Nov. 15, 2006
By Joshua Mayers
The UW Daily
The exhibition basketball game against St. Martin's didn't count in the record books, but don't tell the Washington student section.
Some fans were there at 10:30 a.m., willing to wait over eight hours to watch their team. Dealing with the cold and rain was just another day in the office for these fans.
Such is the devotion of the Dawg Pack.
Incoming freshmen know all about the Husky fans. During the recruiting process, coach Lorenzo Romar ensures that the prep athletes experience the arena-shaking environment during big home games.
"Not only have [the freshmen] heard about the Dawg Pack, they've been in this building and witnessed the Dawg Pack," Romar said. "They know what the Dawg Pack is like, so I'm sure they'll be really excited."
In the past, Seattle-area recruits may have disregarded Washington basketball.
Locals like Marvin Williams would instead take their talents across the country to other programs.
Now that trend is changing. With two McDonald's All-Americans on the roster, Washington can recruit with the best, and the Husky student section is an integral part of that process.
"It was exciting last year coming to the games and all the support and love they gave me last year," freshman Spencer Hawes said. "Now that I'm actually out there, it's going to be fun playing in front of them and soaking up the whole environment."
For the Dawg Pack's most experienced members, the road to national recognition has been long and slow moving. Three years ago, showing up early meant coming before tip-off. And campouts? Not even a consideration.
Even the most devout fans had to develop their dedication.
"Freshman year I didn't want to go to the UC-Riverside game; some friends had to convince me to," said Dawg Pack veteran Austin Thomas. "That was the beginning of my academic decline; that was the first time I saw Nate [Robinson] dunk. Bam. My life changed."
Thomas is always one of the first in line. His commitment to the team is so astute, he knowingly schedules classes around Husky basketball games, making sure he has enough time to wait in line.
It is undeniable. A new standard is being set.
With such a high demand for Dawg Pack tickets, students are being turned away. Campouts before a big game are a near necessity. And witnessing Husky basketball from the best seats in the house is a privilege students earn, not a right they are granted.
Amid the feverish devotion is an intimate commitment to the team. Last year, students in the middle of another campout were given the opportunity to play a pickup game with fan-favorite Zane Potter.
Many of the players miss the excitement the Dawg Pack brings during the off-season.
"In the summer, you miss those games, getting to play in front of a lot of fans," guard Ryan Appleby said. "It's such a great student section, the Dawg Pack, they do such a great job for us."
Other Pac-10 programs are taking notice of the Dawg Pack as well. In the last couple seasons, the Husky fans have invaded Pullman and Corvallis and guided Washington to victories on the road.
When asked about the upcoming season, point guard Justin Dentmon said "I'm real anxious, because the Dawg Pack really gets us pumped up."
But it's not just senseless taunting and screaming. There is a coy intelligence and sophistication that makes the Washington students stand out. Swearing and insensitive remarks are strongly discouraged, but that doesn't mean they can't have fun.
"When they were wearing sombreros last year against Oregon, that type of stuff. They're a pretty fun group; they have a good sense of humor," said Appleby, when asked about his favorite memories of the Dawg Pack.
They also show restraint. Despite claiming one of the best home-court advantages in the country -- one that has resulted in many great home wins -- Husky fans haven't stormed the court in three seasons.
Success is expected, a luxury this program had rarely seen.
Last year, Jon Brockman was caught off guard when he first played at home. After experiencing the noise and energy of basketball at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the sophomore said he couldn't hear himself think.
This year, the Huskies have five freshmen on the roster that just stepped onto the court for their first regular season home games. Quincy Pondexter never made it to Hec Ed for a game last season, but that doesn't mean he hadn't seen them in action.
"I've seen them on film and I've seen bits and pieces at the Husky Hoopla and the exhibition," he said. "I'm just really excited to see how it is."
Sharpshooter Phil Nelson was also anxious to join the action he'd seen but never felt.
"I came for a couple of the big games last year and it looked real fun," he said.
All this excitement sets up what could be an unforgettable year. One of the best freshman classes in America will add youthful flavor to a program unlike what the Northwest has seen.
And the Dawg Pack will be behind the team every step of the way.