Nov. 17, 2006
SEATTLE (AP) -- Spencer Hawes took a grimacing look at the wet cloth chair on which he was about to sit, just after a perspiring Washington teammate had gotten up from it.
"Seat's all sweaty," Hawes said, scrunching up his face.
It was the only time during Hawes' debut week that the super-hyped, 7-foot center hadn't appeared like a man among boys.
The Huskies' most heralded recruit ever was bullish during the season-opening Basketball Travelers Classic, wowing his team -- and three awed opponents.
Spinning hook shots, to the middle or the baseline. Seventeen-foot jump shots. Thudding blocked shots -- including four in his first game, the most for Washington in two years -- and then a game-turning one late in Tuesday's rally past Northern Iowa.
Even racing dribbles across midcourt on a fastbreak during Monday's rout of Nicholls State.
"As good as advertised," Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said.
And, oh, the guard-like passing. No-look touch passes from the high post. Wraparound feeds past bewildered defenders. Like a Bill Walton -- without the headband, curls or track record. Yet.
Hawes -- who acknowledges he hasn't ruled out leaving for the NBA after this season -- has played just three college games.
"And remember," coach Lorenzo Romar said, "he's only practiced three times."
The McDonald's All-American and state high school player of the year last spring from Seattle Prep returned just last week from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee four weeks ago.
So what have his teammates learned in Hawes' short stint?
"That he can pass. He took away some of my assists," point guard Justin Dentmon said of the center who had seven assists in a game against Pepperdine on Sunday. "He took away some of my assists."
Dentmon spread his arms wide and smiled, as if to say, "What's up with that?"
"I told Spencer to shoot the first shot every time, so I can then get my assists," he said.
Team assists leader isn't one of the goals Hawes said he has for this season.
"Being freshman of the year in the conference is a goal that I have," Hawes said. "To be an all-conference performer is another one. I think, more important than that is the team goal -- to win as many games as possible -- because in the end ... that's what helps you achieve the individual goals."
Hawes represents the latest example of how much clout Romar's Huskies now have among the biggest teams of college basketball. Hawes turned down North Carolina to stay home and play for the Huskies. Last year, Snohomish native Jon Brockman made big news by saying no to Duke and yes to Washington.
Even though Hawes' father, Jeff, played for Washington from 1972-74 and his uncle, Steve Hawes, is a Husky Hall of Famer who went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA, following family to UW was not a slam dunk.
"I was close to committing on that visit (to North Carolina). It was definitely not a foregone conclusion," Hawes said.
The Tar Heels and coach Roy Williams paraded Hawes and fellow blue-chip recruits onto the field at Keenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C., when the basketball team was getting its national championship rings during a football game. The gesture was meant to wow Hawes, to make him feel he, too, could get one of those rings.
After the ring ceremony, UNC students chanted "Hawes! Hawes!" as the West Coast guy walked up the stadium steps.
"You walk up the stands and they are chanting your name -- at a football game," Hawes said, marveling. "I was like, 'Man, this is pretty cool. I could do this.'
"The way they treat basketball back there, it's more like a religion than anything else. It's tough not to get caught up in that."
Williams -- whom Hawes calls "one of the greatest basketball minds in the country, if not the world" -- phoned Hawes every Sunday during the period that the NCAA allows college coaches to contact recruits. Hawes chose to sign with Washington, to be a part of building what North Carolina already is, on a Saturday.
The next day, Williams called, as usual. As Hawes' mother held the phone, Hawes ran away and tried to slam his bedroom door.
"I didn't want to talk to him," Hawes said. "But I had to do it."
What about that other, whispered-about have-to-do: bolt for the NBA after this season?
That brings another deft Hawes pass.
"We'll wait and see. I haven't made that decision by any means," he said. "We'll just have to take it as it comes. But if that's the case, then I'll try to do as much as I can.
"But I haven't gotten to that point yet. I look forward to this year, to try to do as much as I can to help the team win."