Nov. 27, 2006
By Joshua Mayers
It's hard to say which part of Adrian Oliver's performance on Friday was most impressive.
Was it the game-high nine rebounds as one of the smallest players on the court?
Was it the incredible one-handed heave to beat the buzzer before halftime, which ESPN's SportsCenter featured in its top plays?
Was it the defense on Rodney Stuckey that seemed tighter than that pair of jeans you've kept since high school?
One thing is for certain: The freshman from Modesto, Calif., willed the Huskies to victory against Eastern Washington.
Coach Lorenzo Romar said after the game that Oliver was the catalyst for the Huskies throughout the contest.
He recorded career-highs in five statistical categories: 14 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and two steals. Not to mention, on a young team plagued with turnover problems, he only committed one in 31 minutes.
"If he wouldn't have come in and given us the energy that he gave us, we wouldn't have pulled out one like that," said guard Justin Dentmon.
Success for Oliver started in the trenches.
His achievements continued with one of the best plays in all of college basketball this season. After collecting a Stuckey miss with the seconds ticking down on the opening half, Oliver drained a floater from midcourt to cap an 11-0 Washington run.
"I just got a lot of spin on the ball and a little bit of luck," said Oliver, who barely missed a 70-foot heave at halftime against Northern Iowa.
It was a play that certainly caught the eye of his teammates.
"Me and Adrian always talk about who's going to hit the first half-court shot, because we always did in high school," said freshman Quincy Pondexter. "I knew it was going in as soon as it left his hands."
Oliver finished his performance with a masterful defensive effort.
With the Eagles seizing a double-digit lead, and Stuckey on his way to an Adam Morrison-like performance, Oliver took it upon himself to shut down the EWU star.
The freshman drew two charges against the nation's leading scorer -- an effort that Oliver said could get him out of some conditioning in this week's practices. To honor the efforts of the 6-foot-3 guard, Romar started the freshman at the start of the second half.
"He provided so much energy, you got to reward him and put him in there," Romar said.
It is a development that Husky fans may get to see more of in the coming weeks.
"Let's leave reward out -- we're trying to win," Romar said. "He was helping us win that game."
Having already seen a dominant performance from classmates Pondexter and Hawes, Friday night was Oliver's turn to shine.
He hopes to be the most complete player on the court. He characterizes his play to that of a Bentley. He claims the season is still "a work in progress."
What's not to love?
So will the youngster be starting in Wednesday's game against Idaho?
"We'll see," Romar said with a coy smirk.