Jan. 9, 2007
By Joshua Mayers
Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman were household names in Seattle even before they committed to the University of Washington. They dominated the local prep scene as two of the best big men this area has ever seen.
Now these former McDonald's All-American's are household names across the country and anchors one of the best frontcourts in the game.
They started as opponents in high school, and then they became teammates. On Seattle's premier Amateur Athletic Program program, Friends of Hoop, Hawes and Brockman highlighted a team that included current pro Martell Webster and Stanford's Mitch Johnson.
Now in their fourth year on the same team, that familiarity has turned into flourishing on-court chemistry.
"They're like brothers," coach Lorenzo Romar said. "They kid each other, and they can say anything to one another at anytime."
Not only that, they can play.
Against one of the nation's most recognizable post players, LSU's Glen Davis, Hawes and Brockman combined for 42 points and 26 rebounds in a Husky blowout.
The 7-foot freshman center from Seattle Prep leads the Huskies in scoring (16.0 ppg), field-goal percentage, blocks and minutes played. Oh yeah, and 3-point percentage -- a perfect 1-for-1 on a clutch shot at USC to send the game into double overtime.
The 260-pound bruiser from Snohomish has earned seven double-doubles to date. Averaging 10 rebounds per game, the sophomore captain has been a constant in energy and blue-collar determination.
It's a wonder that this first-class talent made it to this campus, one that boasts very little of basketball achievement. In years past, these two would likely have taken their abilities to Tobacco Road. Duke, North Carolina and even the NBA certainly had eyes for the talent from the Pacific Northwest.
"No one really wants to go into a program that they feel doesn't have a winning chance," Brockman said. "When me and Spencer got the glimpse that anything is possible at Washington, I think that's what helped us decide this is a place that could help us be really successful."
With success comes size, with size comes more success.
Championship teams are often centered on a dominant post presence -- Shaq, Kareem, Bill Russell. In the college game it's Emeka Okafor, Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.
If the Huskies are going to be great, it is the big men who will lead the way.
"Coach [Marv] Harshman, who coached me, would always say 7-foot is always 7-foot at the end of the game, where a quick guy may not have the same quickness with fatigue and everything," coach Paul Fortier said.
But no one said size and quickness are mutually exclusive. After his surgery, Hawes ran a 5:22 mile, evidence of his superb condition. Brockman has never shied from Washington's up-tempo pace.
Both are comfortable in the fast-break, both can shoot, both are far from your prototypical big men.
"For whatever reason, there is a perception that if you are taller, you have to be slower, but that's not the case," Romar said. "We recruit guys that run the floor, just the taller the better."
Next year's recruiting class precisely mirrors that thought. Three superb athletes, two of them are 6-foot-8.
Young talent, however, is nothing without a leader. Despite being in only his second year at the college level, Brockman's teammates elected him as their captain. In the midst of tough losses, the sophomore has had to call upon his own experiences as a freshman to lead a young Washington team.
"Your mind can do funny things sometimes, particularly with the younger guys, because I know I fell under that last year," Brockman said. "You can start thinking `What's wrong with me?' `Why can't I play?' just after one bad game."
Those same teammates have also seen the immediate advantage to playing along side a super-sized Husky frontcourt.
Sharpshooter Ryan Appleby, a junior, has been a direct beneficiary of the dominant inside play. Teams collapsing on Hawes have all too often seen an Appleby hit from long-range as a result.
"With their size, they just help the whole team out in pretty much every aspect," Appleby said. "You need size to win at college basketball."
Offense. Defense. Put-backs. Baby hooks. Blocked shots without even jumping. Post-to-post passing the Montlake area has never seen before.
Just be sure to enjoy it now. The NBA will beckon at season's end for at least one of the Husky big men. Hawes was a potential lottery pick in last year's draft. However, the league's age limit forced the blue-chip recruit into the college game. He will certainly have that opportunity waiting at the end of this season, boasting more range than the Hubble telescope and footwork worthy of Dancing with the Stars.
For now, the only move these post players want to make is up in the conference standings. After a slow 1-3 start, and with three road games ahead, Hawes and Brockman will be looked upon to lead this team back into contention.
But these two have been playing together for years. They're up to the challenge.
"We've built that chemistry from playing together for so long," Hawes said. "Now we're back at it."
And by their lead, no ambition is too tall, no goal too lofty.