Dec. 20, 2009
Paul Fortier returned to his alma mater in 2005 to join coach Lorenzo Romar's staff as an assistant. He had a stellar Husky career from 1983-86 in which he scored 1,326 points and was all-conference as a senior. Fortier has been fortunate to coach the likes of big men Spencer Hawes and Jon Brockman in his Husky return and is now focused on honing the skills of the big guys on the current roster. Here is his assessment of where the low post players are at this stage of the season.
Now that we're a few games into the season, how are you seeing the loss of Jon Brockman? Are you getting a better idea of how your big guys are going to make the loss?
"I think it's coming okay. With Jon Brockman, you knew what you were getting. It was a guaranteed double-double, even if at points last year we didn't need him to score much. With the addition of Isaiah [Thomas], there were games were Jon only took four shots, but you still had the 15 rebounds. When you know you have that every game, you can rest at night. Jon worked his tail off, too. These guys, they're working. We know Jon Brockman is not just replaced. It has to be team effort, and all those guys know that.
"We've got Quincy [Pondexter] down there, he's been going back and forth, and that's really helped us because Quincy's been really consistent with rebounding and the scoring. We're going to keep giving him looks at every spot."
Looking on the coming year, what are few things that are going to be crucial for this team to emphasize?
"We have to be consistent from a rebounding standpoint. I think that's going to be very important for us, because like I said, with Jon [Brockman] we knew what we had every night. And our guard play--taking care of the ball, and I think we'll be fine there. I would also say our outside shooting. I think we'll be fine as far as that as long as we take care of the ball, we'll get attempts up there and crash the boards and get a second shot. We've done well making our free throws because we do have good guards that can get in the lane and draw fouls. I think we'll be smart enough like we were last year to know we may not be the best three-point shooting team, but we took the least amount of three-points shots last year. As long as we stay in that realm, where we know who we are, I think we'll be good."
So far this season, how would you rate the play and progress of the big guys as a whole?
I would say for the most part it's a work in progress, but it's early in the season and we're looking forward to getting better in all the facets of the game. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is coming along. With Tyreese [Breshers] we haven't really been able to work much outside of the practice hours with him because of we want to avoid setbacks with his injuries."
Individually, how would you rate the play of Bryan-Amaning, Darnell Gant, Breshers, and Clarence Trent so far this season? And what do they need to work on?
"I would say all of them have been inconsistent. It's just kind of tough with Breshers right now. When he's played minutes, for sure he's done some good things, you see it, but he's not there minutes-wise yet. The biggest thing for Tyreese is we have to make sure he doesn't get those little cheap fouls he gets, so we can give him more minutes. That's the biggest thing--him using his body and learning. He hasn't played in two years, so officiating--like with Abdul Gaddy--is tough. He's like a freshman because he hasn't played in college games, and really played with the referees."
Is Tyreese a victim of his own strength?
"I would say so. One of his fouls [in the Cal State Northridge game], the ref said he held behind, and he did not hold behind. I mean he manhandled him out of the way, he's stronger. That's what it was when I saw the clip, I'm like, `Hey you can't call that.' He did not move his arms around him, he moved him out of the way. So, we have to work on those things. And I think it'll be different once the Pac-10 season starts and you're going against a stronger foe. Nothing against Northridge, but when you are bigger and stronger, sometimes you get the bad call."
Back to the other big men.
"I think with Matthew, he just has to get more consistent. He needs to be consistent and he needs to keep things simple. When he keeps it simple, he has some pretty good success. I think if he works hard and keeps things simple, you'll get some good highlight films and all those things, but right now he really needs stay focused. He needs to keep the rebounding consistent--I think he had 10 boards [against Cal State Northridge]. You just don't want him get 10 boards, then three boards, and things like that.
"Darnell's really picked it up. We've been on him about rebounding the last few games. He had nine in the Texas Tech game, he didn't play many minutes the Northridge game--I think 12 minutes--but he had five rebounds. He knows that he's had some easy buckets right there and missed some easy baskets, so we're working on that. He shot it well in the Texas Tech game, he had a couple jumpers there--seven points, nine rebounds. He has to make sure when he gets those easy baskets, those drop offs, he's gotta finish those, and he knows that.
"Clarence Trent--he comes in the game and he brings energy. I think the toughest thing for Clarence is the defensive end, as far as knowing our philosophy and everything. He was able to get away with so many things from an athletic standpoint. You just can't do all those things. He's got to stay down, be the second jumper when he's guarding somebody, and moving his feet. But he's a joy to work with, and he's going to be good."
When you look at the Pac 10, what big guys are out there that will give Washington trouble?
"I would say this year you don't have the dominant big men--[Arizona's Jordan] Hill is gone, of course the [Stanford] Lopez twins are gone. You have the young kid, [Michael] Dunigan at Oregon, he's going to be a sophomore so he's still learning his way. The Pac-10's really young in the area of inside presence. [UCLA's Drew] Gordon is gone--he was averaging close to 15 points before [transferring], but even he wasn't quite there yet. There really aren't any guys that are an automatic guarantee double-double guy. I think it's going to be pretty inconsistent from all the bigs in the Pac-10, even when we get there I know we're still a month away.
"I don't think we'll have consistent play from any big guy this year, where last year Hill was better than we thought and [USC's Taj] Gibson was still there. You don't have that this year. So we're at a time, too, where our guys are trying to get better. They're working hard, and hopefully our guys can be that consistent."
Going back to your playing days, who were some of the best players you ever played against?
"Back in college, there were a lot of them. I caught Sean Elliott's first two years [at Arizona] and [Oregon State's] A.C. Green. Kenny Fields, Darren Daye, and those guys at UCLA. There were some very good players. People forget about Pete Williams at Arizona, and guys that didn't make the league, but they are very good players from systems like Arizona. USC had some good players. And Oregon State had Charlie Sitton, they were very tough back in those days. And my teammates were very good--Detlef Schrempf and Chris Welp were pretty good too."