BY Adam Lewis 10:00AM 11/09/2013

Season of question marks for UW men’s hoops

Sans a back-court that features much depth, the Huskies are looking to a super-sized post player that sat out last season to lead them in 2013.

Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar is guardedly optimistic about UW’s chances in a wide-open Pac-12. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Chosen by the West Coast media to finish eighth in the Pac-12 Conference, the University of Washington men’s basketball team enters the 2013 regular season with few absolutes and many question marks, the first of which will be answered Sunday at Alaska Airlines Arena against Seattle University (7 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). 

Coach Lorenzo Romar has a new point guard: McDonald’s All-America selection, freshman Nigel Williams-Goss, earner of steady praise from Romar and a high IQ. Williams-Goss turned down Harvard to join the Huskies after starring last season at Findlay College, a prep school in Henderson, NV.

Romar has what appears a reliable power forward: Fffth-year senior Perris Blackwell, a transfer from the University of San Francisco who, at six-foot-nine and 275 pounds, will try to replace the front court presence lost from Aziz N’Diaye’s departure.

Romar is comfortable with his roster as evidenced Wednesday in UW’s 95-65 exhibition win against Central Washington. Romar played everyone, though no one exceeded 25 minutes.

However, questions loom.

“Defensively, how are we going to play? How are we going to rebound?” Romar said Friday, pegging his biggest concerns. “With the newer guys – these are real games now against quality opponents – can we carry over what we’ve been seeing in practice to the games immediately or will it take awhile?”

Lost to graduation are three of the Huskies’ four leading scorers (Abdul Gaddy, Scott Suggs and N’Diaye) from last year’s 18-16 team. Junior forward Desmond Simmons, who was expected to provide a proven defensive presence, is out until at least mid-December after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee earlier this week.

“It means someone is going to have to step up and provide some of those things for us or provide in more minutes what they can bring to the table,” Romar said.

There’s going to be a lot of replacing going on. It’s a theme that hovers over a UW outfit that, in Romar’s 12th season, will need major contributions from unfamiliar faces to improve upon last season’s disappointing first-round NIT loss.

“Curio-excited — how would you say that?” Romar joked about his outlook for the regular season. “I’m curious and excited. I like what we have to work with. I like the fact that we have depth . . .  probably 95 percent of the time (we) have five players on the floor that can make a play for themselves or others.”

One who did that well against the Wildcats was Blackwell, the Huskies’ new best option down low. Wednesday he led the UW with 21 points on seven of nine shooting in only 21 minutes, adding nine rebounds and two assists.

“He knows how to seal you,” Romar said. “He gets you on his hip and he gets an angle. It’s hard. He’s very crafty and he can shoot with his right or left hand. He’s strong and quick. He’s quicker than he is fast.

Per NCAA transfer rules, Blackwell sat out last season after earning West Coast Conference honorable mention as a junior for the Dons in 2011-12. Since, he has added nearly 40 pounds to his frame.

“He’s relentless. He knows what butters his bread,” Romar added. “He knows how to get in those positions and he just continues to throw it at you the entire time he’s in there.”

Back-up center Gilles Dierickx battles Blackwell every day in practice.

“Man, it’s tough. I’m not going to lie,” Romar said.

The Huskies aren’t receiving much preseason hype, even though they return leading scorer C.J. Wilcox (16.8 points per game), healthy for the first time in a year after offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot. Wilcox had the chance to enter the NBA draft after the disappointing end to last season but opted to instead return for his fifth-year senior campaign.

Unproven but capable are sophomore Andrew Andrews, the former Oregon 5A Co-Player of the Year, and Mike Anderson, a first-year junior-college transfer that might help provide the Huskies’ stability in the back-court.

For the first time in Romar’s tenure, expect a team that relies most on the post.

“Now I think we still have really good guards, but now we have inside play that balances it out a little more,” he said. “We have never really been a balanced team in terms of inside and outside. Now this gives us a little more balance in the perimeter as well as in the paint. That’s what you want.”


YourThoughts

  • westsydemariner

    Tired of Romarn’t. He hit his sweet sixteen ceiling. We need someone hungrier.

    • BigDoogie

      Just don’t feed Lorenzo for a few days.

    • 1coolguy

      Right on!

  • BigDoogie

    Is Shawn Kemp’s kid still playing at the UW? No mention of him.

  • bronco

    it should be an interesting season. we will see how Romars’ game adjusts to the new rules, and with new players, he deserves a lot of leeway. it will take time for the players to bond and be able to interpret what the coach is trying to teach them, to action on the court. in my opinion, this is not a season for high expectations. we shall see as this team and season progresses how quickly the kids can learn.
    Go Dawgs!

    • 1coolguy

      All coaches are up against the same issues, so let’s not make any excuses for Romar.
      He has been at the UW since 2002 and each season is another unknown. There is no program established here and after 10+ seasons, the past is what we can expect and that is not acceptable.

  • 1coolguy

    Romar’s a good guy and a great role model, but never expect him to develop a consistent to 25 team. No way.
    He got lucky on a string of Seattle talent a few years ago, but I don’t see the Dawgs doing much with Romar as the coach.

    • jafabian

      What team in the Pac-12, or even in the West for NCAA basketball consistently is in the top 25 other than Kansas? The balance of recruiting power is in the East and has been since the 1980s. Gonzaga maybe is the exception but they never have a solid run in the tourney.

      Coach Romar, like all other coaches, works with what he has. And his best players are jumping to the pros early. A lot of programs run into that now.

  • RadioGuy

    This looks to be another 16-18 win season with the usual non-conference schedule load-up before January (10 home games out of 14 against mostly beatable opponents) and a sub-.500 conference season followed by a NIT/CBI/CIT invite. In other words, another fair-to-middling team in a string of them.

    Some of the natives are getting restless, but as long as 8,000 people keep coming out to games, neither Scott Woodward nor the Regents will feel compelled to make a change. This is not Duke or even Gonzaga…football is king at the UW and as long as people fill Husky Stadium, any success from the other programs is gravy for the meat-and-potatoes.