Feb. 16, 2010
By Michael Jeremiah
SEATTLE - In the twilight of a student-athlete's senior year, it's easy to fall into clichés. Just take it one game at a time. I haven't thought about the end.
Coach Tia Jackson cut through it all when she broke eye contact with reporters at her weekly press conference leading up to a road trip to Los Angeles and focused on Sami Whitcomb in the back of the room.
"I'm looking across the room here at Sami, and you have five games left, honey, in your regular season," said Jackson.
The time is now for the Huskies (9-14, 4-9 in Pac-10) to make a mark during the rest of their slate. A bid into the WNIT is attainable, and playing well against some tough opponents in the coming weeks would build the needed momentum for a strong run at the automatic NCAA bid in the Pac-10 tournament.
"I'm trying not to focus on it too much because it takes away from the individual games when you do that," said Whitcomb. "It's definitely something that I want to be aware of because I think it's something that brings urgency to the games. I think it's important to play with that type of urgency."
It's certain that Whitcomb's play over these five games will have a lot to do with the outcome. The senior forward is Washington's leading scorer (14.1 per game) and rebounder (6.0) and usually the focus of the opposing defense.
The games against UCLA and USC mark the last road trip to Los Angeles for Whitcomb, who hails from nearby Ventura. That means that outside of Bank of America Arena, Whitcomb will have the biggest cheering section of the year. It's a chance to play well in front of the people who supported her in her high school days.
"I always have a good time against those schools because my family and friends get to come out," said Whitcomb. "That's always exciting because they don't usually get to see me play too much. This should be a fun trip for us, especially because these last five games will be key for us."
Southern California produces plenty of basketball talent. Whitcomb is one three players on the Husky roster from the region.
Although she is a big basketball fan that rooted for the hometown Lakers when she was younger, Whitcomb didn't pick a side in the USC-UCLA rivalry.
"I feel like it's weird that I just watched both," said Whitcomb. "I was the person who wasn't a Duke or North Carolina fan. I always appreciated watching both. I'm like an hour away from both. I didn't really care."
Whitcomb didn't pick an allegiance in the matter, but she was a target for both schools to a certain extent. Perhaps the more serious of the two was USC, who made a late charge for Whitcomb. She ended up committing to Washington, and has enjoyed a stellar career as a Husky.
Whitcomb is in the top 20 scorers all-time at Washington with 1,147 points, and could pass recent Husky legend Lisa Oriard this weekend. She was also named Pac-10 Player of the Week earlier this season.
As a leader of the Washington roster, she knows that no matter the location or the opponent, a strong finish to the season has to start this weekend.
"Nothing is guaranteed in terms of post-season play," said Whitcomb. "It's something that we are going to have to demand."
Luckily for Washington, their leader has decided her rooting interests when it comes to women's college basketball in Los Angeles.
"Now, I'm equally not a fan of both," said Whitcomb with a smile.
To follow the Huskies action in Los Angeles this weekend, visit to GoHuskies.com.