By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE – The basketball preseason isn’t all that is new for the Huskies.
Nigel Williams-Goss ran the floor as advertised. His smoothness and poise belied the fact this was the McDonald’s High School All-American’s first college practice.
Perris Blackwell banged and scrapped like he did two seasons ago as an All-West Coast Conference honorable mention power at San Francisco – before he sat out last season as a transfer.
Andrew Andrews, Jernard Jarreau, Desmond Simmons, Shawn Kemp Jr., Hikeem Stewart stood out as the veteran returnees, simply because they knew were to go on the floor through most of the first preseason practice. They led five new Huskies – Williams-Goss, Mike Anderson, Darin Johnson, Jahmel Taylor and Robert Upshaw -- plus Blackwell and fellow debuting transfer Gilles Dierickx through new drills from coach Lorenzo Romar and his remade staff.
"Bowling pin" was the name of one. You can imagine what that entailed; it was not exactly a no-contact drill.
Romar began his 12th Husky basketball preseason Wednesday afternoon into evening at Alaska Airlines Arena, and the coach was in midseason form. He did a ton of teaching with his new, somewhat wide-eyed team. And he firmly established his expectations of relentless effort.
That took the form of running, running … and more running.
"It was everything he said it would be," Williams-Goss said of Romar’s message to him during the coach’s recruiting of the heralded point guard out of Findlay Prep in Henderson, Nev.
"He was super hard on us. It’s no secret that we are trying to attack. Everything we’re doing, drills, scrimmaging, running, is an attack."
Romar has vowed to feature running more this season than last, which ended for Washington (18-16, 9-9 Pac-12) with an overtime loss to eventual-champion Oregon in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament then a loss at Brigham Young in the opening round of National Invitation Tournament.
Last season was the Huskies' first running the John Wooden-style, high-post offense of cuts and passes through a big man at the free-throw line. The guards and the team getting used to the new sets often came at the expense of the attacking, running offense with which Romar's Huskies have overwhelmed opponents for most of the last decade en route to conference titles and three appearances in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
"Definitely, there's a renewed emphasis on running," said Simmons, the rugged, dependable forward who is now a junior. "Even in our 5-on-oh drills, the emphasis is on getting up the court.
"Even when we run lines, he's pushing us to run through the lines."
Williams-Goss was noticeable among the leaders in each of the many sprints the Huskies did throughout the long practice. He and fellow point guard Andrews were among the most vocal in what was a noticeably loud and communicative session. Players talked to each other more on offense and defense, another point of emphasis for this preseason.
“A team that doesn’t talk doesn’t compete!” assistant coach Raphael Chillious, back at UW after one season with Villanova, repeatedly barked.
Asked if he was tired after all the running, Williams-Goss smiled. The teenager and every other Husky looked so after practice ended.
"Yeah, I am," he said with a sigh. "I’m in good shape but I am tired.”
The Huskies and every other men’s Division-I team are getting an earlier start on preseason practice this season. A new NCAA rule has aligned the men’s game with the women’s in allowing 32 preseason practices over a 40-day span before the opener.
"We’re just starting from scratch," Romar said. "And with the earlier practices, we can take our time.
“I really like it,” the coach said of the new rule. “It doesn’t have to be a rush now to get everything in. I just don’t feel like I’m cramming for a test."
This start was two weeks earlier than previously allowed. The additional time means there is no rush getting leading scorer C.J. Wilcox full go just yet. The second-team All-Pac-12 sharpshooter last season passed up the NBA draft to return for a fifth, senior season then had surgery in May to secure a stress fracture in his foot. He was limited in some drills Wednesday as a precaution and remains on track to be ready for start of the season.
INSIDE THE DAWGS: Once thinking they would be bereft of 7-footers after Aziz N’Diaye graduated, the Huskies essentially had three on the floor Wednesday. Upshaw, listed at 6-feet-11 and with a linebacker-sized chest and shoulders, practiced -- though he won’t be eligible to play until next season following his recent transfer from Fresno State. Dierickx, from Belgium by way of Florida International, showed outside-shooting touch. And Jarreau has grown two more inches to an even 7 feet. The former guard grew eight inches while at McDonogh 35 Senior High School in New Orleans, and he still has those ball-handling skills. … The Huskies practice again on Thursday inside Alaska Airlines Arena, then go to Evergreen State College in Olympia for a team retreat and practices Friday and Saturday. Romar has done that most preseasons he’s been at UW, either to Olympia or to Saint Martin’s University in neighboring Lacey. … The team will have Sunday and Monday off. They return to practice on campus next week. The Huskies will take roughly two days off each week between now and their exhibition game on Nov. 6 against Central Washington. The opener is Nov. 10 at home against former top UW assistant Cameron Dollar’s Seattle University Redhawks.