2006-07 will be a season of transition for the University of Washington men's basketball program. After a strong debut against the Pepperdine Waves at the Travelers Classic in Oregon, the Huskies seem to be well on their way to replacing the core of a team that went to three straight NCAA tournaments.
This year's model is extremely young but also extremely talented, with the best group of freshman in UW history. The main issues, of course, will be experience and leadership. The strength of the team, on the other hand, will be its depth, with many of the key veterans coming off the bench.
Sophomore captain Jon Brockman will look to fill the Huskies' leadership needs. A power forward, Brockman responded to the captain's title by scoring a career high twenty-five points and tying a career high with twelve rebounds against Pepperdine. Beyond his stats, Brockman seems to be a calming force for the younger Huskies, and is the go-to player when the team needs a big bucket.
Sophomore point guard Justin Dentmon will be counted on to run the offense, and will need to help Brockman shoulder the leadership responsibilities. He'll be helped by a group of experienced veteran role players: seniors Hans Gasser and Brandon Burmeister, juniors Ryan Appleby and Joel Smith, and sophomore Artem Wallace. This bunch isn't necessarily on par with the talent the Dawgs have had in recent years, but they should provide a nice complement to UW's stable of young studs.
Five Huskies got their first college game experience against the Waves: four true freshman and a redshirt freshman. The biggest name among the newbies is local center Spencer Hawes, who filled up the stat sheet in his debut. The most impressive showing, though, came from small forward Quincy Pondexter: twenty-one points and seven boards. Adrian Oliver, Phil Nelson and Harvey Perry also factored heavily into the UW game plan, playing crucial minutes down the stretch. Oliver and Perry are locked in a battle for the backup point guard spot, but it looks like coach Lorenzo Romar intends to use his little men interchangeably, with the playing time going to whoever's got the hot hand.
All told, the future is bright in Seattle—but there's still plenty of work to be done. For all of their talent, the UW youngsters played recklessly at times in the opener. Look for the turnovers to diminish and the team chemistry to rise as the season progresses. Coach Romar can expedite that process by defining roles and rotations as soon as possible, with an eye towards letting his young players know exactly what he expects of them. If all goes smoothly, this season will be one of reloading instead of rebuilding. Romar has built himself a national power program and looks to be in the national title mix for years to come.