Overall Rank: #53
Conference Rank: #7 Pac-10
2006-07: 19-13, 8-10, 7th
2006-07 postseason: none
Washington returns four of their starters, but it seems like just about everybody else in the Pac-10 returns just as much talent. The Huskies have more than enough talent to make a run at the NCAAs, but improving on their conference record may be difficult to do.
Spencer Hawes led the team with 14.9 points per game and added 6.4 rebounds. His absence leaves a void in the paint, but Coach Lorenzo Romar is not opposed to playing with a smaller and quicker lineup. Adding more questions to the frontcourt are the departures of Phil Nelson and Hans Gasser. Nelson, who is transferring to Portland State, started nine games. While he was more of a perimeter orientated player, he did provide a majority of the depth at forward. Gasser was never much of a scoring threat, yet he was a decent big body to come in and eat up some fouls. Brandon Burmeister and Harvey Perry, who transferred after seeing action in just four games, are the lone departures from the perimeter group.
There are not a lot of proven players in the frontcourt and Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Darnell Gant and Joe Wolfinger will have to be ready to contribute. Bryan-Amaning, a 6-9 forward, earned Connecticut’s Mr. Basketball honors. Despite his size, he will float out on the perimeter. That may be where his future is at, but Bryan-Amaning still needs to bulk up a bit and become a better rebounder and finisher around the basket. Gant is rather similar to Bryan-Amaning. He is long and lean and prefers the perimeter game. While that fits into UW’s style of play, both need to get stronger. Wolfinger is a sharpshooting big man. After two years on the sidelines with a stress facture in his foot, the seven-footer hopes to avoid the injury bug and see some action this year. Small forward Justin Holiday will not have an easy time finding minutes on the crowded wings, but he is a solid defender and will do what needs to be done to help the team win. Two of the players who are more likely to earn minutes on the wing are familiar to Pac-10 fans. The Huskies missed Joel Smith’s defending skills last year while he was out with an injury. The 6-4 junior has never started a game during his career, but he has played an important role of the bench. Tim Morris has been nothing but impressive since he arrived as a transfer from Stanford. The 6-4 senior has plenty of experience and now he just needs to prove he can shake off the dust and be as productive during games as he has been in practice. Incoming freshman Venoy Overton will add more depth to the already deep backcourt. The lefty point guard has a nice shot, but it is his tough defending and ability to find his teammates that will make him an impact player sooner or later.
Who to Watch:
Along with Morris and Smith, Adrian Oliver, Quincy Pondexter and Ryan Appleby are all fighting for two starting spots on the wing. Oliver has some nice moves getting to the basket, but he needs to get stronger and improve his outside shot if he wants to beat out the competition for a starting job. Pondexter ranked third on the team in scoring and rebounding with 10.7 and 4.0, respectively, and he was just a freshman. Appleby is a great long range shooter and averaged 10.5 points per game. However, he is a one dimensional player who may be better suited as a sharpshooter off the bench. Averaging 10.1 points, 3.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds, the numbers look good for Justin Dentmon. Yet, the Huskies had a problem with the turnovers last year. Some of that is due to their style of play and other players certainly did not help the cause, but the point guard has to dictate the tempo and keep things under control even when playing fast. Now an upperclassman and with two years as a starter under his belt, Dentmon should become a better leader on the floor.
There is plenty of talent on the perimeter, but the best player on the team is forward Jon Brockman. The 6-7 junior averaged 14.2 points and a conference high 9.6 rebounds last year. Brockman played without Hawes two years ago, but it remains to be seen if he can put up such lofty numbers again without his talented frontcourt mate. Junior Artem Wallace had some decent games at the end of last season and could develop into the physical presence the team could use in the paint. At 6-8, he is not imposing, but he does not lack any strength. Reaching the NCAA Tournament will be tough for anybody in the conference, but UW will not be snubbed by the NIT again.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Dentmon, Junior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Ryan Appleby, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Quincy Pondexter, Sophomore, Forward, 10.7 points per game
Jon Brockman, Junior, Forward, 14.2 points per game
Artem Wallace, Junior, Center, 2.4 points per game