Jan. 4, 2005
Joel Smith is the only freshman on the roster for 12th-ranked Washington which is off to its best start in 29 years. Smith returns near his hometown of Lompoc, Calif. this weekend when the Huskies travel to Los Angeles. UW plays at USC on Thursday and UCLA on Saturday.
GoHuskies.com: Are you excited for your first Pac-10 road trip?
Joel Smith: "Yeah, I'm glad that it is in L.A. I'm from Lompoc, Calif, which is in Santa Barbara County, so pretty close to L.A. I'm excited to be close to home and see my family. I'm going to have to borrow some tickets from other players."
GoHuskies.com: Does the team prepare any differently for Pac-10 games than non-conference games?
J.S.: "It's the same. In practice we go through the opponent's offenses and defenses."
GoHuskies.com: How is a native-Californian like yourself dealing with the colder temperature and snow predictions in Seattle this time of year?
J.S: "It's not bad, but it's definitely cold. I went to prep school in New Hampshire, so I'm used to the snow. We would get two feet in New Hampshire and they wouldn't shut down the school. I didn't have much time to play in it, but I don't mind it."
GoHuskies.com: How was your holiday break?
J.S: "I went down to Northern California for two days to see family. Then we had a game up here on New Year's Eve, so we went over to each other's houses. Mike Jensen had us over to his house, so it was a good, low-key time."
GoHuskies.com: Speaking of Mike Jensen, what did you think of his 17 points and seven rebounds against Stanford on Sunday?
J.S: "I expected it. Mike is a good player, that's how he usually plays and he just had it that night."
GoHuskies.com: Being from the L.A.-area, were you a follower of USC or UCLA growing up?
J.S: "The Lakers and UCLA. Those were my two teams, but both of the games this weekend are going to be big. Being from Southern Cal and watching those schools over the y ears and now being able to play against them, I'm going to be fired up."
GoHuskies.com: Do either of the teams have players you played against growing up?
J.S: "Yeah, at UCLA, Matt McKinney is there and he is a good friend of mine. Gabe Pruitt from USC is another guy I know. I've definitely heard of a lot of them."
GoHuskies.com: How did going to prep school help prepare you for NCAA Division I basketball?
J.S: "It definitely helped prepare me more education-wise here and then basketball-wise. That league out there is one of the best in the country. School-wise it got me really focused and forced me to sit down and schedule out my stuff so that I can get my work done in a timely fashion."
GoHuskies.com: Has any Husky player helped you to transition more than the others?
J.S: "Everybody. Our whole team is about giving their two-cents and the team wants to help me out and make me a better player. They're going to tell me when I'm doing wrong and really encourage me when I'm doing good."
GoHuskies.com: How do you feel about your role on the team this year?
J.S: "I'm satisfied with where my role is now. I just want to keep playing hard and take what is given to me. If I have an open shot I'm going to take it, I don't want to force anything. Basically, just play basketball. I'm getting more experience playing with the guys and playing against them in practice makes me a better player and prepares me for more real game situations. At first I wasn't used to playing with everyone, especially because everyone else was so used to each other, but now I'm adjusted and they're adjusted to me."
GoHuskies.com: Are you playing at the level that you had hoped to for your freshman campaign?
J.S: "When I came in I didn't want to just be that speck on the floor and not help my freshman year. I wanted to help out, be a part of the team, play hard, and do what I do."