Pac-12 Media Day Serves As Brief Homecoming For Gant
Oct. 28, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- If there was ever any doubt that Darnell Gant is the Husky men's basketball team leader, it was all put to rest on Friday when he represented his program at the 2011-12 Pac-12 Basketball Media Day in Los Angeles.
Gant, handpicked by UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar, was a logical choice to be the UW player representative - given he is from Los Angeles and the only fifth-year senior on the team. The media day provided him not only a chance to come home - albeit for less than 24 hours - but also a chance to go through the wringer that has been likened to a media car wash.
"It's always good thing to be home," Gant said. "I'm glad Coach Romar picked me."
Arriving in California after a Thursday evening practice with Coach Romar around midnight, Gant found it a restless night. He awoke early enough to see the sunrise and meet with his mom, who brought the 6-foot-8 senior co-captain some dress clothes for the day's affairs. It would be the only time he would get to spend with her during his quick jaunt south.
"I wish I could have seen her more, but this is a business trip," an understanding Gant said.
He was in the lobby of the J.W. Marriott at 8:00 a.m., decked in a suit. While looking the part of a dapper gentleman, Gant was sent back up to his room to change into the Pac-12 issued Washington polo for the event. With the sun blaring down and temperatures reaching the high 70's, it was a move that not only left him more comfortable, but looking more like the other 11 student athletes who journeyed to L.A.
After a quick breakfast, Gant got right to the business at hand. He started with a quick TV interview with L.A.'s KVAL and then moved onto a quick visit to the ESPN studios. At the site of ESPN's west coast operations, Gant answered a handful of questions for ESPNU in a darkened studio. It was a moment that would make all college athletes envious, surrounded by the world-famous setting for the sports world's most popular news show.
From there, Gant was ushered by a volunteer "handler" for the rest of the day. The handler, a senior co-ed named Emily from USC, led Gant through a maze of different rooms inside the Conga Room - site of the group press conferences for the day, but normally a concert venue during the night. For Gant, it was special to be back at the Conga Room because he has attended many different Monday night comedy and R&B shows at the venue in recent years, but never been the center of attention himself.
Gant was then ushered outside to the Nokia Plaza, where more interviews were hosted among white tents in the middle of the plaza. In between interviews, Gant was able to shoot baskets on a half-court that was specially assembled for the event.
It was outside that Gant and Romar were reunited for the first time during the day. Romar was going through the exact same interview paces with his own handler. In the plaza, Gant and Romar got a great chance to co-mingle and rub shoulders with not only media, but the other players and coaches in attendance.
Romar was his typical self. Mr. Popularity with opposing players. He greeted most with a hug and chatted about family, their team and how they were doing. He shot hoops with WSU's Marcus Capers and rebounded for Oregon's Garret Sim and OSU's Jared Cunningham. Like Gant, he was definitely in his element.
The Husky duo then rushed off back to the Conga Room for their press conference with the 100 or so assembled media writers. After fielding a slew of questions, addressing the state of affairs for Husky hoops, Romar and Gant were escorted to the ESPN Zone for a buffet lunch.
Gant, not interested in the sandwich bar offered, ordered a cheeseburger from the kitchen while Romar and the rest of those assembled worked their way through the line. At the restaurant, two rooms were set up with tables designated for each school to sit at and conduct one-on-one interviews with press. After answering questions about replacing the leadership of Isaiah Thomas, the improvement of Terrence Ross and the unique abilities of Tony Wroten for 90 minutes, the day was over.
Despite the limited sleep and probably wishing he could be spending time with friends and family, Gant was a great ambassador for the program. He greeted everyone with his trademark smile, looked everyone in the eye and addressed media with a warm handshake and a respectful "nice to me you sir or madam."
If the maturity Gant displayed on Friday is any indication of what is in store for the upcoming season on the court, the Huskies' leadership should not be a concern for this team.
Gant returned home Friday night, while Romar stayed in town for a mandatory banquet with coaches and other VIPs. Romar will catch a 6:00 a.m. flight on Saturday and return to Seattle to conduct an afternoon practice at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies, picked to finish fourth by the Pac-12 media, will open their season at home on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7:00 p.m. in an exhibition against Seattle Pacific. The cross-town Falcons have already opened some eyes by beating nationally-ranked Arizona on Thursday in an exhibition game.