Oct. 13, 2006
The Huskies, coming off an NCAA Sweet 16 appearance that was seconds from something magical, begin "a new era, a changing of the guard," Romar said, with a preseason basketball practice late Friday night that will be open to the public.
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Replacing them will be what one scouting service has rated the nation's third-best freshman class, led by Washington state high school player of the year Spencer Hawes -- the most notable of the preseason injuries.
Nine of the 13 players on the roster are either freshmen or sophomores.
"This is the youngest team I've ever coached," Romar said. "We are going to have to get real old, real quick."
The aches and alterations already have the fun-on-the-run Huskies in an odd mode: Slow.
"It's going to be slower, because you don't have the full complement of players from your team," Romar said of progress from the first weeks of practice, prior to a Nov. 3 exhibition against Saint Martin's and the Nov. 12 opener against Pepperdine.
Hawes, the 7-foot would-be phenom from Seattle Prep, had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Wednesday.
He said Thursday that doctors told him the removal of a particle in the knee was a success. They also told Hawes he could begin riding an exercise bike on Friday and that he may be able to begin running in two weeks.
"When they said that, that left me pretty optimistic," Hawes said, adding he expects to practice well before the opener.
Junior Joel Smith and redshirt freshman Joe Wolfinger are out with stress fractures, Wolfinger likely for the entire season. Brandon Burmeister, one of only two Husky seniors, has a foot injury. And Hans Gasser is recovering from a shoulder separation suffered during the summer, though he is expected to practice Friday.
Romar downplayed the injuries, saying some of the ailing will be back within a couple of weeks. But Brockman, a heralded high school star from Snohomish, Wash., went through his first month of practicing Romar's system 12 months ago. He said those absent will be missing a key stretch.
"The first month is really important because it's the time to perfect everything you are going to do in the season, without the games going on," Brockman said. "And the conditioning is going to be hard this time of year, because conditioning is a big part of what we do."
Yet it's not as if Romar will be cobbling together an intramural team from the campus playgrounds to practice these first weeks.
Point guard Justin Dentmon is back following a debut season in which he started all but one game. He made some crucial mistakes -- including ones that cost his team a win at Stanford -- but also made beyond-his-years plays late in huge wins such as at home against Arizona.
Ryan Appleby returns following a transfer season in which the Stanwood, Wash., native made a team-best 42 percent of his 3-point shots and was the Pac-10 newcomer of the year while coming off the bench. He may have that role again this season.
Beyond Hawes, the freshmen include forward Quincy Pondexter, rated among the nation's top 30 recruits. Brockman calls the Fresno, Calif., native an "extraordinary athlete." Since June, the 6-foot-6 Pondexter has added 20 pounds to reach 212 -- and vaguely resemble the rugged, departed Williams, a fellow front-line force.
"Eating," the muscular Pondexter said when asked how he added the pounds.
Adrian Oliver has arrived from Modesto, Calif., to precociously declare himself as a candidate for a starting shooting guard spot.
Oliver also said he has plans of jumping over as many as three people in Friday night's dunk contest.