Seventh Season of Bender Ball Begins at Washington
Oct. 20, 1999
"There is no question that people will judge how we respond this season to the loss of Todd MacCulloch and Donald Watts. People will observe to judge the longevity of our building success and what level we can maintain. For us that should be great motivation -- to prove that over the past two years, being in the NCAA Tournament was not an isolated incident but something that can become consistent." Washington Coach Bob Bender
Don't call it rebuilding. The only rebuilding occurring at Washington is taking place to the inside structure of Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The task at hand for the Huskies is replacing a pair of 1,000-point scorers, 7-foot center Todd MacCulloch and Donald Watts who both graduated. However, there is enough talent remaining to challenge for a third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Only once in school history have the Huskies appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments (1984-86). Washington lost 59-58 to Miami (Ohio) in the first round of last season's NCAA Tournament, ending a 17-12 season. The Huskies finished fourth in the 1999 Pacific-10 Conference standings with a 10-8 league ledger.
Home Away From Home: The Huskies will play all of their home games in KeyArena at Seattle Center this season while Hec Edmundson Pavilion is being renovated. The Huskies have won 746 games in Hec Edmundson since it opened on Dec. 27, 1927, more than any other school in its current arena. Washington tallied a 49-9 record on its home court the past four seasons. The UW has a 3-0 record in home games away from Edmundson Pavilion since that 1927 season. The Huskies upset 11th-ranked New Mexico 70-61 last season in their only game at Key Arena. Washington also played two games in the Kingdome, beating Notre Dame 63-61 in double overtime on Jan. 9, 1984 and Old Dominion 71-61 on Dec. 22, 1995.
Three-Peat?: Three starters return for Washington, seniors Deon Luton and Chris Walcott along with sophomore point guard Senque Carey. That trio looks to lead the Huskies to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament trip. Only once before (1984-86) has Washington participated in three straight NCAA Tournaments. Luton, who owns every school 3-point scoring record, ranked second on the team in 1999 with a 14.3-point scoring average. Carey was a 1999 All-Pac-10 Freshman Team selection after averaging 8.7 points and 3.2 assists despite playing a reserve role during the first 11 games. One area of concern is rebounding as Carey is the team's leading returning board man with 3.1 caroms per game. Walcott started 12 games last year at forward, a position also manned by Thalo Green and Greg Clark, who started 11 and eight games, respectively.
Bender Bio: Bob Bender has participated in the NCAA Tournament at every school with which he has been affiliated, including the last two with Washington. He has a six-year record of 85-84 with the Huskies, capped by a 17-12 ledger in 1999 that marked the school's fourth consecutive winning season. The 1998 Huskies posted a 20-10 record that marked the school's finest winning percentage since 1985. Among the 1998 Husky highlights were their first 20-win season since 1987, their first NCAA berth since 1986 and their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1984. The 1997 UW team posted a 17-11 record, capped by the Huskies' second straight National Invitation Tournament appearance. Washington's record improved four straight seasons under Bender, including a 16-12 mark in 1996 after which he was voted the Pac-10 Coach of the Year. The UW was 5-22 in 1994 and 10-17 in 1995. His 85 victories rank fourth among all-time Washington coaches. Bender, who began his career with a four-year stint at Illinois State (1990-93), has a 10-year career record of 145-140. His Illinois State squads were 60-57, earning two Missouri Valley Conference championships, one conference tournament title and an NCAA Tournament berth in 1990. Prior to his inaugural head coaching assignment at ISU, Bender served as an assistant on Mike Krzyzewski's Duke staff (1983-1989). The Blue Devils qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of Bender's six seasons on the staff, including four trips to the Final Four. Bender, 42, is the only individual to play on two different teams in the NCAA Championship game. He was a freshman on Bobby Knight's undefeated 1976 Indiana team and played point guard at Duke from 1977-80, including an appearance in the 1978 title game against Kentucky.
Open Tryouts: Washington will conduct its annual walk-on tryouts, Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. in the Edmundson Pavilion Addition. This is the seventh-annual open tryouts for the Huskies who began the practice upon Coach Bob Bender's arrival in 1993. Husky hopefuls must be currently enrolled at the University of Washington and bring paperwork from a recent physical. Several players earned roster spots during past tryouts, including current four-year team member Andrew Moritz who was given a scholarship for the 1999-2000 season. The list of other former athletes making the team as walk-ons includes: Andy Roberson, Jason Lombard, Brian Towne and David Verschueren. A field of 16 Husky hopefuls (15 legitimate contenders plus local KING TV sportscaster Gaard Swanson) attended the 1999 tryouts that lasted nearly 1 1/2 hours. The coaching staff selected Travis Duty and Jajuan Winesbury to join the team.
