to run it. Romar calls it “an entirely different offense with our personnel”  following the losses of Ross and Wroten. UW fans who attend Wednesday night’s exhibition won’t see much of it, though.

“For this game, we’ll play with a basic offense and a basic defense,” Romar said. “This is about personnel experimentation. We won’t do some of the more advanced things. It won’t be the finished product.”

Romar also said, “We are going to be on a mission to be better defensively this year. Last year, we were too inconsistent defensively across the board.”

The Washington-Western Washington exhibition will neither be televised nor broadcast on Seattle radio. It will be available on Western’s hometown station, Bellingham’s KBAI 930 AM.


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