Aug. 21, 2012
By Gregg Bell - UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Lorenzo Romar is going back to his UCLA roots, back to the ways of his coaching mentors.
Which means his Huskies are going to be playing more like a team coached by John Wooden, Denny Crum or Jim Harrick this coming season.
It took early entry into the NBA by their top two scorers and an exhibition tour of Europe and Africa that begins next week, but Romar is having his Dawgs go away from motion sets off guard penetration in the lane in favor of the high-post offense as their primary halfcourt scheme.
What's this mean?
First, what this does not mean.
"Understand, we are NOT slowing the ball down," Romar said, preemptively calming potential fears his Huskies that have been running for his first 10 seasons at Washington are suddenly going to turn into Princeton. "For the first six to eight seconds (of a possession) it will still be, `Go play.' ... We will still be high octane."
Understand, we are NOT slowing the ball down ... We will still be high octane.But now, after the 2012-13 Huskies initially seek a fast-break score, the halfcourt set will feature center Aziz N'Diaye or forwards Jernard Jarreau and Desmond Simmons, for instance, flashing up from their initial low-block locations up to the edges of the foul line on both sides at the top of the lane. Point guards Abdul Gaddy and Andrew Andrews will be the triggers and decision makers on when and from which side of the floor to get the ball into the big men in the high posts. Romar will then have his players run multiple variations of down screens, back cuts, pop outs and other plays from the wings, down the center of the lane or across the baseline to give the big men options with the ball at the foul-line, "elbow" area.
Though it's a change in base philosophy, Romar is not re-inventing the wheel starting with a seven-game tour of Spain, France, Monaco and Senegal that begins with the flight to Barcelona Saturday.
Variations of the high-post offense are what Wooden used to make UCLA a dynasty in the 1960s and `70s, what Crum learned as a Wooden assistant and then used to win national titles at Louisville, and what Harrick taught a young Romar when Romar was a UCLA assistant beginning his coaching career in the 1990s.
"It fits everybody," Romar said.
He used the high-post offense as his primary halfcourt set while the head man at Pepperdine and Saint Louis. Then he arrived at Washington in 2002 and inherited a long line of often dominant, creative and irrepressible point guards from Nate Robinson through Isaiah Thomas and, last season, Tony Wroten.
This season's main ball handler will be Gaddy. The senior is more effective as a calming, poised distributor of the ball, more of a coach on the floor than a seize-the-ball, take-over scorer and penetrator.
"I don't think we have as many guys as we've had that can just put it on the floor and make plays," Romar said Monday in describing the change to the high-post offense. "I also think for our big guys it puts them in better position to be effective.
"It's also an offense I've always wanted to use. We did it (some) our first year but we were just getting here and sort of abandoned it because I thought our personnel were better suited in the half court for dribble drive."
Romar used the high-post offense some with the 2008-09 Huskies, to better feature then-senior big man Jon Brockman, and again the following season to run more of the offense through Quincy Pondexter during his senior year.
"But we always did it to compliment our motion," he said. "This year it will be our primary halfcourt offense."
Romar has talked at length this offseason with Harrick to brush up on teaching and implementing the high-post offense. Tuesday was the sixth practice for the Huskies with the new offensive system.
"For me, personally, it gets me in good positions to score," said outside sharpshooter C.J. Wilcox, who spent much of his first two Huskies seasons standing on the deep wing or in a corner waiting for shots while Thomas and Wroten penetrated and drew defenses into the lane.
"It gives us a lot of options. I think it makes us harder to scout. In the past, we were easy to scout. Other teams knew what we were going to do. Now, I'm coming off screens a lot more, backdoor (screens), staggers."
Another reason Romar is making this change now: The 10, extra preseason practices the Huskies are in the middle of, an allowance the NCAA makes for teams to prepare for a foreign preseason tour. NCAA rules limit teams to such an exhibition tour once every four summers.
"It just gives us opportunities to go out and learn it," Romar said of the trip. "Because if you put it in in October (during normal preseason practices), you might not be proficient in it until January. But putting it in now, with this trip, we will be efficient in it a lot sooner."
SUMMER SHOTS: The regular season begins Nov. 11 at home against Loyola, Md., in the Naismith Hall of Fame Classic. ... Romar expected N'Diaye to be medically cleared on Tuesday for full participation following his wrist surgery April 26. The 7-footer has been practicing but not fully scrimmaging with the team yet. He was in cast through late July. "It's getting better," N'Diaye said, adding he feels "more like a point guard" in this new high-post offense. ... Wilcox said he is feeling great, with no reminders of the pain and stress fracture in his upper leg that limited him for most of last season. He said he basically shut down workouts for a while to rest immediately after the Huskies' run in late March to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals. ... The Huskies added sophomore walkon Quinn Sterling to the roster. Sterling, a 6-foot-4 guard, was first-team All-KingCo Conference as a junior at Mercer Island High School outside Seattle, and second team as a senior despite breaking his right leg. Both of Sterling's parents went to UW. His father Kelly was a Pac-8 Conference champion in the 200 butterfly in 1977. ... NCAA rules prohibit incoming transfers Perris Blackwell (F, San Francisco) and Gilles Dierickx (C, Florida International) from going on the foreign tour. Blackwell and Dierickx will practice with the team starting in October but will sit out games this coming season, per NCAA transfer rules. They are scheduled to make their UW debuts in the fall of 2013.