Returning Talent: Three starters and nine lettermen from last year's team return. The leader is senior guard Deon Luton, Washington's all-time record holder in every 3-point scoring catergory, including marks for career (152), season (75 in 1998) and single-game (seven at USC on Jan. 29, 1998) treys. All-Pac-10 Freshman Team member Senque Carey joins Luton to form one of the Pac-10's finest backcourt tandems. Carey was thrust into the starting point guard spot, in place of an injured Dan Dickau, midway through last season and registered double-figure points in 11 of the next 13 games. Eight-game starter Greg Clark, a junior forward, returns in his role as Washington's deffensive stopper. Senior Chris Walcott, a 6-9 forward, and 6-7 junior forward Thalo Green, provide leadership for an otherwise inexperienced frontcourt. Walcott started 12 games in 1999 and is the Huskies' top returning field goal shooting (.518) and steals leader (28). Green started 11 games last season, providing an uncanny knack for interior passing and scoring around the basket. Junior guard Michael Johnson is slated to fill the third guard role vacated by the graduation of Donald Watts. Johnson seeks to display at the collegiate level the scoring skills he showed while amassing a state prep Class AA record 2,271 points at Seattle's Ballard High School. Long-distance shooting specialist Bryan Brown, a junior, has 3-point range reminiscent of his father, "Downtwon" Fred Brown. Sophmore Grant Leep will battle for increased playing time with a solid inside game and range out to the 3-point line. Sophomore center Marlon Shelton teams with newcomer David Dixon to fill the post position vacated by NBA draftee Todd MacCulloch. Guard Andrew Moritz, a three-year walk-on, was granted a scholarship for his senior season. Walk-ons Jon DeWolfe and Travis Duty provide depth for the guard corps.
Departures: Only three players from last year's team will not return but they leave big shoes to fill. The biggest loss is 7-0 center Todd MacCulloch, a three-time national field goal percentage leader and two-time All-Pac-10 member who was drafted by Philidelphia 76ers in the second round. The Huskies lose his team-leading 18.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. The backcourt must absorb the loss of two 1999 opening day starters in Donald Watts and Dan Dickau. Washington played the second half of last season wihout Dickau who suffered a season ending heel injury and has since transfered to Gonzaga. Watts averaged 13.1 points per game, including a career-high 28-point outburst in the NCAA first round match-up with Miami (Ohio).
Newcomers: The Washington roster is bolstered by the addition of three scholarship recruits. The lone freshman is Ben Coffee who joins sophomore David Dixon and junior Will Perkins. All three are capable rebounders and should help a group of returners that looks to fill the void left by the departure of Todd MacCulloch whose 11.9 rebounds per game ranked second in the nation. Perkins, a 6-8 forward, comes to Washington from Iowa Western JC where he was selected by Blue Ribbon Yearbook as an honorable mention All-American selection. He averaged 21.8 points and 10.8 rebounds during his sophomore season. The 6-11 Dixon is the likely candidate to fill the starting center spot. Also named as an honorable mention junior college All-American by Blue Ribbon Yearbook, Dixon averaged 10 points and nine rebounds in 1999 for a fine Tyler (Texas) Junior College program that has produced NBA standouts Robert Pack, Sam Mack and David Benoit. Coffee is a product of Benson Tech High School in Portland, Ore. who is highly regarded for his athleticism and rebounding abilities. He was a second-team selection in the Fab 15 published by the Orange County Register, receiving the 28th most votes among West Coast prep players. Coffee averaged 13.9 points per game for the Techmen who won the 1999 Portland Interscholastic league title and placed third in the Oregon state tournament.
Exhibition Opener: Washington opens the season on Thursday, Nov. 11 with an exhibition game against the California All-Stars. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m. at Brougham Pavilion on the Seattle Pacific University campus. There will be no admission charged for the exhibition contest, nor is there a fee to attend a second exhibition game, Sunday, Nov. 14 at 3 p.m. against the Mt. Gambier team from the Australian professional league. That game will also be played at Brougham Pavilion. Washington is 17-2 in exhibition games against international opponents, including an 85-63 win over Frankston Bayside of Australia on Nov. 14, 1999 in the Huskies'last exhibition contest. Washington has a 29-8 all-time exhibition record.
Letter of Intent Period: High school seniors can officially declare their plans to attend a given college during the early letter of intent signing period. The fall early period lasts one week, from November 10 through 17. Student-athletes not signed during that time must wait for the spring signing period that runs from April 5 until May 15. Since verbal or other agreements made prior to the official signing periods are not binding, university personnel are not permitted to talk about prospective signees until a letter of intent has been signed and received by the school. Signing announcements will be released upon arrival of letters.